Ilkley teacher, 90, honoured for dedication to dance

Ilkley Gazette: Margaret Jaffe, who was awarded with the British Empire Medal, with one of her dance pupils Margaret Jaffe, who was awarded with the British Empire Medal, with one of her dance pupils

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 and it has given her some sparkle back! She is quietly thrilled and I cannot think of anyone who deserves an honour more as she really has dedicated her whole life to dancing and has inspired so many of us for so long.

“She really is the “grande dame” of dance in the UK and especially in the Yorkshire Dales.”

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

Ilkley resident and former Rugby Football League match officials director Stuart Cummings, who left the sport’s governing body in March after 11 years, was awarded an MBE for services to rugby league.

The 53-year-old started working as a referee in 1988, before reaching the top level in 1991. He officiated at the 1995 and 2000 World Cup finals and went on to work for the RFL in 2002.

He now runs his own consultancy business working in different sports, including rugby league and weight lifting.

Speaking from a skiing holiday in Italy on Monday, he said: “It’s a fantastic honour and it came totally out of the blue when I found out in November.

“I’ve had to keep it quiet, which has been difficult, but it’s given me time to reflect on the last 25 years. It’s flown by so quickly, it only seems like five minutes. It’s a real honour and very pleasing. I’m looking forward to being able to tell people so I can celebrate!”

Another Ilkley resident Richard Wightman, a former Lord Mayor of Bradford, received an OBE for services to further education and the voluntary sector.

The chairman of Bradford College and a former president of the city’s Chamber of Commerce served as a district councillor for more than 20 years, was deputy leader of Bradford Council and took up duties as Lord Mayor in 2002.

His chairmanship at the College has seen boosts for education and training in Bradford and a multi-million pound redevelopment is moving towards completion.

In September, Mr Wightman was at the official opening of the Appleton Academy, where he is chairman of governors.


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