THIS year sees local dance, drama and singing school, Julie Sianne Theatre Arts, celebrate 35 years of performance.

The story of JSTA began with 17-year-old Julie Evans, an avid dancer from Byfleet who dreamt of a future on stage. But with awards under her belt and prospects ahead, she was devastated to discover she had curvature of the spine and would not be able to sustain the physical efforts required as a professional dancer.

Although heavyhearted, young Julie was not deterred. Instead she opted to put her passion for dance into teaching with her own dance school. Using her middle name, she launched the Julie Sianne School of Dance in June 1983.

Julie wanted to inspire dancers, helping them realise potential and prepare for the next stage of life:

“We make everyone believe they can perform, we’re for everyone being the best they can be.”

By the end of 1983, Julie’s students were already entering competitions and winning gold, and starting preparations for exams. In 1984, they took to the stage with the school’s first Dance Variation concert, held in Byfleet Village Hall, allowing students to experience all the elements involved in producing a full stage production.  

The school was renamed Julie Sianne Theatre Arts when they began developing acting classes. Julie’s husband Ray Franklin, known fondly as “Mr Ray”, joined the team as head of drama in 2005, bringing vast theatrical experience and administrative skills.

From 1983 until today, students have competed in competitions, put on countless shows, been cast in many pantomimes at the New Victoria Theatre, been in touring theatre productions and this February were seen in the Woking Festival of Dance. They once even performed at Downing Street.

Julie’s work over the years is not only shown by the awards won but by the number of students who return as teachers, guest choreographers and parents of new students.

“We are proud that so many of our students who go on to teach chose to return to JSTA either as permanent or guest teachers and help pass on their experience to the next generation,” said Julie. “It’s a nice family atmosphere to perform and it’s why people bring their children.

For the full story and picture spread, get the 21 February edition of the News & Mail