Whanita La Bouchardiere (Principal)


Born in Cheltenham Whanita started Ballet at the age of three as her parents wanted her to find a pursuit to combat her shyness. She soon began Modern and Tap, entering her first Ballet exam at the age of five.


She danced in many competitive dance festivals across the Country from the early age of six through to eleven winning many medals and trophies along the way including 1st place for both Ballet and Tap at the All England National Dance Competitive Festival. During this time she joined Mrs Jackie Shewell-Thomas in Gloucester where she progressed quickly.


She also attended professional training with Mr Alexis Rassine, former principal dancer of the Sadler's Wells Ballet Company (now known today as the Royal Ballet Company, Covent Garden). Mr Rassine was highly respected in the Ballet world and regularly partnered such names as Fonteyn and Pamela May during his career. From the age of nine she received fortnightly private tuition with him in London.


At aged ten she auditioned successfully for a Junior Ballet Scholarship with the British Ballet Organization (BBO) where she received regular professional training at the BBO headquarters in London.


It was during this time she was keen to train full time so she auditioned successfully and gained a place at The Royal Ballet School, White Lodge at age eleven. Whilst there she was privileged to dance with The Royal Ballet Company at Covent Garden for the company's 50th Anniversary Gala.


On returning to Cheltenham she continued training with Mrs Jackie Shewell-Thomas completing Major exams in Ballet, Modern and Tap up to and including Advanced Two in the BBO syllabus; she also completed Major Ballet exams in the Royal Academy of Dance syllabus (RAD). At this time Whanita resumed private tuition with Mr Rassine which continued for a total of nine years. This was a very valuable and formative time whilst gaining exam qualifications which later proved essential for teaching.


She then danced professionally and toured nationally with Gwent Ballet Theatre Company (now known as Independent Ballet Wales) Whanita gained experience working with choreographers such as Ms Jennifer Jackson of the Right Royal Ballet Company. Whilst dancing with Gwent Ballet Theatre she was requested to teach classical and contemporary repertoire to children and teenagers in dance workshops across the country; this was to have an impact on her and something she returned to later.


After dancing with Gwent Ballet Theatre Whanita decided to further her training; so auditioned for and was awarded a full scholarship to attend the London Studio Centre to train on the Classical Ballet and Contemporary Dance Graduate course, under the direction of Ms Margaret Barbieri, former principal dancer with The Royal Ballet Company. Training was intense and enjoyable, during this time Whanita gained valuable insight into other career paths available in the dance industry other than Ballet; this proved to be valuable knowledge for students she was later to teach. She joined Images of Dance Ballet Company and toured England working with international choreographers such as Mr Ashley Page, resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet Company, Covent Garden.


Choosing to stay in the UK Whanita after much deliberation decided to decline an offer to dance with Dance Netherlands 2 Company after they had received a personal recommendation on her behalf from Mr Ashley Page. At this point she made the career changing decision to progress into teaching and auditioned successfully for a Teaching Scholarship with the BBO. A three year training programme began to gain her Associate qualification (now known as the Teachers Diploma Level 4) which qualified her to teach Ballet, Modern, Tap, Jazz and other dance styles.


Whanita free lanced as a teacher for a total of seven years teaching regularly in Coventry, Swindon and Cheltenham whilst running her own small dance school at a village hall in Highnam, Gloucestershire. She gained a valuable insight into teaching and running a dance school over this period and it was at this point Whanita decided that her time spent on the road could be put to far more use in the studio, so she decided to find a base and set up her own dance studio in Cheltenham and established Danceworks in January 1999....