Anthony Ashdown

I started dancing with Jennifer Attrill at the tender age of 10 years old. All I wanted to be when I grew up was Fred Astaire. That's all, nothing too big, just immortal. The Castlereagh School of Performing Arts has been my home since that first day. My Saturday's were my favourite day of the week and didn't I spend the following 6 days living for that Saturday morning class!

When I was in the 8th Grade I was accepted into the McDonald College Performing Arts High School for two years. Jennifer came to me and told me that if I wanted to be a dancer, to be a REAL dancer, I had to learn ballet. I wasn't too thrilled with the idea. I already copped enough at school for tap dancing but ballet??!! Well every other boy at McDonald College did Ballet so I didn't have much of a choice. I wanted to be a dancer and I was willing to do whatever I had to do to make that happen!

As time passed by my Saturdays became more and more the most exciting day of my week. Ballet class in the morning followed by Tap. As I grew older and improved, more and more ballet classes were added to my Saturdays. Before I knew it, I was at the school Monday nights for a private lesson, Thursday nights for a group Jazz/Ballet class and Saturday was occupied with Ballet and Tap class. I was in heaven every day I arrived and never wanted to leave. I practically lived at the school.

Winsome eventually took over the Jazz and the Contemporary, though are ages were close, Winsome's passion for teaching and creating were a great learning tool. We often danced together, experimenting with styles, lifts, movement at its core form and we created many beautiful pieces together. Though Winsome was always my Teacher and Choreographer in the hierarchical sense, she was and still is a great friend.

Jennifer Attrill & Winsome Barker (nee Attrill) gave me more as a student than I think she gave anyone else. I am proud to say this. She nurtured me. She didn't wipe my tears and dust me off... that was my job. She trained me she pushed me, even when I didn't want to be pushed. She took pride in my achievements and never allowed me to be discouraged by my disappointments.

At school I was ridiculed for being a dancer but Jenny gave me the strength and courage to persevere. She helped me find the will and the want to survive and succeed.

As time grew on, I was accepted into the National Theatre Ballet School under the strict and loving hand of Beverley Jane Fry. The days were long and painful but worth it. Though this new found discipline from the National Theatre gave me a new drive, nothing gave me greater pleasure than coming back to Sydney to do class at Castleraegh, at home during my school holidays I would come back to Sydney and Jenny would give me her free time, her school holidays, to train me and keep me fit.

I eventually graduated from the National Theatre Ballet School and made my way around the world. On my holidays, I would return home and class was always waiting for me. Jennifer would work me hard and I always left dripping in sweat and feeling alive.

As a professional now, I have always been able to lean on the Castleraegh School of Performing Arts. Not just for class but for the facilities. The use of the studios and Winsome's gob-smacking array of costumes have been a wonderful source for quite a few of my shows over the years. To this day I still call upon favours from the school because I know they are always happy to help. Always willing to give to the dance community and contribute.

The Caslteraegh school of Dance has produced some fine artists over the years. We have all moved on to some wonderful things in life.  But I always know I have a home to come back to.

Thank you, Jenny & Winsome. I couldn't have made it without you both.

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