Pigs Make way for farmyard ballet School.
By Willie Dillon
Irish Independent, Monday, July 29, 1996.
Anica and Philip Dawson run a thriving ballet school - from a converted pig shed. Dance pupils – some from as far away as the US and Japan – learn their steps in a real working Irish farmyard. The Dawson’s ballet school at Lenamore, Legan, Co Longford is almost certainly Ireland’s most unusual alternative farm enterprise.
The pirouettes and pas de deux are practiced literally up the yard from the parlour where the family milks 35 cows every day.
Shawbrook Ballet School is the brainchild of South African-born Anica who came to this country 18 years ago. After initially teaching in local schools and halls, she decided the way forward was to establish a full-time school on the farm.
Since then, this unique venture has gone from strength to strength, attracting a £22,000 agri-tourism grant from the Department of Agriculture, sponsorship from the Arts Council and a prestigious rural enterprise award from the AIB.
The dance studio came into being after Philip – who was brought up on the 70-acre farm – converted an old pig shed and put in special seating and lighting to allow it to be used as a small theatre.
During the year, the school caters for around 60 young ballet pupils from the locality. Anica teaches a further 40 youngsters each week in Longford and Mullingar.
Shawbrook is currently hosting pupils in a series of five week-long residential summer schools teaching classical and contemporary ballet.
Pupils stay in a former barn which Philip converted into a dormitory with room for 20 people.
The Dawsons, who have one son, Kristo (15) are also planning a dance performance in Longford town next month. With Arts Council support, they are engaging a composer and choreographer and 10 semi-professional dancers, all past pupils, to create a new piece to be staged in the Backstage Theatre.
The ballet school facilities are also used from time to time by theatrical and drama groups.
Anica says that while the school is artistically a success, the dairy farm continues to be the family’s main income generator, contributing some 80% of earnings.
Copyright, Irish Independent.