A film about a Hull Dance School which has had a defining impact on ballet in Britain … And Why Local Matters…

When I first started work on newspapers before the turn of the last century (1999). I was told never to use the word local. “We are local,” was the instruction. Because where you are is the epicentre of your world, and papers are at the heart of all things, well – local. So, when the story broke that Hull dance school Skelton Hooper, which is just off Princes Ave, had sent more children to the Royal Ballet School than any other dance school in the UK – it was a nailed on cert for a KCOM culture film. There were many approaches that we could have taken to making the film. Former pupils, now stars, like Xander Parish, the first British Dancer to join the renowned Mariinsky, in St Petersburg and Kevin O’Hare, the director of the Royal Ballet, were coming home to re-open Hull’s New Theatre. We toyed with the idea of tracking them down for the film. But to us the real star and the real story lay with Vanessa Hooper, the owner of what must now be regarded as one of the leading dance schools in Britain.

With KCOM we decided that we wanted to tell her story, to show her magic. We arranged to film two of the schools up-and-coming stars Sam Percy and Natasha Richardson, rehearse a piece they were to perform alongside the world’s stars, at Hull New Theatre reopening, on September 16. ‘Miss Vanessa’ as she is known was there to coach them. Both stern and humorous she seemed oblivious to the camera. She later told us that she first realised the impact she was making when she went to visit her pupils at the Royal Ballet. She was introduced as Vanessa Hooper, ‘the feeder for the Royal Ballet School’. And that is why local matters, because who would have thought that a dance school, housed in a run-down church, on a back street, in Hull, could have not only sent more children to the prestigious ballet school than any other, but that those pupils would go on to lead in their field? It was a perfect story for KCOM Culture and it was rapidly shared and watched. And pupils who long since graduated from Skelton Hooper, some of them professional performers and others not have got back in touch with Miss Vanessa after watching the film, which was watched over 30,000 times on Facebook alone in just three days.

At Nova we love telling people’s stories and we like to think we do it well. It provided a beautiful subject for my colleague Josh to shoot and I left feeling that I met a ‘one-off’ a true star in Vanessa Hooper. We know everyone has a story to tell and we look forward to finding and telling many more for customers like KCOM.

You can watch the film here.