“Dancing is more than just moving body parts; it is a pathway of expressing your deepest inner thoughts.”
Since 1996, Lynn Fahey School of Dance has been committed to excellence in dance education. Students of all ages, genders and abilities can build technique, creativity and self-confidence here. We combine discipline with positive reinforcement to help everyone reach their fullest potential and develop their character and integrity.
Our goal is to enrich and empower the intellectual, social and physical wellbeing of our students. We believe that dance lessons are also life lessons. Whether or not you choose a career in dance, the skills and individuality you craft here will help you achieve your dreams and make you an exceptional member of our ever-changing society.
Lynn is the founder and principal of Lynn Fahey School of Dance (LFSD), and Samantha her second-in-command. Each Saturday they run classical ballet, jazz and tap lessons in Burwood, Enfield and Croydon. It takes four studios, ten regular teachers, and an eight-and-a-half hour day to contain all their classes, and they act as chauffeurs, counsellors, diplomats, and seamstresses, as well as teachers. So I’m not surprised that, when I ask how they’re feeling, ‘tired’ is at the top of their list.
‘But otherwise,’ Lynn says with a grin, ‘looking forward to the chocolate!’
It was Lynn’s idea to meet at Chocolates Del Mondo, partially for the convenience – it’s a short walk from LFSD’s two Burwood studios – but mostly for the chocolate. The fondue we order comes with pillowy marshmallows, crisp churros, and fresh fruit (so we can at least pretend to be healthy). Many dancers would not allow themselves to enjoy such an indulgent treat. But then Lynn, 55, and Samantha, 28, aren’t like most dancers. In fact, there’s no one quite like them – and no school quite like LFSD – anywhere in the Inner West dance scene. But they must be doing something right, because they’ve been in the game for twenty years and are still going strong.
So how did they get started?
LFSD wasn’t the beginning of Lynn and Samantha’s journey together. They first met at the Sydney Dance Development Centre (SDDC) in 1993, where Lynn was Samantha’s teacher and Samantha was, by Lynn’s account, ‘a cute little thing’.
‘Everything would say she shouldn’t be able to do dancing,’ Lynn recalls. ‘She had turned in feet, bones that were broken or breaking, all sorts. But contrary to other kids who were quite talented but used to chuck tantrums, Samantha just tried her little heart out all the time.’
Samantha, who was six at the time, has no qualms about declaring Lynn her favourite teacher at SDDC. ‘She always had a smile on her face, and the class was always fun,’ she explains. ‘I was never put in a position where I felt that my physical issues were a negative, so I wanted to be there, rather than being forced or hiding up the back.’
For the first time, Samantha felt safe in her skin (imperfect though it was) at dancing. This is rare in an industry that notoriously pressures its members to conform to, and compete for, a paradigm of perfection. But the average six-year-old is far from perfect, as Lynn – a psychologist and school counsellor – is well aware. That’s why, in 1996, she founded LFSD. There were plenty of studios for the elite students but none for children like Samantha, who weren’t going to be professionals, but who loved to dance nonetheless. Evidently, Lynn filled a hole in many children’s lives, because LFSD has grown bigger – and lasted longer – than she ever imagined.
‘The best bit for me,’ she says, when I ask her favourite thing about the school today, ‘is people can be who they are. We do our best when it comes to dancing, but there’s no egos. There’s no anything. We just be who we are.’
The pair have come a long way together since their early days as student and teacher. And as of 2016, a new chapter in their shared history will begin: Lynn will be stepping down as principal, and Samantha – who, as an event organiser, has been running LFSD’s recitals like a professional – will be taking over the role.
‘Going full time at work, plus running a school and teaching and everything, I was getting tired,’ Lynn admits. ‘I got to the point last year where I said, “You know what? I’m just gonna say that I’m gonna retire, and hope someone takes over”.’
‘It’s what children need, as well as the dance industry,’ Lynn adds. ‘Schools don’t provide that any more – they’ve gotta keep their defences up. But every child who comes to our school, whether they’re here for one year or for twenty, is developing self-esteem, body awareness, all those sorts of things. It’s a safe place for them to be themselves. And I’m confident it’ll keep moving ahead.’
Self-acceptance, growth, and simply having fun have been recurring themes in our conversation tonight. They’re not what dance schools are renowned for teaching, but they’re what these women are passionate about. That’s why their school is so special. And for them, that’s worth holding onto for another twenty years, no matter what happens or who’s at the helm.
‘I’m definitely never changing the essence of the school,’ Samantha promises. ‘That’s there to stay.’
-excerpt from "Outgoing and incoming principals of Lynn Fahey School of Dance" by Jenny Ryan (2016)