My first dance teacher in Nottingham, England, Miss Nora Morrison has probably been the most inspiring and influential mentor in my life and career. She taught brilliant expression through performance, how to overcome obstacles, that anything is possible with practice and hard work. She taught charity, kindness and to do things out of enjoyment and love and to do it for others. Incredibly she even taught the deaf and blind to dance to music. She is the most determined, hard working person I have ever met, or perhaps that ever existed! Miss Morrison began teaching dance to children and the blind in 1931 and is still teaching today at the age of 98 and from a wheelchair.
In recent years, I had a deep inner “calling” that Miss Morrison deserved recognition. Nearly two years ago, I personally made the effort and arduous task of nominating her for a Queen’s Honour – something which many others have tried over four decades. A Queen’s Honour is a means of rewarding an individual for personal bravery, achievement, or service to the United Kingdom. They are the highest of awards given by the Queen. In June 2010, Miss Morrison finally made the Queen’s Honours list!
The Queen’s Honors nomination process requires a great deal of information and proof about the individual. The process takes up to 2 years and goes through a series of research and scrutiny before being sent to the Prime Minister and then the Queen. I thought I knew much about Miss Morrison, her abilities with children, the blind and the thousands of pounds she has donated to charity, but my research led me to learn so much more about this remarkable lady. The whole nomination process turned in to an experience I thoroughly enjoyed and cherish.
My nomination package was over one inch thick and contained countless newspaper articles and 12 letters of support. One letter from a former pupil, Jenny Sealy, now CEO and director of The Graeae Theatre Company in London, the UK’s leading disabled theatre group, tells a remarkable story. Jenny writes “I started ballet in 1969 at the Morrison school…I became deaf at the age of 7 and was going to give up dancing because I could not hear the music. Nora took me under her wing and taught me how to hear music with my eyes and through vibrations. She would not let my deafness get in the way and would not let me be defeated because I was deaf. She helped me learn how to be deaf and how it could inform my life. I am now CEO/artistic director of The Graeae Theatre in London and every show I direct is informed by my experiences of being part of Nora’s world”.
This award has been very exciting for all of us and for thousands of pupils who have walked through her doors who love and remember her.
In November 2010, I accompanied Miss Nora Morrison to Buckingham Palace to receive her award, where I watched a beautiful ceremony in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen.