HANNAH BRINGS HER PASSION FOR DANCING AND PERFORMING ARTS TO THE DALES
Former student Hannah Smith has been dancing since she was three and there was never anything else that compared to her passion for dancing. As soon as she realised Dance could be a job, it was the only one for Hannah – fast forward to 2017 her passion became her career. Hannah studied at Bird College, London’s internationally-renowned Conservatoire of Dance and Musical Theatre, on their Professional Dance and Musical Theatre course. It was here she received world-class training in all genres of performing arts, including dancing, acting and singing and studied for her Diploma in Dance Teaching (DDI) with the ISTD.
After teaching professionally for the Victoria Walker Dance School in the Republic of Ireland for three years, Hannah gained her registered Teacher status from the Royal Academy of Dance in 2020. She returned to Swaledale in 2020 to work for Janet Seymour until August 2022 when she took on ownership of her school and formed Dales Dance. Hannah’s students are at the heart of everything she does and she passionately believes that nobody should be deprived of opportunities because of where they live. This is why Hannah brings her classes to her students across six villages and towns in Swaledale and Wensleydale, continuing Janet’s legacy of providing rural children with the highest quality of dance and musical theatre training.
Hannah credits Richmond School and Sixth Form College’s Dance department for giving her encouragement and experiences that not only instilled her confidence in dancing but also provided her with skills that she still uses every day. We hope you enjoy reading Hannah’s Q and A to find out more about her love of Dance and her advice to students who may be considering the Performing Arts as a career path.
When did you start dance lessons and which dance school did you attend?
I began dancing at three-years old taking classes in ballet, tap and jazz dance. When I was ten, my family moved to Yorkshire where I trained with Janet Seymour at her School of Theatre Dance in Swaledale. Alongside these classes, from the age of 13, I trained with the North Yorkshire Dance Company studying contemporary dance. Later, I successfully auditioned for the Tap Attack North Associates in Manchester.
What was your favourite style of dance as a child, is it still the same now?
I have always loved all styles but jazz brings out my personality more than the others and makes me feel like myself. I have always loved it because it is so versatile and it’s my favourite style to teach too. I think as a little girl ballet held the number one spot.
Were you involved in dance events and shows at Richmond School?
Richmond School and Sixth Form College provided me with many performing, teaching and creative opportunities. I remember working with Phoenix Dance Company to create a piece we performed at the Sage Theatre, Gateshead. Closer to home, the end of year showcase at the Georgian Theatre gave me the chance to perform my own choreography. I loved assisting with the after-school dance club, teaching experiences like that provided me with skills I still use every day.
What support did you receive from the Dance department at Richmond School and Sixth Form College?
The Dance department gave me encouragement from as early as Year 7 and I am grateful for the confidence they instilled in my dancing. They provided the studio as a safe space and rehearsals were where I wanted to spend all of my time. Having the opportunity to study Dance at both GCSE and A-Level was incredibly important to me and gave credibility to Dance as both a creative and academic subject. The importance of giving children artistic and sporting opportunities on an equal plain with academic subjects cannot be underestimated and I am proud to have attended a school that recognises the Performing Arts as a career path.
What A-levels did you study?
Dance, Psychology and History (AAB) and AS Biology.
When did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in dance?
There was never anything else that compared to my passion for dancing. As soon as I realised it was a job, it was the only career for me – I literally can’t imagine spending my days doing anything else. I was very fortunate to be surrounded by people that supported me. My parents took me all over Yorkshire to attend classes and down to London to audition and my teachers instilled in me the confidence I needed to choose an alternative career path.
Where did you study after sixth form college?
I studied at Bird College, Conservatoire of Dance and Musical Theatre, London on their Professional Dance and Musical Theatre course. I received world-class dance, singing and acting training. Alongside teaching I studied with the Royal Academy of Dance for their Certificate in Ballet Teaching Studies which gained me Registered Teacher Status.
Did you teach in other schools before returning to work for Janet Seymour?
Prior to returning to the UK, I taught for the Victoria Walker Dance School in the Republic of Ireland for three years. I came home and worked for Janet Seymour from 2020 until August 2022 when I took on ownership of her school and formed Dales Dance.
What do you enjoy most about teaching and in particular teaching in a rural area?
I am proud to deliver dance and musical theatre classes in remote areas that are otherwise without a strong arts presence. Our work feels really valued and meaningful that way. I absolutely love travelling between our different venues and meeting so many incredibly kind and interesting people. I consider many of my adult dancers and parents of the younger students my friends. It’s an incredibly sociable job in that respect. I feel so privileged to make a living doing something that not only I enjoy but brings others joy too.
What age groups do you teach?
Dales Dance runs ballet, tap, jazz and musical theatre classes for children 3-18 years of age and we run adult classes in ballet, tap and dance fitness. We have fantastic ballerinas aged 80! We love them all.
What advice would you give to a student who is considering studying dance post-18 and following a career in dance?
I would encourage you not to doubt your own ability; in order for others to give you a chance in the industry you have to be your biggest advocate. You have so much right to follow your passion and make your life what you want it to be. Watch lots of shows, visit different colleges, universities and conservatoires so you can make an informed choice about where to audition and remember the training is only the beginning so try not to take your eye off why you’re doing it.
What are you enjoying most about running your own business?
I love having an impact on things I care deeply about. My confidence in my own abilities is growing hugely and I feel really excited for the future. I am able to better control my work-life balance and I am finding joy in every aspect – even the admin! It’s fantastic to be able to deliver high-quality performing arts classes in Ballet, Tap, Jazz and Musical Theatre to over 200 children from 3-years old as well as adults. Our aim is to bring out the full potential of every student – whether they wish to pursue the arts as a career or a hobby – by nurturing their passion, encouraging their dedication, building their resilience and celebrating their enjoyment of dance and theatre.
Our students are at the heart of everything we do and we passionately believe no person should be deprived of opportunity because of where they live. This is why we bring our classes to our students in Reeth, Low Row, Gunnerside, Leyburn, Aysgarth, Askrigg and Hawes.