Letter from our Principal

Dear Students, Parents and Members,

After fifty-eight years of teaching the art of classical ballet I feel the time has come for me to take a step back and leave you in the best possible hands to continue with your training. I will still bearound to take some of the

classes though.

It has been a very hard decision and I have thought very carefully about who will step into my shoes. I think you will be pleased with my choice.

The School will be purchased by Jim Harris and Adam Harris, (widower and son of Miss Tracey, who some students will fondly remember as a Teacher for a number of years before she passed away in 2015). The sale will be effective from 1st January, 2018. It is coincidental that I am selling it to a ‘new generation’ of Harris’s, (although not related to me), and I am delighted to confirm that I will be continuing to teach at the School, at least for the next year or two.

Adam is a professional ballet dancer with the Croatian National Theatre; he has danced in Europe since graduating from Elmhurst Ballet School in 2012. Adam will bring a modern approach to professional dance to the School, and will be heavily instrumental in supporting those students who aspire to follow his path into vocational training, and onwards into a professional career. Adam continues to perform, as he has done hundreds of times, to full theatres, and in many of the famous ‘big ballets’, so is wonderfully placed to deliver meaningful artistic oversight to the tuition at Downland Dance.

His Father, Jim Harris, has a long Association with the School, and, amongst other things, is a Director of the Elmhurst Ballet School. As such, he is well connected with ballet training at a Vocational level, and he has excellent contacts with professional ballet dance teachers and performers, not least with the Birmingham Royal Ballet, which has formal associations with Elmhurst Ballet School.

I know that Jim and Adam intend to raise the profile of Downland Dance, and have some wonderful new ideas and imaginative events planned that are really fresh and exciting, so please do watch out for information from them which I hope will be forthcoming over the course of the next few weeks.

I look forward to continuing to be a part of the growth of this wonderful organisation.

Fondest wishes,

Judy Harris (Bowles)

Questions and Answers

We realise that Mrs Harris’ announcement about selling the school may generate lots of questions. Here are some of the common ones with answers.  If you have any other queries, please speak to your teacher or email us on info@downland-dance.co.uk

Who will be teaching Mrs Harris’ classes once she retires?

Mrs Harris will continue to teach her classes, and will gradually reduce her teaching commitment over the next two years. Mrs Harris will ensure that there is a gradual handover of her students to a new teacher.

How does this affect Downland Dance, the club?

The future of the Downland Dance club has yet to be decided. If you have an opinion on what you think should happen to the club in the future, please contact the chair, Cat Young on info@downland-dance.co.uk and she will include you in any future consultations.

Who will teach my child?

Your teacher will remain unchanged for this term and next. We are looking to recruit new teachers to put on new classes and in different styles (contemporary, floor barre, jazz, tap, modern etc). If those teachers are to take over an existing class taught by Mrs Harris there will be a handover period to get your child used to the new teacher.

How will this affect East Hagbourne classes?

The East Hagbourne classes will continue to be taught by Miss Alessandra and Miss Suzanne. Any other changes affecting the East Hagbourne classes will be discussed with the parents over the coming weeks.

Will Adam be teaching the classes?

Adam will continue to dance with the Croation National Ballet so is not able to take on any term-time teaching duties at this point. He will teach holiday classes as he did this Summer. He will, however, be Artistic Director so will oversee all the teaching and help set the direction for the school.

Will the prices go up?

There are no plans to change the pricing at this stage. As always, you will be given plenty of notice of any changes in fees or payment arrangements. You will be paying a new legal entity in the future, but the details of this have yet to be decided.

What about our club fee, will we still be paying that?

It is likely that this will cease, but not till the new payment arrangements are set up. More details on this to follow

Will there by other styles of dance introduced into the timetable?

Yes, that is the plan. We are busy talking to existing and prospective teachers on this matter and will have more news in the coming months.

Will this affect those being put in for their exams?

No, all current exam submissions are unaffected by this change.

Will the uniform change?

The class uniforms are dictated by the RAD and match what is required when taking an exam. Therefore, there are no plans to change these.

What other changes might we see?

The new owners will be investing heavily in marketing activity including a refreshed brand, new-look website, PR & Social Media activity. They are also arranging regular masterclasses with world-class professional dancers and will be actively promoting ‘ballet for boys’ and other initiatives to widen access to dance.

AGM: Sat 23rd Sept at 16:30. ALL WELCOME!

Downland Dance is a club which is run by volunteers.  We have a committee to decide on matters relating to the running of the club, putting on events and shows and how to invest the club’s money.  Our founding principal is to increase participation and diversity in dance.

The committee will be voted or co-opted in during the AGM on Saturday 23rd September at 16:30. Please come along to the West Wing Studio in Abingdon if you’re interested in being part of the committee or if you just want to learn more about the club.

Click here for the location of the Studio.

The current members of the committee are:

Position Currently held by
Chair Cat Young
Vice Chair Jane Parritt
Treasurer Suzanne Simcox
Co-Treasurer Helen Lloyd
Communications Gail Hedley
Events Coordinator Sarah Vincent
Committee Member Sasha Blaszko
Committee Member Maggie Morris
Founder & Member Anita Rendel
Committee Member Amanda Taylor
Committee Member Sylvie Thompson
Principal Teacher Judy Bowles-Harris
Teacher Alessandra Giunta

You’re welcome to put yourself forward for a position on the Committee. We meet each term for 1.5 hours and do a lot in-between via email and chats. The commitment is not high.

And, if a formal position is not ‘for you’ then please consider raising your hand as a general member. We are always happy to receive help in whatever capacity it comes!

For more information, please contact Cat Young on info@downland-dance.co.uk