Downland Dance was originally formed in 1977 to provide classical ballet training in South Oxfordshire. It has been led in recent years Judy Harris, who has been teaching ballet for almost six decades. After announcing her retirement, Downland Dance was acquired by father and son, Jim and Adam Harris. Adam is a professional dancer with the Croatian National Theatre, having trained locally in South Oxfordshire and later at the world-renowned Elmhurst Ballet School in Birmingham. Jim Harris is a Director of Elmhurst Ballet School and neither Jim or Adam are related to Judy Harris.
In order to enable use of appropriate facilities, Downland Dance have partnered with the brand new Aureus School in Didcot and will be making regular use of their stunning, custom built dance studios to hold classes, masterclasses, and regular events designed to promote ballet in the region. This strategic partnership between Downland Dance and Aureus School will be a fantastic opportunity for local students interested in ballet, recreational and potentially professional vocational training to learn from the very best teachers and guest teachers and hopefully, Oxfordshire can as a result, contribute to the number of British professionals in world class ballet.
To mark Downland Dance's new management from January 2018, staff and students of Elmhurst Ballet School (the associate school of Birmingham Royal Ballet) will lead a masterclass on Monday 8th January at Aureus School. The fantastic opportunity between a provincial ballet school (Downland Dance) and a recognised classical ballet training academy (Elmhurst Ballet School) will potentially help identify young dance talent.
By engaging with Elmhurst Ballet School's Outreach Programme, Downland and Aureus Schools' students will understand the rigour of vocational training, and see the standards required of professional dancers working in today's competitive dance sector.
Jessica Wheeler, Principal of Elmhurst Ballet School said:
"Elmhurst is passionate about its outreach programme, developing new audiences for ballet and inspiring more people to dance. Our educational and outreach initiatives provide invaluable professional experience and personal development for our students who are preparing for careers in dance. Facilitated by our incredible ballet staff, engaging with local, national and international communities is a great way of offering our expertise to potential students, their parents and teachers, as well as finding new dance talent and the ballet stars of the future."