It’s Showtime again for Swanage dance school

There’s going to be a very special Showtime at The Mowlem, when Swanage’s Ranger School of Dance stages its first full company production in 20 years as a tribute to its founder June Ranger.

Over five shows from Wednesday 24th July to Saturday 27th July 2024, a cast of almost 100 performers will entertain, including 73 under the age of 10 years and former students who are now professionals.


A scene from City of Dreams in 2018 – although the last full school production was 20 years ago

Inspired to follow lives of dance

The production called Showtime will be the first Ranger School of Dance show since 2018, the first to include the whole school in 20 years – and the first since founder June Ranger passed away in 2023.

The school is now run by June’s daughter, Caroline Ranger McCrory, and all the teachers there are former pupils of June who have been inspired to follow lives of dance by their experiences as children.

Returning pupils include James Lovell, now a principal dancer with Sir Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures Company on a UK tour with the dance production of Edward Scissorhands, who has devised a work based on Peaky Blinders specially for Showtime.

Swanage technician Andy Pike, who trained at The Mowlem and now works for Strictly Come Dancing will be doing the special effects, while his father David will once again be stage manager for the Ranger School of Dance.

Caroline Ranger McCrory at The Mowlem, where her dance school will perform in July 2024

“Being a strong company defines a show’s success”

Caroline Ranger McCrory said:

“There is so much talent involved, but the show is not about individuals, it’s about everyone working together to support each other. There are no leads, no stars, they are all special, all as important as each other.

“For me the journey of any show is becoming a company and depending on each other. Some children are more confident than others, but it’s being a strong company rather than individual talents which defines a show’s success.

“It reflects the traditions that mum inspired, not just the achievements – although we have had so many of those over the years with children going into the Royal Ballet School, into musical theatre, even becoming teachers themselves with the Royal Academy of Dance

“But this school isn’t about training children to become professionals, dance is for everybody, young, old, male, female, special needs, adults – everyone should have the chance to dance, it is such a wonderful art form.

“The school is moving forwards and evolving with the times, keeping mum’s legacy alive and celebrating all that she gave of her life and time to serve the community in Swanage, which is very important to us.”


June Ranger, then June Boyne, in a 1952 production of Cinderella

Standards and ethos are incredibly high

June Ranger, a professional dancer, set up her own dance school on St Mary’s Church lawns in Swanage more than 50 years ago, moving inside to the Rectory classroom for many years before moving to the Millpond Studio, where it is still based.

It grew from a handful of eager children wishing to learn ballet into something far larger, with its studio now owned by a charity which furthers the importance of dance in the community.

June’s daughter Caroline became a co-director of the school after her retirement from professional performing in 1996, and her training at the Royal Ballet School and Arts Educational College has kept both standards and ethos of the Ranger School of Dance incredibly high.


The Ranger past students reunited to pay tribute to June Ranger

“Mum gave her whole life to Swanage”

Caroline Ranger McCrory said:

“My mum retired when she was 91, she just loved what she did and predominantly gave her whole life to Swanage and the dance school.

“She wasn’t just a dance teacher, she gave us all so many life skills and so many reasons to look forward to in life, belief in ourselves, confidence and the ability to acknowledge that you can achieve something if you work hard for it.

“That’s special and something we all try to sustain, to encourage the kids we teach. If you really want to do something, it doesn’t just happen like you might see on television, you have to start from the bottom and work hard.”


A celebration of the life of June Ranger was held in 2023

“Some of the happiest memories of their lives

Caroline added:

“The wonderful thing is that all the teachers now working with me are ex pupils that mum trained, some from the age of three, who have grown up, had children of their own and have jumped at the opportunity to try to continue mum’s legacy.

“They tell me that the memories of their childhood, of what mum gave to them, are some of the happiest memories of their lives.

“Our last show was City of Dreams in 2018. We were supposed to do this show last year, but because mum passed we needed time to reconfigure, so this show is all in honour of her. We know it’s going to be a very special one.”


Former pupils of Ranger School of Dance onstage during their last show

Magical story of a toy shop

The show at The Mowlem, consists of two acts. The first, featuring all of the children at the dance from the age of three upwards, is a magical story about a toy shop which revolves around a young girl called Agnes and takes in themes from Cinderella, Toy Story and Mary Poppins.

Act Two is completely different and presents more as a gala, with song and dance from the shows and big production numbers.

It includes instantly recognisable hits from Tudor musical Six, Cabaret, Waitress and Motown the musical, as well as a five minute tribute to Netflix’s sci fi sensation Stranger Things.


Swanage’s James Lovell is a principal dancer with New Adventures, currently on tour with Edward Scissorhands

“It will be a wonderful experience”

Caroline Ranger McCrory said:

“It has a fantastic track and is quite dark, but should be wonderful! And we are thrilled beyond words that James Lovell is coming back to Swanage to produce his specially devised Peaky Blinders number for us.

“When you are rehearsing a show on this scale, you can only use the younger children on Saturday mornings or when they have just finished school, so you end up with rehearsals between 3.30pm and 10pm every night and some mornings as well.

“It requires full commitment from the cast. I try to run as professional a ship as I can and commitment is key to making anything a success.

“Rules and regulations have changed so much backstage, you now need licensed chaperones for the children and with make up, hair and costumes to take into consideration, it becomes like a military operation.

“But there is such a great spirit at the school. It will be a wonderful experience for the children and I am so excited for them.”


Showtime plays at The Mowlem in July 2024

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