The final curtain was drawn last week on 61 years of tapping the boards and teaching Leighton Buzzard how to dance.
Doreen Rolls, 79, the founder of Doreen’s School of Dance died on Saturday, August 20 after a year long battle with pancreatic cancer.
The self-avowed ‘Queen of Leighton Buzzard’ claimed to know just about everyone in the town. And if she didn’t, granddaughter Alicia Taylor, 16, is sure that everyone else certainly knew her!
“I’ve had people coming up to me in the street who I don’t even know offering their condolences” said the GCSE student. “She knew everyone and taught generations of people how to dance.”
Doreen was born in Leighton Buzzard in 1937. She was spotted by a London dance teacher, Coral Holt – who had been evacuated to Leighton Buzzard during the Second World War – and took her first lessons at age three-and-a-half.
While still a youngster, Doreen became a teaching member of the United Teachers of Dance. In 1955 she realised her childhood dream of opening her own dance school in Leighton Buzzard, just shy of her 18th birthday. Doreen’s School of Dancing grew quickly into a successful establishment lasting over 60 years.
Each year, Doreen’s pupils at the dance school would form part of the procession of Leighton Carnival, and Doreen herself would take charge looking after the newly-crowned carnival queen.
Among the many people she came to know through her work with the carnival was its chairman, Cllr Mark Freeman.
He said: “I can honestly say that words cannot sum up Doreen’s contribution to carnival and to the town in general.
“Thousands of girls must have gone through her dance school in its 60 plus years! She was a tiny lady with a huge heart.”
A thanksgiving service in Doreen’s memory takes place at 1pm on Friday, September 2 at All Saints Church Leighton Buzzard. All are welcome, traditional dark clothing to be worn and pupils of the dancing school will wear uniform.
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