OAKWORTH’s TV ballet star Hollie Smith has returned to her old dance school to teach current pupils.

Hollie passed on some of the skills that saw her this month reach the finals of the BBC Young Dance of the Year.

She led a special session for youngsters at the Sara Packham Theatre School, which she herself attended from the age of three.

Hollie, 18, also trained with Elmhurst Ballet School and the Royal Ballet School, and is currently studying ballet at the prestigious Tring Park School.

As a child and teenager she appeared in many professional musicals, pantos and ballets at theatres such as Bradford Alhambra, and this month she returns to the venue in renowned choreographer Matthew Bourne’s new version of Romeo and Juliet.

Hollie dropped into the Theatre School, which last year moved to a purpose-built studio at Springfield Mills in Keighley, at the invitation of her former teacher.

Sara said: “Younger children enjoyed learning a version of Bluebird Variation from Hollie, whilst older students were taught Kitri’s Variation from Don Quixote.”

Current pupils of Sara have notched up several successes in recent months as they hope to follow in Hollie’s footsteps.

Lexie Meehan has been awarded scholarships to Tring Park School and the Hammond School, and in September will begin training at Tring Park.

Before this she will attend the prestigious Yorkshire Ballet Summer School in York. She recently qualified for the All England semi-finals with her ballet solo.

Eleanor Fikkert has been awarded a scholarship to the Hammond Vocational School, while Kasienka Mazur and Francesca Tucker-Brown have been awarded places at Elmhurst Summer School.

William Campbell, 14, recently won the title role in Keighley Musical Theatre Company’s production of the musical Oliver!.

Former student Ester Cameron it is now in the Ballet Theatre UK company, and will be dancing the role of Black Swan in their forthcoming tour of Swan Lake.

Catriona Ford has been awarded a place at the Emil Dale School of Performing Arts, and will begin her studies following her GCSEs.

Sarah said: “Catriona has been a valued member of the Sara Packham Theatre School since she was four years old.”

“I recently started entering pupils for dance festivals, namely the Wharfedale and Nelson Festivals. Every child who entered gained medals or trophies.

“We were delighted to receive an award for our Sunbeams, for their performance in Aladdin. This was for the ‘best juvenile chorus’.

“We had another happy and successful season at the Alhambra, working alongside Billy Pearce and Christopher Biggins. During the run of the pantomime the Sunbeams raised £890 for Macmillan Cancer Support.”

Sara said the school had achieved a great deal in the year since moving into its Springfield Mills studio on Oakworth Road.

She added: “Gymnastics workshops have recently been introduced, using the martial arts studios. Nowadays dancers need to be so versatile and it is evident that the gymnastics sessions are proving popular and beneficial.

“The students and teachers work incredibly hard, and at the end of the day it is your work ethic that will be the key to your success.”

All pictures by Lauren Meehan except the solo pictures of Hollie Smith.

Tring Park School for the Performing Arts, in Hertfordshire, runs specialist courses in dance, acting, musical theatre and commercial music.

The school’s dance courses provide not only a strong classical training, but cover contemporary, jazz and commercial dance.

The Sara Packham Theatre School embarked on an exciting new phase in April last year after operating the Keighley district for many years.

After running classes over the years in outlying areas like Oxenhope and Cullingworth, Sara moved school into its own premises in Springfield Mills at the bottom of Oakworth Road.

A friend had suggested to her two months earlier that there was a chance she could establish her own studio at the venue.

With help and guidance from Gavin Meehan and Gary Wood, who both had daughters at her dance school, she transformed what used to be a dressing gown factory into a dedicated dance studio.

Sara moved to Yorkshire in 1990, having sold her dance school in Surrey.

She had also been working at the Royal Academy of Dance, where she taught the children’s Saturday classes.

Having two young boys of her own, Sara said she initially had no plans to carry on teaching after moving north.

However, she said she soon got “itchy feet” and set up a small dance school with branches in Cross Roads and Oxenhope.

Its first performance, boasting just 30 pupils, took place in Holden Hall, Oakworth.

The school continued to grow, as did Sara’s family.

After she had her fourth son she and her family moved to Cullingworth, where another branch of her school was set up.

Sara’s pupils have always been entered for RAD ballet exams and ISTD Tap exams, achieving a 100 per cent success rate.

Modern, jazz, drama and musical theatre were added to the school’s mix, with pas de deux and ballroom at a later date.

Soon after moving north, Sara and her family paid a visit to Bradford’s Alhambra Theatre to watch a pantomime.

Sara said she was fascinated to see the Bradford Sunbeams for the first time.

“I became determined that one day my school would provide this children’s chorus,17 years ago it was announced that the Sunbeam contract was being open to applicants.

“Our dance school was amongst the three finalists and eventually we were informed that we had got the job. Our first appearance was for Aladdin, starring Cannon and Ball, with Kulvinder Ghir and Sooty and Sweep.”

For several years Sara worked for her pupils to gain places in one of the most prestigious vocational schools.

In 2009 this became a reality when Hannah Smith and Barnaby Packham gained scholarships to the Hammond School in Chester. The following year they were joined by Emma Barber and Ester Cameron.

Over recent years many of Sara’s students have gained scholarships to the top schools, including The Royal Ballet School, Elmhurst, Tring Park, Hammond and Moorlands.

The theatre school has two honorary patrons - comedy legend Billy Pearce and Hannah Bateman, principal dancer with Northern Ballet Theatre.