Stars of ballet and TV waltz into Halifax for dance academy opening

Ballet star Daniel Jones who will be at the opening of the new look Halifax Dance Academy.
Ballet star Daniel Jones who will be at the opening of the new look Halifax Dance Academy.

Two stars of the ballet world and a children’s TV presenter are visiting Halifax this weekend to celebrate the opening of a new dance academy.

Prima Ballerina Monica Loughman who trained in Russia and went on to become of their top ballerinas, and Daniel Jones, who has just retired after 22 years as a soloist with the English National Ballet, are guests at The Halifax Dance Academy, along with popular CBeebies TV presenter, Alex Winters.

CBeebies children's TV presenter Alex Winters

CBeebies children's TV presenter Alex Winters

The dance academy, which opens on Sunday, September 14, is based at Greenwood Mills, Square Road, Halifax, the home of babyballet, Halifax. The award-winning dance school –which has franchises all over the country – is 10 next year and owner Claire O’Connor decided the time was right for a re-launch of the Halifax premises.

As well as babyballet other groups also use the building . They include the Barbara Peters School of Dance, Breakboys, Razz Musical Theatre, Messy Prints art class, Fusion Impact, yoga and baby massage classes and a breast feeding support group. They will all keep their own identity but come under the umbrella of the Halifax Dance Academy.

Along with a new name, the premises have been refurbished with the help of a £5,000 Business Booster grant from Calderdale Council. The two dance studios have been updated with new floors and mirrors, there is a new cafe on site called Twinkle and Teddy’s Tearoom with a new menu, there is also an updated shop selling babyballet merchandise and dance wear, and a seating area for adults. The piece de resistance is a state-of-the-art soft play area for pre-school children.

“We are thrilled with the new dance academy and hope local people will come along on Sunday between 11am and 4pm to join in the celebrations. There is lots to do and visitors will get the chance to meet our three special guests along with the Mayor of Calderdale, Coun Pat Allen and her consort Mr Robert Weeks,” said Claire .

Claire first met Monica Loughman last year when she was chosen to take part in the controversial Channel 4 reality show Big Ballet. The series, fronted by top ballet stars, Wayne Sleep and Monica, was watched by millions in February when it was screened, and got rave reviews. The pair put 18 plus-sized dancers through their paces to try and prove to the size-obsessed ballet world that women and men of all shapes and sizes can dance.

The 18 became overnight stars when the series went global. It has been shown in the United States and Australia and there has been further interest from companies in France and Belgium. It has also been nominated for a gong in the UK National TV Choice Awards.

Eleven of the 18, including Claire, now make up a dance company called Big Ballet UK and their choreographer and artistic director is Daniel Jones. Daniel was looking for a new challenge after leaving the English National Ballet, and was a big fan of the show. Under his direction the group recently performed at the home of the Royal Ballet School in Covent Garden, London, and are due to perform again in 2015. He believes the group can carve a niche in the showbiz/dance world.

Members of the Big Ballet UK Dance Company are attending the opening of the new academy and will take part in a question and answer session. Monica is doing two workshops for children and Daniel is teaching an adult’s workshop.

Alex is a Welsh TV presenter and actor who has had roles in Torchwood and Doctor Who. He has presented CBeebies since 2009 and will be joined at the opening by babyballet characters, Twinkle, Teddy and Flutterby for storytelling, dancing and singing.