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Dance class in dark over future of studio
MORE than 350 young dancers are waiting to hear the fate of their base at Oxford Stadium.
The complex of four studios is one of the few things still running inside the attraction, which closed on December 29.
Dance Connection rents the studios from R&R Frontline Services Ltd, and while their landlords are still based at the stadium, they’re safe.
But Sam Clifton, who has run the dance school for 20 years, said the future was still uncertain, and her pupils – aged between 18 months and 18 years – were worried.
She said: “There hasn’t been a lot of communication. We’re in a situation now where we don’t actually know whose decision it is whether or not we stay or go.
“I don’t think people realise what facilities we have down here. There are four studios, a reception area, changing rooms and somewhere for the children to sit and have their breaks.
“There is nothing like this anywhere else in Oxfordshire or Berkshire, so I have no idea what we’re going to do if we have to leave,” she added.
“This place is a dream. It’s going to be gutting if it goes.”
But help is at hand in the form of choreographer Ben Davies, who has become patron of the dance school.
Mr Davies is a former UK street dance champion who won an Outstanding Contribution to Youth Dance award from Youth Dance England.
He will be helping Miss Clifton to raise awareness of the school’s predicament and the good it does for children and teenagers, particularly in deprived areas, like the Blackbird Leys estate the stadium calls home.
Miss Clifton said: “We offer assisted places and scholarships to the kids of people who are on benefits, so that’s another thing which would happen if we had to leave. Would those kids be able to afford to travel?”
Mr Davies said: “I wanted to be a part of Dance Connection purely because of their talent.
“They are a great school, and their studio is incredible – better than ones I use in London. It is a great place for all those young people.
“Young people need somewhere they can go and have focus.”
The Greyhound Racing Association (GRA), which owns the stadium, announced in December that it would close before the end of the month.
The announcement came several months after Galliard Homes, which is linked to the GRA’s parent company Risk Capital Partners, revealed plans for 225 homes on the site.
The doors closed for the last time on December 29, and no dog racing has taken place at the site since then.
Most of the furniture, fixtures and fittings have been removed from the site and carted off to the GRA’s other stadiums. The 79 staff in Oxford will be made redundant on Thursday.
Miss Clifton said: “The place looks derelict. It’s really, really sad to see it like this. When we used to come out of classes on a Saturday it used to just be getting going here, but now it’s dead.”
Campaigners against the redevelopment of the site recently vowed to fight on, despite the fact racing at the track had ended.
A petition being co-ordinated by Oxford East MP and Blackbird Leys resident Andrew Smith now has more than 1,000 signatures.
The Oxford Mail tried to contact Galliard Homes and the GRA, but received no response.