ACT News


For the love of teacher, ex-students run school

It is particularly cruel that a dance teacher should be diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disease that can progressively rob the body of movement.

Michelle Chapman, a dancer since she was six and a much-loved dance teacher in Belconnen for more than two decades, received the crushing news late last year.

She was convinced she would have to close her school, Capital Dance Studio, a space, most recently in Charnwood, that had been a home away from home for students over the years.

But she wasn't counting on the loyalty and tenacity of Cleo Ludski and Amy Truong - two passionate young women who had started as her students as six-year-olds and then become teachers alongside her at the studio.

Both women work full-time - Ms Ludski as a public servant and Ms Truong as a massage therapist - but neither hesitated in taking over the business so Ms Chapman, a single mother of two boys, could manage the MS and the students could continue dancing at the school.

''I had no intention of ever running my own dance school, neither did Amy. But when Michelle said she would have to close and the look on her face - I could never, ever walk away from that,'' Ms Ludski, 28, said.


It has been a tough year being without their mentor as they took on the responsibility of teaching students, many of whom spend four nights a week at the studio and regarded Ms Chapman as a second mum.

''It's been an extremely big learning curve, it hasn't been easy, especially because there's some pretty big shoes to fill,'' Ms Ludski said.

''Sometimes we just really missed having her there, especially when things were very hard. Or even when things were going well and you were so used to calling her and saying, 'Can you come and watch my piece?'.''

But there is a sense of celebration in the air as the studio prepares for its traditional end-of-year dance performance at the Canberra Theatre Centre on Saturday - the first one directed by Ms Ludski and Ms Truong.

There will be 180 students aged from three to 40 involved in the production.

Ms Chapman, who is using medication to manage her MS, returned to teaching at the studio part-time at the end of October. The concert will be the first she has not directed in 13 years but she has done the stage-managing and lighting.

And she has also organised a dance tribute to Ms Ludski and Ms Truong as part of the performance, as a thank you to them for keeping the studio going.

''I'm so proud,'' she said.

''I could have helped them so much more but I've given the best help by making them realise they can do it on their own.''

The concert is called For the Love of It. ''Because that's why we do it,'' Ms Truong said.

The For the Love of It dance performance is at the Canberra Theatre Centre on Saturday.