Meet the ballet dancer still teaching classes aged 97

Joyce Harper aged 97, teaches a ballet class at the St Peter's Church Hall in Henleaze, Bristol.

A dedicated ballet dancer is still teaching at the age of 97 – in same dance hall she set up 72 YEARS ago.

Sprightly Joyce Harper has taught generations of aspiring ballerinas at the school she set up in 1946.

She still teaches lessons twice a week to dancers ranging from two to sixteen years old, and says the dance school is what “keeps her alive”.

Joyce, from Henleaze, Bristol, was even awarded an MBE for services to dance in 2011, presented to her by Princess Anne.

And Joyce, fondly known by her students as Miss Harper, has never been married, and says she thinks of her students as her family.

Joyce Harper aged 97, teaches a ballet class at the St Peter’s Church Hall in Henleaze, Bristol.

She said: “I have taught ballet to generations of children.

”I’ve seen some right through from they were little ones, and then see them coming back with their own children and grandchildren.

“That’s what makes it interesting. I think of them as my family – and the hall is like my second home. I do spend a lot of my time here.

“I don’t know what I would do with myself if I stopped teaching there. It keeps me going, it keeps me interested.”

Joyce Harper aged 97, teaches a ballet class at the St Peter’s Church Hall in Henleaze, Bristol.

Her fellow teachers at Henleaze School of Dance describe Joyce as an “amazing woman” and say that “dance is her life”.

“I think she’ll still be going when she’s 100. I think if she gave up now it would be the finish of her. She loves it so much,” said Anne Choules, 79, who has been assisting Joyce at the school for 20 years.

Joyce founded Henleaze School of Dance, in St Peter’s Hall, when she was just 26 years old.

But the devoted ballet teacher said she did not start ballet “seriously” until just the year before, at the age of 25.

Joyce Harper dancing in Minehead in 1945.

Joyce said: “I learnt as a child, but it was never particularly serious.

“It wasn’t until after the war that I thought I would love to teach, and so I went and took my exams and set up the dance school in 1946.”

During the war, Joyce worked in the civil service as part of the Telephone Management Office.

But she found ballet was her true calling – and to this day teaches approximately 50 children at the dance school.

Joyce takes five hours of classes each Tuesday afternoon, and two hours of classes on a Thursday evening, teaching children from pre-school age up to their mid-teens.

Joyce Harper aged 97 who still teaches a ballet class at the St Peter’s Church Hall in Henleaze.

And despite an accident four years ago in which Joyce broke her femur and her arm, the knowledgeable teacher still commands the attention of her students – who all clearly love her.

Joyce said: “I’m not as active as I used to be, since I had the accident. I can’t move around the room like I used to.

”But I’m okay with the barre work, and the arm movements and so on.”

Joyce Harper (middle, black dress) dancing in 1940.

Rosemary Carrington, 59, who teaches alongside Joyce, said: “She’s amazing. She’s got the mindset of a dancer – never give in.

“Even when she had her accident in June 2014 – she was back in the studio in September.

“Mentally, she’s still all there. She’s so active. We all love her.”

Her eldest students, sixteen-year-olds Sasha Kay, Elle Radford, Niamh Harvey-Kelly and Felicity Ellis, have been taught by Joyce since they started at three years old.

She has taught them everything they know – and they all say they love coming to ballet classes.


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