About
Betty Finch
Betty Finch
finch stage school
As a child, although she received piano lessons, Betty Finch - who was to spend her entire life involved with dance - had no dance training at all. Her father, who had picked up a few tap steps from friends, taught her what little he knew but it was enough to start Betty on her way. Before long, as a mere ten year old, she was rolling back the carpet and giving tap 'lessons' to local children. So successful were these classes that before long the young Betty was staging her first 'concert' for local children. She later wondered quite what sort of improvised performance it must have been - with the ten year old teacher knowing hardly more than her keen but untutored beginners - but it was the first of a lifetime's concerts that were to follow. The price of admission was one old penny - and the 'profits' were used to buy sweets that were then eagerly consumed by the audience! Leaving school at 14, Betty's first job was as an assistant teacher in a private school where she also gave classes in both dancing and piano. These classes soon began to grow and eventually Betty found herself having to hire a church hall for her own Saturday dancing school. She staged displays to raise money for the church. The pattern was set and Betty soon realised that, if the school was to grow, she needed to become a qualified teacher of dance. Using the money she earned from teaching, Betty began her own training in earnest, studying ballet, modern and tap. She took exam after exam, covering all aspects of stage dancing under the auspices of the LS.T.D, R.A.D. and B.A.T.D. Betty became a member, then an associate, then a life member and was later made a fellow. She became an examiner and then an adjudicator. Benefiting from her growing knowledge and skill, Betty's school began to thrive. Her students were successful in many dance competitions and festivals and at one point she coached her own son, Roger, and his partner to first prize in the A11 England Dance tap competition.?As Betty's school, based at St. Chad's church hall, progressed - so did the productions. The school became well-known for its annual displays and its pantomime at the Ilford Town Hall. Each year, the proceeds were given to the Association for the Care of Tuberculosis. Later, when this disease was cured, the money was sent every year to Cancer Research. Whilst Betty's own career never took her to full time performing, she did have a double act with her sister and, during the war, they were part of a 'concert party' called 'The Frivolities' that travelled all over England entertaining the troops. Despite her performing commitments, Betty's school continued right through the war years - even through the air raids! When the sirens sounded, some pupils would run to the shelters, others would crouch under the billiards table in the hall. Once the raid was over, everyone would calmly go back and resume their classes. It became an accepted routine nothing would stop the school from continuing, least all the inconvenience of a World War. Betty's daughter Linda and her brother Roger both went through the school and then entered the business professionally. Between them they appeared in numerous summer seasons and pantomimes, several television shows and many West End productions. Perhaps Betty's proudest moment was when they both appeared in the ultimate show for a dancer, West Side Story, at London's Shaftesbury theatre, playing lead parts Riff and Anita. Sadly Betty died in 2008 but she left behind a legacy of thousands of ex-students who would not have had a life of dance if it was not for her love, enthusiasm and dedication to Dance and the Arts.

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