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Former La Roche School of Dancing pupils reunited

Dancers were reunited for the first time since 1979 on Sunday, July 16.

About 40 people who trained at La Roche School of Dancing gathered at a house in Montague Road, Datchet.

The dance school existed from the late 1920s to the early 1970s and started life in Castle Hill, Maidenhead.

In 1945 it moved to Hempson Avenue in Slough and when the school closed its extensive gardens became La Roche Close.

There were boarding facilities for the girls and alongside their dance training there were teachers for traditional school subjects.

Noel Nichol, 74, from Edinburgh was a dance teacher at the school from 1961-65 and planned a holiday around Sunday’s reunion.

She said: “It is absolutely fabulous. I have looked forward to this reunion for such a long time.

“The girls were lovely and worked hard.”

She described Leslie Roche who started the school as a ‘formidable character’ who ‘got the results’.

Also at the reunion were Carolyn Thompson, 55, and Amanda Worsfold, 53, whose mother Jeanette Grainger was one of the first borders at the Maidenhead school.

She was born in 1926 and went on to have a successful career as a dancer performing in New York and Italy, and made a name for herself in London’s theatres and even in films. After her death in 2015 her daughters started researching the school online.

“I’d been looking for things on La Roche but couldn’t find anything online until I came across a Facebook post about the reunion,” said Carolyn.

Jeanette Grainger is featured in new book La Roche Lives, written by Dee Bixby, which was launched at the party.

It covers the experiences and achievements of girls over the years and includes a range of black and white photos.

Dee, 56, of Great Missingden, started at La Roche aged two in 1954 and continued dancing until 1966.

She said: “We didn’t all have the talent, temperament or passion to dance into adulthood. Those early days of tutus, tiaras and competition nerves were enough.

“Yet few pupils will have remained unaffected by the influence of Miss Roche.”

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