Hundreds farewell region's doyen of dance

To the familiar theme song When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob Bobbin Along, generations of past and present pupils farewelled Robins School of Dancing founder June Plater on Tuesday.

Many dressed in their Robins’ uniforms, the pupils were among an estimated 400 mourners at Eastern Park, Warrnambool, who paid their respects to the dance teacher who became an institution in the local performing arts scene.

Aged 82, Beryl ‘June’ Plater passed away last Thursday, bringing down the curtain on a life devoted to dance.

It’s estimated more than 10,000 aspiring dancers from Warrnambool and throughout the Western District came through the Robins’ ranks under Mrs Plater’s tutelage since she founded the dance school in 1956.

Her daughter Merrin Hand said mourners recalled her mother as “an amazing and generous person” who lived for dancing.

Ballarat-born June Shepheard first took to the boards with highland dancing classes aged five, but finding them ‘boring’, switched to regular ballet classes.

By 1953 at the age of 18 she’d launched her own dance school teaching ballet, tap, jazz and song-and-dance.

A year later she married Bill Plater and the newlyweds moved to Warrnambool in 1956, the fledgling Robins School of Dancing founded in the couple’s lounge room that year.

When the dance classes outgrew the lounge, the Robins moved progressively to various halls, eventually finding a permanent home in 1974 at the current Fairy Street clubrooms where eight studios today cater to nearly 300 pupils.

Initially established with an emphasis on fun, the Robins’ reputation developed with the introduction of exam work and eisteddfod success. Branches were established at Terang, Cobden, Camperdown, Port Fairy, Koroit, Timboon, Glenthompson and Simpson.

As well as teaching, which she maintained until the age of 75, Mrs Plater also personally sewed, sequinned and beaded hundreds of costumes annually for the school’s Christmas concerts.

The 1999 recipient of a Warrnambool City Council citizenship award, Mrs Plater was also a long-serving dancing convenor at the Warrnambool Eisteddfod.

Both Mrs Hand and her sister Helen Hadden both became Robins’ teachers, a role Mrs Hadden continues today as the dance school principal.

Mrs Plater is survived by three of her four children: Neville, Mrs Hand and Mrs Hadden; 11 grandchildren and six great grandchildren.  She was predeceased by her son Gordon and husband Bill.