Former pupil takes over running of Dales dance school

Janet and Hannah at Dance Picnic.

Veteran dance teacher Janet Seymour has passed the running of her dance school to former pupil and qualified dance teacher, Hannah Smith.

The Janet Seymour School of Theatre Dance will now be called the Dales Dance School of Performing Arts.

Janet began teaching dance in the Dales in 2004 to six children from Reeth as a volunteer.

She has since built a thriving school offering ballet, tap, modern and jazz dance lessons at ten different venues in Swaledale and Wensleydale. More than 200 girls and boys aged from three to 18 are currently on the school roll.

Hannah learnt ballet, tap and modern with Janet till she was eighteen.

After training in London, she taught dance and musical theatre at Victoria Walker School in Ireland.

In 2020 she returned to her home in the Dales to work with Janet as an assistant teacher, meaning that she knows many of her pupils already.

Hannah said: “Janet must have taught over one-thousand children in the Dales, and I was lucky enough to be one of them.

“My first dance lesson with Janet was a tap class.

“She said to me ‘can you do a shuffle hop step’, and I could, so I was put in a slightly higher class.

“Thanks to Janet, I spent my youth dancing, performing, and living and breathing the arts, despite living in a deeply rural area.

“I don’t have to think about smiling when I perform – that is my emotion. I’m so thrilled to be taking on the dance school and sharing that love with others.’

Janet said: “It makes me so happy to know I am handing my school over to my former pupil and very talented colleague, Hannah.

“I know the school will go from strength to strength. Hannah has already won the students over with her caring nature.

“From our youngest to our more mature students, Hannah motivates and encourages with her warm, creative classes.”

Although the leadership role will lie with Hannah, Janet has no plans to retire and will continue to teach classes under the school’s new name.

“We are a team,” said Hannah.

“We are swapping places, but it’s wonderful to have the continuity.”

The passing of the baton was celebrated at a picnic event in the grounds of Askrigg School in July, where an audience of 150 gathered to watch a performance of The Wizard of Oz and a showcase of dance sequences from pupils across Wensleydale and Swaledale.

As well as offering weekly lessons and opportunities to progress through the exam system with the Royal Academy of Dance, Janet has put children on the stage at venues such as Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond and Tennants in Leyburn, organised concerts at local festivals and care homes, arranged international dance-based exchanges between the Dales and Germany, taught summer schools, choregraphed pantomimes and run inspirational classes for adults.

Janet added: “The dance school actually grew during lockdown. Hannah and I started teaching on Zoom at 8am and were still going twelve hours later.

“For some pupils the lessons were the only normality they had. Dance gives you joy and love for the arts, but it also gives you coping strategies.

“It helps mental health and gets you through the difficult times in life. It enables you to enter into a world of fantasy and imagination.’

The Dales Dance School of Performing Arts will launch on September 12.

It will provide expert dance tuition across Swaledale and Wensleydale to children from three years and adults, and specialise in teaching RAD Ballet, ISTD Tap and Jazz, Musical Theatre and Jazz Fit.

To sign up, or view the autumn timetable, visit www.dalesdance.com.

Hannah Smith also has plans to develop summer schools and adult dance retreats.