The history of the school
The Bristol School of Dancing is the oldest established dance school in the city. Situated in the heart of Clifton and just a stones throw away from the famous Bristol landmark, the Clifton Suspension Bridge. For over 70 years we’ve been teaching dance to the students of Bristol, and continue with great teachers and interesting classes to this day. It was founded in 1947 by Mary Hoskyn and Muriel Carpenter and occupied numbers 55-57 Pembroke Road, Clifton.
From the beginning, classical ballet was a strong feature of the school with many senior students winning the annual Espinosa Scholarship to The Royal Ballet School. The Western Theatre Ballet, now The Scottish Ballet, was founded in Bristol with students from the The Bristol School of Dancing.
Basil Patterson joined the staff in the 1950’s and introduced and developed jazz throughout the school. During this period, numerous artistes who were performing at both the Bristol Old Vic and The Bristol Hippodrome rented rooms above the studios as ‘theatrical digs’. One such artiste was Julian Slade, who co-wrote the musical “Salad Days”.
Whilst working in Bristol (and staying above the studios), Julian began composing the musical using the piano which is still in the schools possession today. When one knows the story of “salad days”, a piano that has the magic ability to make people dance whenever it is played, it is not difficult to see where and how he got his inspiration.
In 1970, Angela Redgrave took over the Bristol School and new premises were acquired in Lansdown Road. The Studio , as it is now known, also has an interesting history. Built in 1893, it stands in the garden of 20 Vyvyan Terrace and it is rumoured that it was once a Swedish diplomatic building that contained a gymnasium. This is probably why on either side of the main entrance the words “Swedish Gymnasium” are carved.
In the early 1920’s it was acquired by the prima ballerina, Miss Phyllis Bedells, and when she founded her ballet school in Bristol, it became known as “The West of England Academy”. A plaque bearing this name is on one of the doors of the studio to commemorate this. Miss Bedells, together with a small group of eminent dance professionals, went on to organise the emergence of the “Association of Operatic Dancing” in Great Britain.
In 1935 this became “The Royal Academy of Dancing”, now known as “The Royal Academy of Dance”, and is acknowledged and respected worldwide. Today’s Bristol School still carries on the strong tradition of classical ballet with teachers who are all fully qualified and registered with both The Royal Academy of Dance and The Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing. The School has, over more recent times, also added jazz, tap, national, and musical theatre studies to its wide ranging curriculum. The Bristol School has the privileged position of regularly supplying children for productions at the Bristol Hippodrome theatre and has provided the “babes” in pantomime at this theatre for well over half a century. The standard of training at the school is renowned to the extent that many students are gladly considered for places at major academies such as “Elmhurst”, “The London Studio Centre”, “The Arts Educational School” and “The Royal Ballet School”.