Northern Dance Centre founder Margaret Jaffe to receive British Empire Medal

Craven Herald: Margaret Jaffe is to receive the British Empire Medal for services to dance Margaret Jaffe is to receive the British Empire Medal for services to dance

A woman who has dedicated her life to dance has been rewarded in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.

Margaret Jaffe, founder of Skipton’s Northern Dance Centre, is to receive a British Empire Medal (BEM) for services to dance.

Now 90 and living in Carleton Court residential home in Skipton, Mrs Jaffe, who retired just six years ago, ran dance classes in Grassington, Skipton, Ilkley and Bradford and was in demand as a judge all over the world.

Past students, during her 50 years as a teacher, include many now-professional dancers, including David Gayle MBE, founder of the Yorkshire Ballet Seminars, and Hannah Coates who is a soloist with Hamburg Ballet in Germany.

Her husband, Nigel Allenby-Jaffe, a former concert pianist, said it was a wonderful honour that should have been given years ago.

“It is marvellous, when I told her she was really quite emotional about it, which I was not expecting,” he said.

He first put her name forward five years ago, but it was only three weeks ago that he received notification about the honour.

“It’s wonderful and now she can put BEM after her name,” he added.

Margaret’s love of dance started during World War Two when, still a student at Skipton Girls’ High School, she joined the Northern Command Voluntary Entertainments Services, entertaining troops at bases across the North.

After the war, she completed teaching exams in ballet, modern, tap and national dance, and also studied the piano at the Royal Manchester College of Music. Together with her husband, she set up the Dixon Philip Stage School in Grassington. Branches soon followed in the surrounding villages, developing into the Skipton-based Northern Dance Centre and in 1960 they took over the established Braybooks Academy in Bradford.

They also set up a summer ballet school in North Jutland for the Danish education authorities – paving the way for the Northern Lights Theatre Group to begin its travels.

In 1999, to mark her lifelong work Margaret was awarded the Imperial Award for Dance, a prize which she described at the time as “the Oscars of the dance world”.

The school set up by Margaret and her husband, is now run by former pupil, Amy Addison, and continues to inspire future dancers.

Amy said: “I am so delighted to hear that Margaret has been honoured in this way. She is quietly thrilled and I cannot think of anyone who deserves an honour more.”

Margaret’s retirement was marked with a gala celebration of dance at Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre and featuring performances from past students.

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