Caroline Flack's former dance teacher to set up Cambridge scholarship in her memory
Caroline Flack’s former performing arts teacher and friend, Theresa Kerr, has revealed the studio plans to set up a student scholarship in honour of their former pupil.
The 40-year-old TV presenter, who trained at Ms Kerr’s Bodywork Company Dance Studios for three years from the age of 16, took her own life in her London flat on Saturday, February 15.
The TV star had kept in touch with Ms Kerr, who said she was ”like a member of the family” and that she had been due to speak to students hoping to follow in her footsteps.
Ms Flack had presented such successful shows as X Factor, Xtra Factor, I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here NOW, and was the presenter of the show Love Island until charged with allegedly assaulting her boyfriend Lewis Burton, 27, at her then flat in Islington in December.
In 2014 she was crowned Strictly Come Dancing champion with her professional dancer Pasha Kovalev.
And her success was not a surprise to her former dance teacher. Ms Kerr said she could see from the start that Caroline had that “special magic” required to reach the top.
Ms Kerr was left “shocked and saddened” by Caroline’s tragic death and while she knew the star was going through some really bad times, Ms Kerr revealed her former pupil was also in the midst of making plans for the future.
Ms Kerr told the Cambridge Independent: “We are going to create a Caroline Flack scholarship in her honour. She was a bright spark. We spot that in people in auditions even. You know those people will make it and she had that special magic.
“She was fun, this was the thing. We like the students to be happy, obviously, because it is hard enough to be in college training to be a performing artist, to be a dancer.
“She was very supportive of the studio. She came back to us on our 25th anniversary show at the Corn Exchange and was always in touch and asking advice about Strictly Come Dancing, and which musicals she should go into and so on.
“She was due to come in and talk to the students soon. With all the celebrity, she still maintained friendships with our family.
“We were constantly in touch. She talked a lot about how she felt. I think it probably got progressively worse. Even after Strictly, she was not in a good place. But then she was offered some musicals and actually that is what she had trained for so in that respect, that picked her up a bit. She did Chicago in the West End. But the press was ongoing and social media was ongoing and it is all about the mental health issues that not only she but a lot of performing artists and indeed students experience.
“We are in the social media age and this is the big problem. Nothing is hidden away and everything is up front. It is very, very, very difficult for anybody training right now.”
Ms Kerr added: “We have pastoral care here obviously but there are several centres in Cambridge we refer people to. It is a full time job to be honest, looking after them. It really is.
“Caroline was well supported while she was at college. She lived with my daughter Jane and was one of the family. Then she worked in children’s television and although she didn’t train to be a presenter, the training for performing arts really allows you to go out and do anything. She was such a cheerful character to live with such difficulties. She had her demons.
“We put on our make-up and do the show and nobody knows what goes on inside. There is much more out there now in terms of speaking about mental health issues, I still feel not enough and not enough for young people. People are much more up front now.”
Despite the troubled times Ms Flack was suffering, her death still shocked Ms Kerr, who was critical of the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to charge her with assault in spite of her boyfriend’s desire not to pursue the case.
Ms Flack was due to stand trial next month in what Ms Kerr suggested was nothing more than a “show trial” – a claim also issued by the star’s management company.
She added: “I was shocked. We knew she was having a very, very bad time. A really horrendously bad time. But she was making plans for the future. It is just that horrible court case which was so unnecessary.
“The CPS wanted to make a show case because it was a celebrity. It was quite appalling. It absolutely frightened her.”
Ms Kerr founded Bodywork Company Dance Studios in 1981 alongside her late husband Patrick and together they set Cambridge alight with their Saturday Night Fever Workshops. As a result of the workshops came Bodywork Dance Company which went on to tour the UK, Europe and the Far East. Theresa continued teaching jazz for major performing arts colleges in London whilst Patrick was touring with the jazz company.
In 1986 they saw a need for a dance foundation course to prepare students, especially late beginners for full-time vocational training. The foundation course grew both in size and success and still runs today, alongside a three-year level 6 NQF diploma course in professional dance or musical theatre (validated by Trinity College London), a BTEC
level 3 diploma in performing arts, a theatre school for children aged three to 18, and the adult classes for the community. Ms Kerr is the founder and principal of them all.
Ms Kerr continues to tutor, inspire and mentor her past and current students with her creative choreography and her vast knowledge of the industry.
She also posted a moving message on the Bodywork Dance Company’s Instagram site.
It read: “Darling Caroline, so talented and yet so vulnerable, Caroline rose to fame as a presenter but she came to us at 16 with an incredible voice and going on to win Strictly Come Dancing.
“I am so glad she got to live her dream in the West End playing Roxie Hart in Chicago. But most of all she remained a sweet, generous person and a pure family girl. She was an inspiration to many of our students, who loved seeing her when she would visit the studio.
“She left a recent post saying: ‘In a world where you can be anything, be kind’, a salutary message in this social media age. We extend our deepest sympathies to her family.”
More by this authorAdrian Curtis