Another opening of yet another Llanelli show
IT was far from being "just" another opening of another show — as the old music hall favourite goes — when the curtain went up in Llanelli's new Y Ffwrnes Theatre.
On stage were members of Swansea's Raie Copp School of Dance ready to christen Carmarthenshire's new state- of-the-art £15 million performance space as part of the pantomime Aladdin.
It was a thrill for the youngsters but also an honour for the school, especially its founder — the affectionately-termed Auntie Raie — who was once again stood in the wings.
The mere mention of the name Auntie Raie to any number of Swansea women is likely to cause memories of tap, modern and song and dance routines to come flooding back — for the dance teacher has been in business for more than 60 years.
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Although the opening of the new theatre has turned out to be a nice 91st birthday present, Auntie Raie shows no signs of exiting stage left just yet.
The former dancer, who began treading the boards as a 14-year-old, said: "I am from London originally and in June 1950 I was at the Empire Theatre in Swansea for the panto.
"I had a contract to go to another show and one of the other dancers, Teresa Perlosi, said "why don't you stay and we will open a school together?"
"So I did and that is where it all started. We were based in St Thomas for many many years before we headed up to Trallwn Community Centre.
"I have had quite a few children go on to be professional.
"I had to give up actually teaching the kids back in 2003 due to my bad knees, but one of my former pupils Melanie Sullivan took over teaching — and the school is going from strength to strength — even after 60 years."
Auntie Raie adds: "I still go to all the dance festivals and shows we perform at.
"I am there from 9am until they tell me I have to go!"
Principal of the Raie Copp School of Dance and Aladdin panto choreographer, Melanie Sullivan, said Raie had enjoyed her birthday and had a tour of the new £15 million theatre before watching the show.
"Auntie Raie loved the panto and the new theatre.
"She said it was the best panto she had ever seen — which means a lot coming from her — she has been part of so many productions over the years."
On the opening of the theatre she added: "We were honoured to open the new theatre," she said. "It is ironic because the Raie Copp dancers were the last to perform at the old Theatre Elli before it closed and the first to perform in the new theatre.
"It is quite an achievement for the dance school. It was absolutely fantastic to perform there.
"The children took it all in their stride.
"The facilities at the theatre were second to none."
Auntie Raie has also been nominated for Mentor/Teacher of the Year in the Evening Post Pride Awards which will be held at the Brangwyn Hall on March 7.