Pavillion star tells of miracle escape

MUSICAL theatre dancers are often the unsung heroes of showbiz.

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  • Lynsey Brown trained at Glasgow's Dance School of Scotland
    Lynsey Brown trained at Glasgow's Dance School of Scotland
  • Lynsey Brown trained at Glasgow's Dance School of Scotland

They don't get paid the salaries of the stars and they suffer for their art; torn ligaments, pulled back muscles, knees that regularly need more ice than it takes to build an igloo.

Lynsey Brown, now appearing at the Pavilion Theatre in this year's panto, Pinocchio, is one such committed dancers who's given everything to the cause. Almost including, she reveals, her life.

Now 31, the dancer from Craigend was on a cruise ship in mid-Atlantic when the cooling system broke down. This meant the engines could have exploded and the ship would certainly blow up. The call went out to abandon ship, and Lynsey believed she had pirouetted for the very last time.

"We'd had the safety meetings every week and we were told how long we'd survive in the water," she says.

"And being super skinny, I knew as soon as I touched freezing water I'd be dead.

"So when we got the call to abandon ship at four in the morning I phoned my mum screaming 'I'm going to die!' And she was absolutely panic stricken to hear this."

But just as Lynsey and the rest of the ents team lined up to man the lifeboats, a call came through; the crew had somehow managed to repair the system.

"The relief was tremendous," she says.

Lynsey dreamed of becoming a dancer when, for her 13th birthday present, she was taken by her mum to see Cats.

"I looked at the stage and thought; 'I'm going to do that,'" she says.

However, her commitment was tested a year later.

"I threw my back out dancing and woke up on the floor paralysed and crying," she says.

"The doctor told me if I danced again I may be in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Luckily, I found the most amazing physio in Kit Woods, a lady from Glasgow who I saw three times a week for six months and she sorted me out.

"Luckily, my mum had just signed me up for Bupa."

Lynsey trained at the Dance School of Scotland in Knightswood and then moved to London to train at the prestigious Laine's Theatre Arts, on a scholarship.

Her taxi driver dad and home help mum helped out with her rent.

Such was Lynsey's talent, and dedication, she was taken under the wing of dance masters and producers Antony Johns and Dougie Squiers and worked in Blackpool and across the UK.

But her reputation grew and she landed some incredible jobs.

"I worked with Michael Flately on his Celtic Tiger show, which took me across Europe then to Taiwan and China," she recalls.

Lynsey also lived in Greece for six months, working for a famous pop star, Panos Kiamos.

"We were auditioned in London by a Danish choreographer and the dance routines were really sexy and really cool. And we were all excited at the thought of working with this Greek pop star, whom we had never seen."

The dancers reckoned Panos would most likely be a Greek version of Ricky Martin. Instead he was more Doc Martin. He had had a beer belly and a combover.

"Yet , the women in the audiences loved him. We couldn't understand it," she says.

Lynsey's last job was in Macao, at the Sands Casino.

"Normally, when you're in a show, people come to watch you perform. But they just came to gamble. The dancing was just something that was going on.

"We could have stripped naked on stage and no one would notice. That's not to say the work was easy. It was full-on and we were heavily supervised. And we had to do four shows a day."

The physical demands have been enormous. But there have been other sacrifices.

"The dancing and travelling means it's very hard to settle, and even build a relationship.

"Everyone thinks it's such a glamorous lifestyle, and it is really great fun, but it's also a career in which you can't plan ahead, you can't get a mortgage.

"And then aged thirty you wake up and realise your friends have houses, cars and babies.

"Plus, there's the shock of coming back home to live after somewhere like Hong Kong. I was used to waking up in a different country every day. I was used to the adrenalin rushes, and going out after the shows 'till four am.

"Then I came home and was a bit depressed for six months."

Lynsey, now 31, has had to look beyond dancing. She teaches dance part-time at Coatbridge College and runs Faces of the Future, a programme to find the young dancers of the future.

"What I tell my students is you've got to forget about boyfriends. And when you wake up with sore legs you've got to be happy to have sore legs."

The pain and transience apart, Lynsey has had 'an amazing life.' "If I have one regret is that I wish I'd planned a bit more for the future. But I've got time."

Lynsey's adds, grinning; "You know, every year I think I've danced my last, but here I am. And I love panto. I love seeing the kids have so much fun.

"And I'll keep going as long as I can. I still love it."

* The New Magical Adventures of Pinocchio, The Pavilion Theatre, until January 19.

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