Rickey Geiger Receives The John Monte Award At The 2009 United States Dance Championships
1933 – Born in Great Barr, outer suburbs of City of Birmingham, England.
1939 – Age 6, World War II declared (1939-46) All men 18 to 35 called up to join the military and fight. My father was 39, not called. He served as a leader in “Home Guard” and “Air Raid Precaution & Rescue.”
1940 – Age 7, I was evacuated to the countryside of Leicestershire. While there, I was asked to perform any song or dance routine in an evacuate concert at Village Hall. I was a 7 year old, without reservation I asked a lady to make me a small white apron and a headscarf both with a Red Cross on them. I sang and danced to music of “Nancy, come over here and hold my hand,” brought the house down and the audience demanded I do it again!
1941 – Age 8, I begged to be taken home. I hated evacuation!!! Spent nights down in the Air Raid shelter, bottom of our 100-yard garden, bombs falling all around. Food shortages and no clothing were available.
1943 – Age 10, Went to a song and dance academy above shops on High Street. Learned tap, ballet and singing. Schooling was in provided in people’s homes because of the bombings. Our house was one of them until the end of 1944. Then new schools were built of wood and I went there.
1945 –46 - Age 12-13, Parties were held in the streets to celebrate VE day. I danced, sang and played the piano for entertainment. I saw an ad in the paper for auditions for a troupe called “The Royal Babes” at a theatre 10 miles away in Aston. I went on my own. It took 2 different buses to get there. I danced and sang among 33 applicants. 8 of us were chosen. We signed up for a 16-week winter show. It went a record 20 weeks! I attended Greenmore College Private School in the mornings and had a tutor between numbers after hours. When the show ended I went to a new high school with a multi-varied program. I did very well and love the new modern dance. (Bare foot) I got onto a dance team at Birmingham City Town Hall. Also, sang in the selected singer’s choir there. W/E’s attended Jackie Cooper Dance School. Did shows in parks and orphanages, etc -loved it! I also continued my music lessons. After passing the exam, I attended Aston Commercial School and College. Mother wanted me to be a secretary. So I spent 2 years learning business.
1947-49 – Age 14-16, I did not like business school but stuck it out. Started to learn Ballroom Formal, danced with my sister and liked it very much. I wrote a show for our local youth club. Rehearsed it, put it on and went on tour at the W/E’s. It was in the newspaper and many soldiers from overseas wrote fan mail, even though I was only 14!
1949-1950 – Age 16-17, Graduated from Aston Commercial School and College. Went to work in offices, training to be a Secretary. Hated it! Nights went to ballroom dancing and got a partner. (Barry Reed) I loved him dearly. Competed in ballroom with him. He let me down badly. He began seeing another girl. Secretly, wounded me deeply. I decided to take classes in ballroom technique. Loved it! Began teaching at Charles Capel Dance School Birmingham City. Left secretarial work and took ballroom exams. (2 different organizations) Organized a company called Rickey & Joy (my sister) The Sunshine Sisters. We took a record player and entertained at parties, weddings, birthdays, etc.
1951 – Age 18, Received a job offer from elite school of dance in Cardiff, Wales. Money was very good indeed and was offered management training. I left home (in tears) and went to live in a suburb of Cardiff. In the day, taught private lessons, ½ hour at a time. Taught beginners, intermediate and advance classes at night. W/E’s taught bronze, silver and gold medal training classes. I learned a lot about the Welsh people and their way of life. This was all new to me. Taught many stars from Cardiff National Theatre. The most famous Richard Todd, English movie star.
1952 – Age 19, Moved to studio in Barry Island, 20 miles east of Cardiff. Ran the whole school for the Harbour Master, who owned it. He took me on a tour through England to take lessons from all the top coaches. I learned so much!
1953 – Age 20, Moved back to England because Courtney Castle, owner of 14 schools in England, offered me a job of head assistant in the Leamington Spa. (Midlands) I rose to be manager there with a salary twice that of my father.
1954 – Age 21, I transferred to Epsom, in Surrey. Where I was to open the first teacher’s training school for the chain. Candidates would spend 8 months training, learning how to teach, syllabus, classes and lessons for 8 dances. I met John (Sean) Cunningham at Epsom Race course, her courted me actively and wanted to marry me!
1956 – Age 23, Preparing to marry John and maybe settle down. I moved to London, where John lived. He worked as a manger at Court School in North London. I ran annual dance championships for Court Schools combined at London Lyseum. I passed my scrutineers examination (evaluating marks) and my judge’s exam. I was officially upgraded to judge!!!
1957 – Age 24, (Nov.) Pursuing married life, I moved to Erdington, Birmingham to be near my parents during a difficult pregnancy. We bought a house there; John, me, Terence and Andrew (John’s sons from previous marriage).
1958 – Age 25, Richard our 1st son was born Jan. 30th Loveday St. Hospital. Very small, he weighted 4 ¾ lbs. Lots of loving care and nursing a new baby. No dancing!
1960 – Age 27, I went to a big re-union of dance teachers, judges, and studio owners at the West End Ballroom in Birmingham City. I saw many of my of my old colleagues. I met the General manager of Butlin Holiday resorts. He begged me to come work for them. Great salary!
1961-62 - Age 28-29, Got a full time nanny and left for Elacton on Sea. Later Bognor Regis, Sussex. In the Regency Ballroom, I taught thousands to dance in 2 week courses. I worked summer and winter.
Early 1964 - Age 30, Became well known throughout Great Britain. I was contacted by an Arthur Murray representative and was offered a great contract to teach my methods to their organization in the USA.
1964-68, Emigrated to the USA, in the Washington D.C. area. Although the contract with Murray’s studios did not work out, American teachers who were mostly untrained in a European sense, were hungry and eager for knowledge. So I became an independent teacher, calling myself an International Dance Director. I traveled 300 miles a week, up and down the east coast. In 1968, I ran the 1st Independent American Style competition along with English Style events. It was known as the Summer Festival of Ballroom Dancing. It later became the famous Virginia State Ballroom Championships, which I organized for 36 years continuously.
1969-73, I was asked to sit on the Ballroom Department Committee for the National Council of Dance Teachers Organization. (NCDTO) Subsequently, I was responsible for completely reorganizing the structure of competitive ballroom dancing in the USA. I designed the registration system for competitors and officials to register with the NCDTO. I drew up the criteria by which judges could be certified, a rulebook for competition organizers, and designed an approval system by which only the best comp’s could be recognized by the NCDTO. Which by now, had become the “governing body” of dance in the USA. I served the NCDTO as Registrar, P.R . director, 2nd and 1st Vice President, Syllabus Chairman, and Constitution Chairman. It became necessary for me to organize the forming of a National Association of Dance Teachers for America. Known as NADTA, which became a member of NCDTO. I became a little weary of the traveling to many different studios weekly, so I decided to open my own studio in Vienna, VA. So that folks would come to MY place of business, instead of me going to them. My son Richard was just finishing a seasonal job at Kings Dominion, where he was Dance Captain. I asked him to join me and run the P.A. department in the studio. And he did. I was also busy judging every W/E all over the USA.
1993, For 20 years, we all worked out of one big studio dividing our hours between us. But, we expanded so much that it became necessary for us to move into a bigger premises and dived the studio into two parts. (P.A and Ballroom department) My son Richard and his family purchased the original Vienna Dance Academy. I opened a new ballroom studio next door to them, in 1996. Since 1973, I had qualified as an examiner to certify teachers and give them their degrees. There were only 3 in the USA. In 1975, I had flown to England to take the exam in Manchester, Great Britain before a board of 3 examiners. It was very hard but I passed with honors. I was now a fellow and examiner of the United Kingdom Association of Professional Teachers of Dancing. Since then I have tested hundreds of candidates for their exams.
1997-2007, I continued to teach and train teachers to give examinations, trained competitors both amateur and professional and judged championships. In 2005, I was promoted to Chairman of Judges of the US National Championships. The premier comp in the USA. The 1st woman ever to hold this privilege and I still have it till this day. In 1998, I finally resigned my Executive Secretary duties of the NCDTO (Now NDCA) and received a Lifetime Achievement Award from NDCA. I received 30 other Lifetime Achievement Awards form various groups.
2008, Accompanied by my son, I received the greatest honor of all. I was inducted into the Untied States Dance sport Hall of Fame. I received this award at the Roosevelt Hotel in NYC.
In conclusion, I would like to say my achievements include being known as a pioneer in bringing 1st class ballroom dancing to the USA, bringing up the standard of technique so that Americans have now reached the level of 3rd in the World Championships, in both Modern and Latin and Show dance Championships. Also, I believe I elevated the dances for women to hold positions in a male dominated profession. I made it possible for America to have it’s own dance world and sit on the World Dance Council. I proved that at 76 years of age, teaching dancing is an ageless profession, if you can stay fit and young at heart. I also want to acknowledge that the 2 years I spent P.T.O at the Commercial College (Associates Degree) which I hated so much, turned out to be the best thing of all. I was able to take on management duties because of my knowledge of book keeping, typing, advertising and organizational skills. Very few dance teachers possessed this ability!
Please remember when I was growing up, we had no telephones in ordinary houses. There were very few cars. On our street, only 2 families had cars. We were one of them. We had no refrigerators.