Ten Telling Truths
29 June 2011
Ten Telling Truths
Gaynor Owen, ISTD Trustee and Modern Theatre Faculty Committee member, answers 10 questions about her career
1. What is your official title and area of responsibility within the committee structure?
Since retiring from my position as Chair, and as I am a Trustee and a member of many committees at ISTD, I now act as co-ordinator and the advisory member of the Modern Theatre Faculty Committee.
2. Where did you train as a child and as a student? Can you remember your first dance exam?
I started dancing at the age of six and I was put on pointe at my second lesson! My first examination was Grade 2 RAD Ballet at the age of seven years. I was terrified and found the whole experience very daunting. However, I had now developed a passion for dance. When I was 11, my parents allowed me to attend the Hammond School in Chester as a junior student with schooling affiliated. I later became a full time student.
3. What was your first job and how did that experience affect your outlook on your chosen career?
My first job was as an assistant dance teacher whilst I was still training. I really enjoyed the contact with children, especially when choreographing for productions. I later performed professionally but missed the link with the training of children and students (I also preferred to be my own boss) and so I decided to set up my own dance school.
4. When did you begin examining and do any early memories stand out?
I began examining in 1975. My first session was a whole day of Tap and the standard was very poor. I had to fail nearly every candidate and I came home feeling thoroughly depressed and dejected. I rang Murielle Ashcroft and she gave me excellent advice and encouragement as always: “Don’t lower our standards, darling!”
Later on, an international tour of Indonesia, where no one spoke English and the teacher was entering candidates for the first time, there was a power cut and the studio had no windows! Candles were produced for the pianist and myself and we had great difficulty even seeing the children!
5. Who has been the most influential figure in your training/career?
Margaret Benson and Betty Hassall trained me as a student. Murielle Ashcroft and Patricia Crail were the most influential people in my examining career. Their expertise and depth of knowledge were invaluable and I am eternally grateful to both of them.
6. Name a life-changing event in the past that shaped your future.
My second marriage to a wonderful husband who supported me in every way, both to pursue my career and also in the upbringing of my two wonderful children. He provided the backing for the college to expand to larger premises in the centre of Liverpool. Whilst on an examining tour of Canada, he rang me and said: “Hurry home. I think I’ve found the ideal building, but I can’t sign any documents until you have approved it!” I had to finish the tour of course (that’s dedication for you!)
7. Of what are you most proud professionally?
The hundreds of students who are performing, teaching, examining, choreographing and stage-managing, both in England and throughout the world. Also to be the recipient of the Imperial Award in 1999.
8. In a parallel existence what career would you have followed if you had not discovered dancing?
I think I might have been a professional hair stylist, but my hair shows would have had to be choreographed to inspiring music.
9. Where do you see yourself in 10 years time and what ambitions do you have?
To continue to train teachers and examiners. And to go on a world trip and visit all of my ex-students and the many friends I have made whilst examining overseas. One ambition is to take my little granddaughter to Lapland while she still believes in Santa Claus.
10. Do you regret any decisions you have made and if so how would an alternative path in the world of dance have directed your life?
I have no regrets regarding the decisions I have made and I consider myself to be privileged to have been able to earn a living in a profession I adore. The love of dance is consuming and very rewarding.