Ready for the show: Barbara Frith with eight-year-old dancers Cameron Forster, left, Annabelle Hubbard and Theodora West (Photograph by Jessie Moniz Hardy)
Jackson’s staff in 1976: back row, left to right, Conchita Ming, Barbara Frith, Sharon McKirdy and Anne Hines. Front, left to right, Sharon Krantz, Louise Jackson and Linda Manders (Photograph provided)
Veteran dance teacher Barbara Frith (Photograph provided)
Barbara Frith’s encouraging words can be heard throughout the rehearsal.
In response, the students light up.
It’s a role the dance teacher at Jackson’s School of the Performing Arts has played for half a century.
“It would be safe to say that I have taught thousands of children,” the 75-year-old said. “I meet former students all the time. They say, ‘Hello, Mrs. Frith’ or, ‘This is my old ballet teacher.’ It is soft.
“I teach a tap class at the Lifelong Learning Center at Bermuda College. Two of the ladies in this class took an adult tap class with me at Jackson’s 20 or 30 years ago. They still remember how to do their time steps and everything.
Right now, she’s helping to inspire students as they prepare to Wish me good luckthe school’s first live performance since the pandemic began in 2020.
“We came up with the theme of luck, because everyone needs a lot of luck in their post-pandemic life,” Ms Frith said. “All our dances come from lucky charms from all over the world. Musical theater kids do a Mary Poppins medley that includes the song Chim Chim Cher-ee. It’s about how lucky chimney sweeps were in England. I guess if your chimney was swept, your house was less likely to catch fire. The children are happy and having fun. »
She teaches ballet, musical theater and tap dancing at Burnaby Street School.
“During shelter-in-place, we continued to conduct online classes from our homes,” she said. “My daughter Jess was taking online classes for physical training. I have a small living room. We would move the coffee table and sofa back. She would do her class and then we would put it back where it was. Then with my class , we had to do the same thing again, if we didn’t back him up we couldn’t get into the kitchen.
She was relieved when she was able to return to Jackson’s studios.
“At least there you knew where you were with space,” she said.
Ultimately, it’s her young students that keep her active at a time in life when many people have retired.
“You do the recital or you teach and I hope you grow every year,” she said. “You get better at what you do and you learn new things.
“It’s really nice to spend a few days a week seeing the kids rediscover the joy of movement.”
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Ms. Frith began taking ballet lessons when she was 5 years old. Her mother suffered from severe scoliosis, a curvature of her spine, and doctors believed dancing would prevent the same from happening to Ms Frith.
When she suggested it was time to quit, her mother gave her the option of lying on the kitchen table doing a series of back-strengthening exercises for hours. She continued to dance.
At 13, she joined the Boston Ballet Company and then studied jazz at the Boston Conservatory. By the age of 18, she was teaching jazz and dance professionally.
During a trip to Bermuda in 1969, she met her late husband Douglas Frith, then a musician at the Bermudiana Hotel, where she was staying. Before his week in Bermuda was over, he proposed and they were married soon after.
New to the island, Ms. Frith looked for a dance class and someone suggested she try Jackson’s.
After her first jazz lesson, Ms. Jackson, the school’s late founder, asked if she would consider teaching. Ms. Frith immediately accepted.
Many dance schools in Bermuda were then racially divided. Jackson’s was one of the first to join.
“When I arrived, Jackson was a predominantly black school,” Ms. Frith said. “It made no difference to me. Ms. Jackson was always welcoming and we always had a great time. It was the place for me. I was happy and lucky that she asked me to teach .
In her early days in teaching, many of Ms. Frith’s classes were held after 3 p.m.
“I would load a double deck cassette player and two speakers into the basket of my Honda 50,” she said. “Then I would waver to the schools.”
His lessons were so popular that 30 to 40 children signed up at a time.
“We had to split the classes into two groups,” recalls Ms Frith. “Eventually the classes got so busy that we had to do them at Jackson’s after school and on Saturdays.”
Her plan is to continue teaching as long as she can.
“I guess I’ll stop when I stop breathing,” she laughed. “The faucet is good for that. You can still tap and it’s great fun.
Wish Me Luck takes place tomorrow, Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Earl Cameron Theater. Tickets, $40, are available at www.jspabermuda.com. For more information, call 599-1406