As far back as Gabrielle Cronan can remember she wanted to twirl, spin and jump around.
“If music was put on anywhere I would literally just dance until I dropped,” she says.
Cronan has been running the highly-respected Dance Central in North Freo for a quarter of a century, and is well known around town as an avid supporter of local businesses and the community.
She’s often stopped in the street by parents of formers students who are now young adults.
“Often parents will thank me because their kids have just completed year 12 and often attribute their concentration, discipline and dedication to their ballet studies they did with me all those years ago,” she says.
Born in Ballarat in Victoria, Cronan began studying from age five at renowned schools in Australia and overseas.
She also competed in various televised competitions, including Quest ’76—The ABC’s equivalent of Australia’s Got Talent—and Pot of Gold on the Ten Network.
“Jill Perryman was one of the judges on Quest,” Cronan says.
“It was very exciting because she’s often referred to as the First Lady of Australian Theatre.
“Bernard King was a judge on Pot of Gold and I remember him being ruthless. He would often tell contestants they were horrible and they should give up, but I got 49 out of 50 from Bernard so I was happy with that,” she laughs.
After several celebrated years with the WA Ballet Company, Cronan suffered a severe foot injury that forced her to temporarily change careers, becoming a costume designer for the WA Ballet and Opera companies and the Playhouse Theatre.
“I make most of the costumes at Dance Central, which is unheard of these days,” she says.
“I do 18-hour days for eight weeks leading up to concerts making costumes. I love the creativity and the colour and it’s very rewarding. A lot of parents often comment on how great our students look.”
Dance Central was originally located in Packenham Street in Fremantle during the mid 90s, but after the landlord refused to renew the lease a heavily pregnant Cronan door-knocked the area to find a new space.
The school ended up in five different locations before finally putting down roots at Queen Victoria Street in North Fremantle.
“We had to rebuild our floors and re-mirror every time we moved,” says Cronan.
“It was very costly. I sold my house to buy the space we’re in now so I can guarantee students will not be interrupted by having to move.”
Cronan believes there has been a massive decrease in children’s flexibility over the last two decades because of inactivity in their day-to-day lives.
“I think a lot of football teams could also benefit from some of our services,” she says. “I’d love to give it a go at a AFLW level!”
by MATTHEW EELES
212 Queen Victoria St,