Part two of Pauline Cooper’s wonderful memories.
When Mrs Hassall returned to school following her hip surgery, she would take me as ‘her runner’. I will never forget being shown around ‘Hoole Bank’ and Mrs Hassall asking me what I thought of the place – before she’d signed on the ‘dotted line’! I truly thought that it was a magnificent place – even when it was so cold and empty. Hearing Mrs Hassall’s plans for it was amazing – as were her plans for her cottage in the grounds. She was a wonderful woman.
Even with all these daily activities, I was still fortunate enough to dance in shows with all the local Operatic Societies. Such fun and wonderful experiences. Also, I did my share of assisting in classes at the ‘Grosvenor’ in Chester, ‘Moreton Hall’, ‘Hafodunos Hall’, ‘Capenhurst’ etc. – and, of course, there were the Friday trips with Georgina Openshaw where, come rain, sunshine or snow, we would walk to the bus station to catch our bus to the village hall in Tarporley to teach Classes. These trips were lovely in the summer but so cold and dark in winter – but when you have your best friend with you, all seem so much better.
What is your favourite memory?
As hard and as difficult as my life was at The Hammond, they were, without doubt, the best years of my life as a single person. Meeting so many kind and talented girls from diverse backgrounds and different parts of this country, Europe and the world – especially one who became my life-long friend, Georgina Openshaw – was a great thrill to me. Being taught by wonderful and brilliantly gifted Teachers – Betty Hassall, Margaret Benson, Valerie Taylor, Audrey Knight-Ellis, Heather Fish and many more, made a huge impression on me and I owe them a huge debt of thanks.
Photo: At ‘Conwy Castle’ – following my RAD Advanced
What did you go on to do?
Having passed all my RAD Majors with ‘Commended’ – and all ISTD Modern ‘with Honours’ – I moved on from The Hammond to Andrew Hardie’s School in South Kensington, London, for twelve months. (This is the studio that Wayne Sleep took over.) During my last term, I developed severe pain in my hip and soon had major surgery in a London Hospital. During my time at Hardie’s, I had successfully auditioned for a Ballet Company in Dusseldorf and for a ‘Walt Disney World Tour Production’. Alas, they were not to be and I was, at that time, at the lowest place I could possibly be in my entire life. I love dance. I always wanted to dance. I slogged my guts out to pay for my tuition and to become a dancer. But I was determined to dance – even against the advice of my surgeon, and I went on to dance with The National Theatre Company of Wales and then on to Summer Season in Plymouth. Three weeks into the Shows in Plymouth, my other hip showed signs of failure and so I had to stop dancing as a profession. I was heart-broken and felt that the world had caved in on me.
At this point, Mrs Betty Hassall stepped in and invited me to return to The Hammond as a teacher. This I did for approximately twelve months or so before going on to marry my husband – now of 42 years – whom I’d met during my time with The Welsh Theatre Company. He encouraged me to continue with my dancing and urged me to offer Ballet Classes to children and adults in rural Wales. I learnt to speak the Welsh language fluently and went on to teach in my own private school– where I enjoyed success with my Pupils in RAD Examinations – and in main-stream schools throughout north Wales – teaching through the medium of Welsh! I was teaching over 1000 children per week and produced, choreographed, designed and made costumes for innumerable Children’s Shows.
What do I do now?
Both my hips eventually gave up on me and I found myself in immense physical pain, which was severely restricting my ability to move and in 1997, I decided to gradually reduce my teaching commitments whilst at the same time, purchasing a Post Office and Newsagents with my husband in a small Anglesey village. After ten years, we sold this thriving business and moved back nearer to our roots on the North Wales coast. I then became a Finance Officer at a Medical Centre with over 16,000 patients and thoroughly enjoyed the job. I retired in June 2016 and now spend my time travelling around this beautiful country of ours in our caravan. During the past fifteen years, my husband and I have been regular attendants at The Royal Ballet performance at The Opera House, Covent Garden. We also planned and arranged our own trip to St Petersburg – to see two performance given by the Kirov Ballet Company at the original Mariinsky Theatre. (A dream come true since I began to dance at 10 years of age!) We saw ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Swan Lake’. We then flew to Moscow and enjoyed the experience of watching The Bolshoi Ballet Company perform ‘Don Quixote’ at the Palace Theatre inside The Kremlin. (The Bolshoi Theatre at that time was undergoing extensive repair and re-development work.) During each of our visits to London, we book to see performance given by all the major London orchestras as well as enjoying performances at The Royal Albert Hall. We are also regular attendees at The Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s Concert at Philharmonic Hall and at Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. We have toured extensively in the USA and enjoyed wonderful Ballet Performance at the Kennedy Centre, Washington DC and by the San Francisco Ballet Company in that City. I have been an Adjudicator at the Urdd National Eisteddfod of Wales and at The National Eisteddfod of Wales. I have had – and am still having – a wonderful life.
Pauline – your memories are wonderful. Thank-you so much for sharing this with us.