Meet the Performance Academy Tutors

Performance Academy

Louise Denison – Performance Academy Principal

Louise trained in Leeds and London in all aspects of dance and the performing arts. As a professional performer she worked throughout the country in musicals, pantomimes and cabaret, before being asked out of the blue to choreograph her first show at York Theatre Royal. This led her to work on their highly successful pantomimes and with York Rep. She has since directed and choreographed hundreds of shows and has worked extensively with Theatre Royal Wakefield, choreographing our hugely popular pantomime and writing and directing for Wakefield Youth Music Theatre. A freelance dance teacher, Louise is also Artistic Director of Damuus Dance Company and Resident Choreographer at Scala Preforming Arts.

Jim Lunt - Musical Direction

Jim spends his year working in various theatres across Yorkshire conducting musicals. He also co-wrote the music for a children’s Christmas musical The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and has written TV jingles for two well-known breakfast cereals! Jim is actively involved in delivering Creative Partnerships projects, and is passionate about working with young people and supports the Musical Direction for our Showcase performances.


Alison George

Alison is a trained actor, singer and musician, and has been working professionally for many years in theatre, TV and film. She is a singing teacher and vocal coach, teaching children and adults privately, as well as being Musical Director for Theatre Royal Performance Academy’s Pontefract and Wakefield Saturday groups.

Ben Bickley

Ben is a graduate of both London College of Music and Leeds College of Music, and has trained extensively in vocals with a number of industry professionals. Ben works as a professional musician and tutor, and joined Performance Academy Wakefield Sunday as a singing tutor and Musical Director in 2019.


Eve Headley-Berrio

Eve has over 15 years of experience in teaching and choreography, is an associate of the IDTA (International Dance Teachers Association) and adjudicator for dance festivals. Eve’s professional performance credits include dancing for The Ken Dodd Show, ensemble for many pantomimes (Qdos and First Family) and backing dancer for Debbie Gibson.

Lynette Leigh

Lynette trained in North Yorkshire and as a youngster travelled to many parts of the country to gain performance experience in all aspects of theatre, but predominantly dance. She delightedly accepted a place at Bird College and graduated with a First Class BA (Hons) in Dance and Musical Theatre in 2015. Lynette is now a freelance dance tutor and choreographer, and teaches various disciplines of dance and musical theatre to dance and theatre schools across Yorkshire. Whilst she still gets opportunities to perform (both professionally and amateur dramatics), teaching and choreographing has become an immense passion, and something she looks forward to continuing to expand on in the future.


Beth Powdrill

Beth is an experienced primary school teacher, having taught for nearly 10 years across the full primary age range, from 4 - 11 year olds. She has a passion for music and theatre, stemming from her own childhood and involvement in numerous shows and productions. At school, she has run a successful choir who have staged such shows as Joseph and his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, Oliver and The Wizard of Oz.

As well as her school experience, Beth has worked with multiple theatres and theatre companies including Theatre Royal Wakefield, Leeds Playhouse and Stride Theatre.

She says, ‘Seeing children being able to express themselves and grow in confidence is such a wonderful privilege and I look forward to every session I lead at Performance Academy'

Gemma Whelan

Gemma trained in Newcastle and graduated with a BA Hons in Dramatic Arts. For the last two decades Gemma has worked as a freelance drama practitioner in West Yorkshire. Gemma is a seasoned writer having featured in Wakefield Lit Fest and her play Thank you for coming being published as part of Plays and Pints. She is Artistic Director of Rumpus Youth Theatre. Gemma has worked extensively in the arts industry, as a freelance writer, teacher and performer at an international level. Gemma shared her dramaturgy practice in Romania, working closely with Romanian practitioners to explore learning and development through play. At the core of Gemma's work is an ethos of using drama for an exploration of imagination and storytelling, a belief of empowering transferable skill and lifting self-esteem. She is also a huge of Yorkshire tea and can be often found making up limericks for fun!

Portrait photo of Gemma Whelan

Rebecca Simpson

Rebecca is an experienced drama facilitator, having graduated with a Theatre Acting Degree from Bretton Hall. Rebecca has taught at Performance Academy since 2016. Her practice focuses on building communication and confidence and developing self-esteem and awareness for others. Rebecca works collaboratively with students to make creative, inspiring theatre. She is also the Creative Director of Stride Theatre who have a strong reputation for supporting community groups as well as enabling those with social, physical and mental health issues to communicate effectively in order to explore, lobby and raise awareness.

Tina Shuker-Abell

Tina completed her degree in Dramatic Arts at Bretton Hall University and has worked ever since as a lecturer, freelance director, writer, choreographer and workshop leader for a variety of youth theatre and community companies, in the UK and abroad. These include Kilpeck Youth Theatre, Hereford, The Music Pool, Hereford, Dorset Youth Theatre and the Theatre Royal Wakefield Performance Academy. She has directed a vast array of full scale productions ranging from Shakespeare to modern classics and musical theatre. She also regularly writes plays for educational institutions as well as community based projects and is passionate about adapting short stories for the stage from writers who inspire her such as Angela Carter. Tina is also a keen practitioner of movement and physical work, and is skilled in working with large ensemble casts.