Born into a musical family; her father and uncle both tap dancers and other family who would stand around the parlour piano singing and “doing a turn”, it was only natural that Jean would soon ask to have dancing lessons herself. She first attended Rita’s School of Dance and soon was wearing out the linoleum in the family home from excessive practice.
Jean Scotton opened her first official school, Scotton’s Academy of Dance when she was just
In this little hall, Jean soon had a group of established pupils and a waiting list. Jean was awarded an honours certificate for tap dancing in 1951. The young teacher overcame many obstacles including rats in the hall, which despite being terrified she told her baby class of the time it had come to join in the tap class!
Scotton’s Academy of Dancing (who proudly wore an emblem depicting SAD!) ran for five years, the Scotton Starlets winning the prize at the All-England Dance Championships. After this initial teaching period, Jean became a psychiatric nurse, married and started a family. However, Jean’s relationship with dancing and the stage continued. She would organise concert parties in the hospital wards, and run evenings for lonely hearts, with her sister-in-law Shirley, their success stories making the newspapers.
After the birth of her children, Jean opened a school in St. Agnes’ Hall, Jutsums Lane Romford in October 1972. Just 12 students made up the newly founded Jean Hewitt School of Stage Dancing.
By the mid-1970’s the school had grown so significantly that the school moved to Trinity Methodist Church. When adult education was a concept in its infancy, Jean ran tap and modern dance classes for adults, some of whom in their late 70’s still attend classes at HPA today.
In 1977, Roy Staite joined Jean to become Head of Ballet and teach senior classes in Jazz after his successful career on stage and screen. This year also marked the beginning of a big Hewitt school tradition, “Humpty Dumpty” being the first annual pantomime.
Our second of these pantomimes, “The Old Woman Who Lived In A Shoe” would see the old woman’s shoe house stored in Jean’s hallway, with the door strategically placed across the front room door, so visitors would literally step into the shoe to pay a visit. This, and many other scenery projects made by Jean’s son Pete would adorn Jean’s house and garden – Snow White’s cottage in the back yard, and Puff the Magic Dragon’s head on the kitchen table to name but a few.
In the 1980’s Jean and some of her young assistants taught regular classes for mentally handicapped children and Banardos children both at the dance school and at Ravensbourne Special Needs School. Some of these special students also achieved exam passes, as well as appearing in pantomimes.
1984 saw the first of Jean’s senior dance students passing their qualifying professional exams. To date, Jean has qualified nearly 40 teachers. In this same year a new branch of the school opened in Manor Park, East London, a school that still runs today.
By the late 1980’s, Jean also had branches in Dagenham East and the other end of Romford and a school with more than 400 students. Hewitt students had had success on television and in the West End.
By 1994, the year of the schools 21st anniversary, negotiations were underway for a multi-studio complex in London road, Romford. During these years Jean was given a Mayor’s Award for services to dance in the borough of Havering and in recognition of the tens of thousands of pounds raised for various charities.
Students appeared at the Final of the Coca-Cola Cup in 1996, and at the Rugby league World Cup Final at Wembley Stadium as well as on television at Roy Castle’s Tapathon. The long-standing adult tap class also made an appearance on television promoting healthy activities for the elderly.
This year saw a dramatic rethink of where the company should be headed, and the school was relaunched by Jean, pete and Sue as Hewitt Performing Arts in 1998. A girl band, HyPA, directed by Jean’s eldest son Roy was launched, as was a new company logo. Healthy Young Positive Attitude was the school’s motto, and the Queen’s Theatre youth show followed suit, changing from Mad Nite Out to Hypa Nite Out, both shows saw HPA dancers performing.
On New Year’s day Parade to greet the new millennium, Jean was given the honour of representing Havering at the head of the parade, and was invited to meet the Queen at the Queen’s Theatre on Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee tour of Havering.
Jean’s daughter Sue began to organise yearly performance opportunities for students culminating in appearances at Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Sadler’s Wells, London Palladium, Her Majesty’s Theatre and Disneyland Paris Resort.
In 2006, Hewitt Performing Arts teachers helped Marshalls Park School gain their Performing Arts status by successfully preparing students for their GCSE dance examinations. The same year the C.D.E.T.-recognised British Association of Teachers of Dancing made Jean a Life Member, and the school has kept its uninterrupted run of 100% exam passes with the B.A.T.D. in both the amateur and professional categories.
A reunion party was organised for the 26th April 2008 to coincide with HPA’s latest production of “Cinderella” at the Queen’s Theatre and to top it all, HPA dancers recently attended the first heat of “Britain’s Got Talent”.