A much-loved Huddersfield dance teacher who shaped the lives of thousands of students over more than half a century has died at the age of 89.

Huddersfield-born Audrey Spencer set up her own dance school – Audrey Spencer School of Dance – in 1951 aged just 16.

In her first week she had just one student but the business grew and Audrey ran it for an incredible 60 years before handing it over to one of her former students. The dance school, now based in Lockwood, continues her legacy today.

Audrey, a talented choreographer, could have headed for the bright lights of London and the West End stage but instead devoted her life to teaching dance in her hometown.

Audrey’s daughter Samantha Armitage, 55, who had a 20-year career as a singer and actress herself, said: “Teaching dance was my mum’s life and her passion. She dedicated her whole life to it.

“Since she died we’ve had some lovely messages from former students saying how my mum shaped their lives and made them the people they are today.

“One girl said she had been bullied on her council estate and at school and the only place she could be herself and where she felt safe was at the dance school. She said that made her the person she is today.

“My mum wouldn’t have known that or realised the impact she had on so many lives,” said Samantha. “I was really touched.”




Audrey was born in 1935 at the Princess Royal Hospital in Huddersfield and lived in Huddersfield town centre, where the bus station is now.

She came from a showbusiness background where dad Bill built stage sets and props and mum Hilda was a seamstress who made costumes.

Audrey attended Spring Grove School and Longley Hall. She started dancing at about two years old and wasn’t the most academically gifted at school, leading one teacher to remark: “Audrey’s brain is in her feet!”

Audrey learned to dance at the Nora Bray Dance School in Huddersfield where she trained with Huddersfield-born TV entertainer Roy Castle. They used to duet together and remained friends down the years.

Aged about four, Audrey won the first ever talent competition at the outdoor theatre in Greenhead Park.

When she was 15 Audrey started teaching for Nora Bray and her choreography expertise was soon in demand, so much so she and another girl decided to branch out on their own.

After about a year, the other girl decided to move on. Audrey feared that was the end of the line but was persuaded by her dad to set up her own dance school, and she never looked back.

Samantha said: “My mum was a very talented choreographer, so creative. She was asked to choreograph professionally and go to London but she didn’t want to.

“She loved her family and her school and nothing could take her away from that.”

Audrey married Malcolm and adopted Samantha and had a son, Russell. Audrey worked long hours, often staying at the studio until 11pm.

She was devoted to her students and the school. The only time she took time away was when Samantha was diagnosed with leukaemia aged 16.



Many hundreds of students trained by Audrey went on to become professional dancers. Most notable was Sir David Bintley CBE, who went on to join the Royal Ballet School and later became artistic director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.

Another was TV and film actor Annabel Scholey, who appeared in the film ‘Walking on Sunshine’ and TV dramas such as ‘The Split’ and ‘Being Human.’

One young protégé was just 11 when she appeared in a musical alongside renowned actor and singer Anthony Newley.

Audrey was also involved in countless productions in Huddersfield and worked with her friend Nita Valerie, a real character in the town and a producer with something of a reputation.

Audrey wanted her students to be the best they could be and going to competitions wasn’t just about bringing back a haul of medals.

“Mum was never afraid of competition and wanted to learn from better dancers and teachers,” said Samantha.

“She didn’t want to go to a competition where the school could win all the medals. She wanted us to fight for our medals.”

Many people will remember fondly the dance school’s displays in Greenhead Park.



Audrey always prided herself on remembering the names of all her former students, no mean feat.

She remained down-to-earth and humble. “She would get very embarrassed if people praised her too much,” said Samantha.

In 2010 the dance school celebrated its 60th anniversary with a special commemorative event attended by students past and present.

Audrey finally stepped down aged 76, handing over the reins to one of her former students, Joanne Perkins.

“I think my mum’s greatest achievement is that she brought so much joy to so many people through dance,” said Samantha. “It teaches you discipline and that’s a discipline that carries you through the whole of your life.”

Audrey, who died in hospital on June 20 after a short ilnness, leaves daughter Samantha and her son Brady, 19, and another grandson Joshua, 33, son of the late Russell.

Audrey’s funeral will be held on Thursday July 18 (2pm) at Huddersfield Parish Church followed by cremation at Huddersfield Crematorium at 3.15pm. There will be a collection for leukaemia research.