The principal of Elmhurst Ballet School, Jessica Ward, talks about her hopes and dreams for the dance centre of excellence as it celebrates its centenary this year
BEEN THERE, DONE THAT
I graduated from full-time contemporary dance training in 1998 from Trinity Laban, London and joined their resident dance company but suffered an injury which meant I had to consider my options. Teaching seemed a natural way forward. I started lecturing at London College of Dance and was an artist in residence at Impington Village College, Cambridge before my first teaching job as head of dance at a school in Islington. I received a call about the role of principal at Elmhurst and couldn’t believe my luck when I was offered it in 2010.
IT’S WHAT I DO
I love my job. The students, staff, the environment, the excitement of performance – there is never a dull moment. My role is to lead and manage the school, from learning, dance and academic and health, well-being and boarding. As a business we have 130 employees. Funding is a struggle and since the pandemic we’ve had even bigger issues to overcome but I am ready with my brilliant team to face them.
WHAT I’D LIKE TO SEE
My ambition for Elmhurst is to be known as one of the top 10 ballet and dance schools internationally. Not only to serve our students brilliantly but to offer something to our local community – sharing the love of dance as an art form and healthy activity, giving young people the opportunity to engage with dance who might not otherwise have been able to. I want us to be an influencer across the wider dance and education sectors.
Juggling my life! I have two gorgeous children aged three and four and I am a single mum, so working full-time and making sure they get enough ‘mummy time’ is a challenge. I was nominated in the Ladies First Awards’ Business Woman of the Year category 2020 and won the Excellence in Education Award – which was a lovely recognition for the school.
BIGGEST LESSON LEARNED
My parents brought me up on the principle that ‘you make your own luck’ and that hard work and effort are important to carving out your future. I also remember mum saying to me ‘jump and the net will appear’, so I think taking risks can lead to exciting results.
WHAT I LIKE ABOUT BRUM
I am a complete Brummie convert. The city has so much to offer – culturally, socially, food! The people are genuinely friendly, too.
I love to exercise and have to work hard to take the time to push through a short Joe Wicks or Shaun T session. I have two King Charles Cavaliers – Roxy and Ruby – so walking them with the kids is always great.