Meet the 97-Year-Old Ballet Dancer Still Teaching Classes at School She Founded

March 17, 2018 Last Updated: March 17, 2018

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

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

She still teaches lessons twice a week to dancers ranging from 2 to 16 years old, and said the dance school is what “keeps her alive.”

Harper, who hails from Henleaze, Bristol, was honored with an award in 2011—Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to dance.

The award was presented to her by Princess Anne.

Fondly known to her students as Miss Harper, she has never been married and said she thinks of her students as her family.

“I have taught ballet to generations of children,” she said.  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.”

Her fellow teachers at Henleaze School of Dance describe Harper 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 Harper at the school for 20 years.

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

Rosemary Carrington, 59, who teaches alongside Harper, 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.”