By Rowan Forster
One of Cardinia’s oldest operating dance schools is celebrating its 70th anniversary, tapping into an extensive network of alumni from across Victoria.
The Seena Bird Academy of Dance has an iconic presence in Pakenham – founded by the late Seena Ramona Bird.
When Mrs Bird tragically passed away in 2008, the legacy was bestowed upon her daughters Rosalie and Sherall and granddaughters Sheree and Alicia.
Throughout the school’s rich history, the landscape of dance has changed drastically.
While the original focus was ballet and tap, the academy now instructs across a number of disciplines including jazz, hip hop, acrobatics and contemporary dance.
Sherall Berriman first became involved when the academy was founded in 1949, inspired to learn dancing for her mother, Seena.
She has now been teaching the art form for more than 55 years.
“It means a lot to everybody,” she said.
“I get very emotional when I think about it being the 70th year because I have memories of my mum and my grandmother teaching the dancing and the acrobats to the children, and to us.
“The children that we’ve taught right through – many of them now have their own studios now.”
For Sherall, the anniversary came at the perfect time.
“We meet people that have been learning from us, going back 60 years ago, and they have all wanted a reunion because they have such wonderful memories of our dancing school,” she added.
While the academy predominantly serves children, some members have made a lifelong habit of the Seena Bird institution.
Some members are in their 30’s, having attended the studio for the majority of their lives.
The inception of the academy, which has studios in Garfield, Berwick, Narre Warren and Dandenong, came about when Mrs Bird moved to Narre Warren with her husband.
“My mother had a dancing school in Box Hill and Baldwin,” Mrs Berriman said.
“She married a farmer and then they bought a farm out in Narre Warren, not far from the Fountain Gate Shopping Centre.
“She started Rosalie and I at a small dancing school in Dandenong.
“The lady was giving away the class because she was starting a family so my mother said she would take it over.”
The rest was history.
Granddaughter Sheree Bould said she had been overwhelmed by the number of past students emerging from the woodwork.
“It’s incredible to see how many people were a part of the academy,” she said.
“We’ve had so many people reach out to us, sharing their stories from when they attended the classes.”
For former student Margaret, who attended the academy in Garfield more than 40 years ago, the anniversary is a blast of nostalgia.
She said she met one of her closest friends from her time on the dancefloor.
“People would think it is just a dance studio, but it’s more than that,” she said.
“It was a big part of people’s childhoods.”
The Seena Bird Academy of Dance is currently rounding up current and past members for a reunion to celebrate the milestone.
Those interested can convene on the academy’s Facebook page.