Tributes paid to talented Rugby Theatre choreographer Vicki-Jo

Vicki-Jo Gurney
Vicki-Jo Gurney

Tributes have been paid to a talented choreographer at Rugby Theatre who died unexpectedly.

Family, friends and colleagues honoured Vicki-Jo Gurney at a memorial service at the Benn Hall on April 27.

Her talent and influence will live on through the hundreds of dancers who will forever carry her in their hearts

Bryan Jones, director of Hairspray at Rugby Theatre

She died on March 31 while on a short trip abroad.

Vicki-Jo worked closely with the theatre and the Christine Anderson Theatre School in Rugby.

Her last project was choreographing Hairspray which is set to be performed at Rugby Theatre in June.

Bryan Jones, who is directing Hairspray and worked closely with Vicki-Jo, said: “It’s hard to explain what a massive impact Vicki-Jo has had on so many people’s lives.

“First and foremost she was an incredibly imaginative and creative choreographer and a wonderfully caring, patient and sensitive dance teacher.

“She taught all of my children, who have all been lucky enough to dance in her annual CATS shows.

“At Rugby Theatre, she set the bar very, very high in terms of dance.

“I would never have agreed to direct Hairspray if I hadn’t had her on board as choreographer.

“She had a unique way of getting the best out of large groups of people on stage - including many who had no dance experience at all.

“I was staggered by what she produced when the theatre staged ‘Our House’ the Madness musical a few years ago.

“It was simply stunning - as were all of the CATS shows I saw which were staged at the theatre.

“Vicki-Jo didn’t enjoy the limelight. She stayed in the background when the accolades were being handed out - but her talent and influence will live on through the hundreds of dancers who will forever carry her in their hearts.”

Speaking at the memorial service, Simon Burne, chairman of trustees at Rugby Theatre, said: “Vicki was youthful and ageless with a wicked sense of humour that could start you laughing with just a glance or a raise of an eyebrow.

“She found humour in so many things and every time I was in her company there would be laughter.

“Nothing fazed Vicki. I am probably one of the worst dancers that any choreographer has had to get to dance – two left stumps rather than two left feet.

“Other choreographers rolled their eyes when they realized they had to work with me. Not Vicki.

“She believed what we thought was impossible and made us believe it too.

“Working with live snakes in Whistle Down the Wind was a doddle for her – even when cast members and others ran screaming!”