Highly respected teacher farewells a life of ballet

LOVE OF DANCE: Respected ballet teacher Ann Judson has retired after teaching ballet for 44 years. (From left): Alex Jones,10, Ms Judson, granddaughter Harper Cullinane,1, Grace Jones,8 and Ben Jones, 5 at the Springston Community Hall.

“The more you put into dance, the more that comes back to you.”

Those are the words of highly-respected ballet teacher Ann Judson, of Lincoln, who has dedicated 44 years to helping place dancers in professional schools and ballet companies around the world.

She taught at ballet schools across the country and most recently at Aspire Dance Academy where she took classes at the Springston Community Hall.

But after a difficult past 18 months, Ms Judson has farewelled a life of ballet.

LOOKING BACK: Ann Judson with a international Japanese student training at the National Ballet School in the early 1990s.

In November, she fell off her bike and broke two parts of her upper arm and
dislocated her shoulder. She also broke her shoulder socket in two places.

She spent seven weeks sitting upright in her bed every night to sleep.

“I was very fortunate because the hospital hoped the dislocation would go back into place so I could avoid surgery. That actually happened,” she said.

But she said she has got another five months of physio and the last 18 months have been a lot to cope with.

In 2016, she lost her husband Paul in an accident at Queen’s Birthday weekend and dealt with unexpected throat surgery shortly afterwards.

“Often he would walk through the door with the most beautiful bouquet of roses with no other reason than to say: ‘I love you’,” she said.

ART: Ann Judson with full-time students studying at the National Ballet School in 1994.

Ms Judson said she was fortunate because her husband was a superb cook and she would come home to a cooked meal when she was tired at the end of the day.

When she was recognised with a New Zealand Order Of Merit (MNZM) for services to ballet in 2015, she said Paul had earned that award as well.

Ms Judson said the parents of her pupils supported her “in every possible way” both before and after her husband’s death.

“The parental support I have had has been absolutely superb,” she said.

A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party celebration was held at St Mary’s Anglican Church, Halswell, recently to recognise her retirement.

Ms Judson trained at the New Zealand School of Dance and danced with the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

She set up the National Ballet School full-time tertiary course in Christchurch in 1993 and was awarded a fellowship with the British Ballet Organisation.

SUCCESS: Ann Judson with former pupil Samantha Crossman who graduated as a British Ballet Organisation teacher in 2015.

She is also the South Island representative for the British Ballet Organisation Australasia.

But Ms Judson said the greatest part of her teaching career has been “to see a child’s belief in him or herself come into fruition.”

One of her most successful pupils was Marc Cassidy who travelled from Clyde to Christchurch for weeks at a time to train with her.

Cassidy was accepted into the Australian Ballet School before winning The Genée International Ballet Competition in London in 1993.

Cassidy described Ms Judson as “one in a million,” generous, honest and “genuinely in love” with the art form of ballet.

Following the February 22, 2011, earthquake, Ms Judson managed to get her classes up and running two weeks later at the Tai Tapu Hall.

She would tell parents not to worry about fees and use what money they had on petrol to get their children to her classes.

“There were many grateful parents because the children were wetting their beds and
they were terrified. It was just awful.

“With the little ones coming through the door I said: ‘Let’s stomp on the monster’s head,’ which was very helpful when there were aftershocks and they were really frightened,” Ms Judson said.

She said there were many hardships – with many of her school’s families having no homes or jobs.

“We even got into a system where one parent who had a big vegetable garden would bring in tomatoes and lettuces to help other families. There was a real comradeship,” she said.

Later when she heard the Tai Tapu Hall was going to be pulled down she moved her classes to Springston.

Ms Judson would also buy costumes and shoes for her pupils facing hardships.

Her school would run fundraisers and she contributed what money she could to get her pupils into courses both in New Zealand and overseas.

Now she will spend her time working at Wilkins Bridal in Christchurch and looking after her granddaughter Harper.

“It is lovely to have those interests. I love young people so I am very fortunate to be able to do this,” Mrs Judson said.