Famous Noosa dancer dies at 96

Famous Noosa personality and professional dancer Jacqueline Floyd, 96, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Saturday 5 March, 2022.

Jacqueline Ethel was born in the UK in Croydon on 23 December 1925.

She started classical ballet classes when she was six with the famous Madame Judith Espinosa, however, travel logistics meant she soon transitioned to the Grandison Clark School where she also learned the acrobatics, Greek, jazz and tap that would form such an important element of her future career, as well as taking her Royal Academy of Dance examinations which became the backbone of her future school in Adelaide.

Jacqueline (or Jackie as she was known at the time to her UK friends) began her professional career during the war in 1940 at age 14.

With her best friend Pamela Ray, they initially joined various productions including the Terry Juveniles in pantomime and variety shows but soon formed a duo act named Ray and B’Nay using their skills as acrobats, ballet dancers and national dancers. Their act was highly successful and they continued performing in theaters the length and breath of England throughout the war, even traveling with the American Allied Forces to Europe to entertain the troupes.

During the war, London and the provinces were experiencing nightly bombing raids and while the girls were performing at the Eastham Palace Theatre, a German bomb struck the theater killing several performers and destroying costumes, scenery and props.

Showing incredible bravery, Jackie told her worried parents that although she was only 15, she would continue to dance throughout the war, whatever Hitler served up.

Whilst still touring with Pamela, she had a serious accident where she severed her achilles tendon right up to the knee when the pedestal of the rickety hand basin broke while she was washing make-up from her legs.

Pamela got her to the hospital, where she was told by doctors that she would never dance again, but with tenacity and resilience, she returned home and began a heavy regime of daily excruciating exercises, even running up the escalators at Leicester Square train station to rebuild stamina in her legs.

She returned to the stage, and after many engagements as a duo specialty act, including being in the famous John Tiller Girls show, at the end of WW2, Ray and B’Nay went with the Combined Services Entertainment Group to post-war Germany.

This was a devastating experience as Jackie explained, “The army took us to Hitler’s Chancellery in Berlin, and to see the infamous Belsen Concentration Camp that so many people did not believe existed – but it did – we saw it – we saw the mass graves and I will never forget the terrible stench.”

After the war, Pamela and Jackie realized their specialized type of duo act was no longer in vogue and Jackie answered an advertisement in The Stage newspaper where an Australian tap dancer named Jack Floyd, who had remained in England after demobbing in WW2, had advertised for a “lady dancing partner”.

Hence became, what Johnnie, as she then renamed herself, always called the greatest time of her life.

Together with Jack they became Floyd and B’Nay and went on to be the highest paid dance act in the UK, post-WW2.

They performed for Winston Churchill in the West End, performed in the first televised performance after the war at Alexandra Palace, and even danced in a Royal Command performance for King George.

They toured with some of the greatest names in show business such as Judy Garland who liked to stand in the wings and watch them as they were her favorite act, Danny Kaye, More Morcambe and Wise and The Jackson Five.

They thought the then very young Michael Jackson was incredibly focused and always practicing his songs and dances in contrast to his rather laid back siblings.

Their Top of the Bill reign on the London and provincial stages lasted until 1954 when they realized the huge impact TV was making on show business.

They decided to leave the UK and move to South Australia where they found plentiful performance work and where they married a few months later.

When they finally retired from the stage they opened a highly successful dance school in Glenelg where they trained many commercial and classical ballet dancers, including Gary Norman who joined The Australian Ballet and rose to principal status.

As the school grew, they produced numerous school shows which they choreographed with great passion, although always admitted that working with children and amateurs after their illustrious careers was very hard.

After a third attempt at retirement, they eventually sold their successful school and retired to Noosa.

In their Noosa Heads home they continued to teach some private dance lessons in tap, ballet and Tai chi in their garage, and also gave movement classes at various retirement villages. They made many friends and started an extended family.

They had met Deborah (Preece Brocksom) and Richard Leader when the former classical ballet soloists and ballet company directors and choreographers emigrated to Australia and subsequently opened a vocational ballet training school at The Dance Center Peregian Springs.

From their mutual backgrounds in the professional dance world, a strong friendship formed.

Jack and Johnnie were childless and Richard had been brought up virtually without parents and so a strong family bond formed over the years, perhaps centered around a passion shared for the professional worlds of performing and training dancers. As Johnnie would always say ‘choosing your own family can be stronger than blood ties’. They also had a huge love for animals.

They were guest teachers and mentored many talented young dancers at TDCPS, including Dayna Booth now dancing professionally in Germany, and Alfie Shacklock a pre-professional with The Royal Ballet School in the UK.

They eventually moved to Deborah and Richard’s property so they could receive daily care and attention. Jack went briefly into aged care where he died aged 102.

Half a year later ,Johnnie succumbed to lameness in her back and legs and was unable to sit or walk and went into a nursing home where she continued to follow the everyday life at The Dance Centre, constantly asking about the classes, RAD examinations, cocational competitions and concerts.

She was quite beside herself when Alfie won The Supreme Gailene Stock Award at The Alana Haines Awards in New Zealand.

Gailene had been Gary Norman’s wife.

The Dance Center regularly performed for her and other aged care residents in beautiful ballet concerts thus bringing ballet to her bedside.

Johnnie was happy and calm and much loved by the nurses to the end and died peacefully in her sleep on the Saturday afternoon of 5 March. Her last words to Deborah, knowing she was off to teach ballet class, were ‘see you tonight’.

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