Teachers & Staff

Whanita

Born in Cheltenham, Whanita started ballet at the age of three as her parents wanted her to find a pursuit to combat her shyness. Shortly after she started to study more dance genres, taking her first exam age 5. She danced in many competitive dance festivals across Gloucestershire from the early age of six, 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 and also attended professional training and private tuition with Mr Alexis Rassine, former principal dancer of the Sadler's Wells Ballet Company (now the Royal Ballet Company, Covent Garden) and regular dance partner to such names as Margot Fonteyn and Pamela May during his career.

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.

Whanita danced professionally and toured nationally with Ballet Cymru gaining experience working under choreographers such as Ms Jennifer Jackson of the Right Royal Ballet Company. Whilst dancing with Ballet Cymru she was requested to teach classical and contemporary repertoire to children and teenagers in dance workshops across the country, giving her a fantastic first experience of teaching.

Furthering her training, Whanita 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 Teaching Qualifications which qualified her to teach ballet, modern, tap, jazz and other dance styles.

Whanita freelanced as a teacher for a total of seven years teaching regularly in Coventry, Swindon and Cheltenham, with long term dance projects at Stagecoach Theatre Arts, (Cheltenham), Wycliffe College (Stroud) and Dursley Primary School, with contemporary teaching for Gloucestershire Dance Project and Massive Dance Project. At the same time she started her own small dance school at a village hall in Highnam, Gloucestershire, gaining a valuable insight into teaching and running a dance school over this period. Finally Whanita realised that her time on the road would be better spent in a permanent teaching base, which led to her opening the original Danceworks premises with John in January 1999.

John

John was born at a very early age…He started his working life at sixteen, when he trained to become a mechanic but even covered in oil and grease way back then, John secretly dreamed to one day run his own dance studio. As fate would have it back in 1986, he met and began dating a beautiful young ballerina by the name of Whanita La Bouchardiere… 

After several jobs in the motor trade and engineering sector interspersed with two years also spent as a motorcycle courier, John then had a change of career in 2001 and moved into the world of surveying. Working full time alongside the opening and expansion of the original Danceworks premises in Swindon Road, the flexibility of the surveying work helped with the growing demands of the studio.

It was in 2003 when John and Whanita found and secured a lease on the first floor of 35 St Georges Street, that John came into the business full time.  He project managed the renovation of the first floor and worked on the refit. The lease on the first floor was taken over gradually and in 2006 the last of the three studios was finished.  In 2017 John’s nightmare started all over again when Whanita informed him that they would be expanding into the ground floor! 

John started gutting the ground floor in August 2017 and project managed the entire building renovation.  The two new studios, with downstairs office, storage space, toilets and changing room opened in September 2018, doubling the floor space of the Cheltenham studios!

John splits his time running the business from the office and at the studio, dealing with building management, advertising, marketing, wages, pensions, tax, general account and legal work. 

John’s next venture is to open a Dancewear shop for Danceworks and on-site coffee shop!

SJ

SJ is an experienced and qualified dance teacher with the British Ballet Organisation, with a Level 5 Diploma in Dance Teaching (distinction award) and a Level 4 Teaching Diploma in Theatre Dance, with a major in Tap Dance (distinction award).   A teacher with Danceworks for 11 years, SJ is dedicated to the quality teaching of our students, committed to cultivating in students a passion for dance and an aptitude for performance style.

SJ trained through the ISTD with Sandra Oakley in Southampton up to the age of eighteen, and progressed to training in urban dance in Portsmouth, developing her passion for hip hop, commercial and house. A passionate performer, SJ has many years’ experience performing and competing. Travelling has given her amazing opportunities to explore unusual genres of dance such as Cuban salsa, swing, bhangra and Appalachian as well as urban street styles such as k-pop, vogue and dancehall – she has taken classes in New York, Miami, Melbourne and Tokyo to keep an international perspective in her work.

SJ freelances as a professional dance teacher for companies such as the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham College and Cheltenham Prep School and is choreographer/backing dancer with singer Camilla Lewington's backing dancers.  She also works as a bridal catwalk model for events management company Bonehead Productions Ltd.  

Emma

Emma is a qualified teacher with the British Ballet Organisation, having both a Level 5 Diploma in Dance Teaching (distinction award) and a Level 4 Teaching Diploma in Dance teaching, with a major in Ballet Dance (distinction award). Emma is also a certified and qualified Acrobatic Dance teacher (Module 1) with Acrobatic Arts.

Emma did much of her early dance training with Mandy Godding’s Theatre Arts in Gloucester, successfully auditioning to become a member of Gloucestershire Youth Dance Company in 2005, performing alongside Hofesh Schecter in several contemporary ballets. As a senior Emma transferred to Danceworks to expand her repertoire of dance styles. In 2009 she won a prestigious place on the British Ballet Organisation Jazz Scholars Programme.

As a dance teacher Emma has worked as a freelance teacher in secondary and primary schools throughout Gloucestershire and also as a vocational level guest teacher at BBO headquarters on the scholars programme.

Emma has continuously worked within childcare settings alongside her teaching and in 2013 gained her childcare qualification: Level 3 Diploma in Children and Young Person’s Workforce with additional training in paediatric first aid, safeguarding and total communication. She also works as a catwalk wedding dress model for Bonehead Productions Ltd.

Liz

Liz has been dancing since the age of 2, sampling all styles of dance from ballet to hip hop.  From the age of four she was involved with the South Cerney Players, taking part in many on-stage productions.  Starting at CCDA in Cirencester learning ballet tap and jazz, it wasn’t until Liz moved to Cheltenham at 11 that she found street dance and break.  A clear love for all things singing and dancing, Liz also began studying with Theatre Studios, furthering her techniques in drama and musical theatre, taking LAMDA exams and auditioning successfully for the Playhouse Easter and summer shows.  She continued her training at Cirencester College with a BTEC in Performing Arts, gaining four distinctions and an invitation to return to choreograph two further shows in song and dance.   As a dancer, Liz has had the opportunity to train and learn from award-winning b-boys and hip hop dancers, UK and international, including members of Flawless, and continues to do so. She has competed in many competitions in the UK and abroad, bringing home medals, trophies and a scholarship to train at Urdang for a year in hip hop when she was 18. Recently managed by a member of ‘Britain's Got Talent’ semi-finalists ‘Nemesis,’ she has performed at many events showcasing all styles in street, commercial, breakin, locking and even stomping, including London Lion’s basketball game which was broadcast on Sky Sports. To this day Liz continues to perform and teach and share her knowledge across the UK as well as judge for dance comps and schools.

Keith

Keith started dancing at the age of thirteen with Mandy Goddings Theatre Arts, before joining Corraine Collins Dance Studios, where he studied Ballet, Modern and Tap under the ISTD (and RAD) syllabus. During those times he earned many opportunities to audition and appear in TV/ Film productions, alongside performing in many dance shows and competitions. At the age of eighteen, Keith was awarded a full scholarship at Bird College, London, where he graduated with a National Diploma in Professional Musical Theatre. After leaving college, Keith continued to work within the industry by either performing in or choreographing for shows, judging dance competitions and leading workshops in theatres.

In 2014, Keith became qualified as a dance teacher with the British Ballet Organisation, with a Level 4 diploma in Classical Ballet and has since extended his professional training by obtaining a Level 5 qualification in Dance Teaching.   Keith has been a Danceworks teacher since 2017, teaching ballet, modern, street and dance fitness, but also works freelance throughout the county in addition to running his own dance classes based in Longlevens.   

Grace

Grace started her dancing life aged 2, training formally in ballet, modern and tap, passing all exams successfully to a high level. She has also extensively trained in street dance, contemporary and lyrical, with experience of performing in numerous dance and theatrical shows which has enabled her to gain a secure knowledge of the stage and theatre.

As a teenager, Grace auditioned successfully to dance with the English Youth Ballet Company performing the traditional ballet, Coppelia. She also gained a coveted placement with the British Ballet Organization Scholarship Scheme in both Ballet and Jazz, working with professional teachers and choreographers in the dance industry.

At the same time, Grace began work as a Teaching Assistant at Danceworks, assisting pre - school ballet classes and junior street dance classes at the Cheltenham and Bishops Cleeve Studios.

She has since progressed into teaching at Danceworks and is currently about to embark on gaining her Teachers Qualification with the British Ballet Organization.

Heidi

Heidi joined the Danceworks family at the age of five when she started ballet classes, and after years of training and performing, has gone on to become a fully-fledged member of staff. She is the front of house face of both Charlton Kings and Bishops Cleeve branch schools, and part of the reception team at the Cheltenham studio. She teaches baby ballet, using her gentle and caring nature to help introduce little ones to the world of dance.

Kate

Kate is responsible for much of the adminstrative work vital to the running of Danceworks, organising much of our competition, festival, performance and show paperwork as well as acting as our parent-teacher liason for such events. Kate is licenced by Gloucestershire LEA to act as our Head Chaperone, to ensure our compliance with all legal responsibilities, such as safe guarding, health & safety and data protection. 

Kate also helps to run the reception and shop at Danceworks Cheltenham, keeping our vast stock of dance kit up to date, carrying out dance shoe and pointe shoes fittings, as well as organising and ordering hundreds of costumes for shows and competitions. 

With a background in primary education, Kate has an NVQ2 in Childcare and Education and an NVQ2 in Supporting Learning. Kate’s voluntary work in a local school, working one to one with primary children, has enabled her to develop a good understanding of pastoral support issues and she has been able to bring this experience into Danceworks to provide student support and an understanding ear.

Kate’s personal experience with her own children has given her a working understanding of children with eczema and asthma plus acute allergenic problems including anaphylaxis. Kate has up-to-date training in the application of Epi-pen medication, inhaler use for asthma, topical treatment for allergy reaction, and understanding anaphylaxis.

Lisa

Lisa is a long-standing member of our reception team and a licensed chaperone for all our shows and performances. A qualified infant school teacher with teaching experience throughout Gloucestershire, she currently works as a teaching partner in addition to her role with us at Danceworks.

Shannon

Shannon's stage training began at the age of two when she started classes with Linda Virgo and she continued her dance training with us at Danceworks from the age of seven, studying ballet, modern and tap. Branching out into the world of musical theatre at the same age, she started training with the Playhouse Theatre Cheltenham, with acting, singing and drama lessons and from there her onstage life took off, as she began performing in countless musicals and stage productions. Moving on to professional productions more recently, Shannon has worked in both leading roles and chorus, but she continues to study towards drama and theatre qualifications and has already achieved her level 3 Extended Diploma in Performing and Production Arts and has successfully passed both her LAMDA Grade 8 Musical Theatre and LAMDA Grade 8 Verse and Prose. 

Lucy

Lucy trained at the well acclaimed Guildford School of Acting in Musical Theatre. Since graduating she has worked professionally in the performing arts industry across the globe, performing in New Zealand for a children's theatre company and also in the Greek Islands where she was part of a successful ABBA tribute show. Now based in Gloucestershire, Lucy works as a freelance theatre and movement practitioner for the Everyman Theatre and the Playhouse Theatre Studio. She teaches at a number of local dance and drama schools throughout the region and choreographs for companies such as CODS. Lucy's dance training has led her through the more classical styles such as ballet, jazz and contemporary, through to more diverse genres such as lindy hop, blues, salsa and tango. Lucy has recently completed her 200 hour yoga training in Bali, Indonesia and is building her classes in Cheltenham and Stroud. She believes that yoga can deeply improve mindfullness and wellbeing as well as benefiting our physical bodies. 

All our staff are DBS checked. All our reception staff are first aid qualified along with many additional staff members