Aspiring actors who are joining any reputable drama schools to start off their careers will quickly realize how much physical training goes into preparing an actor for a professional career. Movement is a big part of it. And even if you have no aspirations for joining a musical theatre group, having some dance courses from some of the best dance schools in London on your acting resume can put you ahead of most actors.
Budding artists just starting their career who choose not to train in drama schools full-time will benefit greatly from training in one of the best dance schools in London. Dancing – and particularly styles like ballet – is a tough, physically demanding type of performing arts. There are a lot of things that actors can learn from dancers: full control of your movement, being able to move with precision and purpose, and get in touch with your own body.
Top 8 Best Dance Schools in London
This list of best dance schools in London provides just a small selection of the dance classes in London that are available to join today. The aim of this list was to offer variety in dance classes for actors as well as quality of training. Since we’re not rating any one London dance class over another, we’ve put them in alphabetical order, in contrast with the random tiers of our other London lists.
These 8 selections of the best London dance schools below, and three more smaller private places that can be decent alternatives, should whet the appetite of any aspiring actor looking to sharpen their dancing skills and add something new to their acting resume.
Bear in mind that we’ve also included diploma and degree dance courses, so there’s an element of overkill for those merely seeking drop-in classes to hone or expand their skills. On the other hand, the availability of such high-level tuition places like the best dance schools in London listed below is a pretty good indicator of the standard you can expect at even a £10 drop-in class.
BASEMENT DANCE STUDIO
Offering an exceptionally wide variety of styles, access, and levels, independent (no public funding) Basement Dance Studio has been in Holloway, north London, for about 15 years. This is easily one of the best dance schools in London offering a variety of training. You name it, they teach it: from Afro-Cuban, through hip-hop, tap, ballet, jazz, pole – even striptease – to zumba. And that’s a far-from-exhaustive list.
While the flavour is professional, with accredited classes in ballet, salsa, contemporary, and choreography, children and recreational dancers are also welcome. The accredited courses are mostly of 10 weeks’ duration and, apart from Introduction to Choreography, require some level of prior experience, although not necessarily in the style of the course selected.
Fees: Drop-in classes cost about £10 each. From there, the options are too varied to cover in a couple of paragraphs; best to peruse their website. One point: membership, from one month up, is required to join grade or accredited courses.
Website: http://www.thebasementdancestudio.com. With uncrowded pages and comprehensive information, the site is OK. However, it holds so much that you need time to take everything in. Also, there are a few glitches, such as obscured bottom-of-page text and links that don’t take you where you expect to arrive.
Fees are especially hard to pin down on the website, with some described in a shorthand style that I couldn’t decipher. You may need to e-mail or call the place up for clarification. Basement can also be found on Twitter and Facebook, while lots of videos can be viewed on YouTube.
Founded in 2006 and based in Islington, just north of central London, City Academy has over 40 locations all across the city of London. It is a privately-funded institute, not to be confused with the nearby, publicly-funded, City of London Academy.
City Academy has been previously mentioned on our lists of acting courses, so if you’re already training acting in this place, it’s well worth exploring their best dance classes in London, too.
On top of acting training and dance classes, the school actually offers every conceivable course in the creative and performing arts, including a very wide range of dance classes that competes with, or exceeds, that of Basement: Michael Jackson Dance, jive, and burlesque, for example. City Academy also has its own dance companies – no fewer than eight – that perform regularly across the UK.
Every level of competence is welcome, from absolute beginners on up. Dance classes are held at all times, but most are in the evening or on the weekends. There are also tasters and workshops. For those in a hurry, there’s an intensive dance foundation course, held over eight full Saturdays at Sadler’s Wells, London’s leading dance venue since 1683. It really doesn’t get much better.
Fees: Single and drop-in classes aren’t available, but there’s so much else on offer, I’ll just take one course as example: Contemporary Dance for Improvers. Weekly 75-minute evening classes run over six or eight weeks, each with a single, named, teacher, for £120 – £160. Book another course – Jazz, perhaps? – and there’s a 10% discount. Book £1,000 ($1,525) worth of courses and get 25% off.
Website: http://www.city-academy.com. Excellent site, with clear information, concise and helpful course descriptions, straightforward navigation, and tons of choice. Videos are available on YouTube and the academy is also on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+.
DANCE ATTIC STUDIOS
Situated in a handsome Victorian building that once housed public baths, but in the rattier part of Fulham, this west London dance school – in fact, a set of studios for hire to individual teachers – offers a good range of best dance classes in London at very reasonable cost. Courses at Dance Attict Studios are only available for ballroom and Latin dance. It also has a dancewear shop and a pleasant café. The tone is low-key and informal, with zero levels of puff or b.s.
The usual styles are taught in the classes: flamenco, tango, street/commercial, jazz, ballet, tap, and others. General, intermediate, and advanced levels are on offer, so there’s plenty to challenge an aspiring actor or dancer.
The ballroom and Latin courses teacher is Jack Murphy, a choreographer, movement director, and dance tutor who’s worked in film, TV, and theatre. His resumé includes working with actors such as Emily Blunt, Reece Witherspoon, Renée Zellweger, Daniel Craig, and the, no doubt, demanding Gwyneth Paltrow.
Fees: Other than publicly-funded schools, you’re unlikely to find any much cheaper than this. Classes are £5 – £7 each, last for 60-90 minutes, and take place at evenings and weekends only. No booking needed: just drop by, pay the teacher, and get on down. There are concessions for student-card holders, and private tuition is available by arrangement with the teacher.
Jack Murphy’s courses cost £45 ($69) for weekly 60-minute evening classes over six weeks, whether for beginners, improvers, or intermediates. They have to be booked.
Website: http://www.danceattic.com. Simple and unadorned, it provides, as TV cop Sgt Joe Friday actually didn’t say in Dragnet, “the facts, ma’am, just the facts”. For information on Jack Murphy, also to book one of his courses, go to: www.jackmurphydance.co.uk.
Aimed at the great unwashed (in professional dance terms), Dancebuzz is another one of the best dance schools in London that’s all about fitness, new friendships, and fun. Tuition, however, is professional. There’s a big selection of styles, including esoterics such as belly-dancing, Brazilian zouk (no idea), Bollywood (think Busby Berkeley – or Fred and Ginger – in turbans and saris), and bachata (really, no idea).
At more than eight venues, all in central London, dance courses run for 6-8 weeks of one-hour sessions, one per week, on afternoons, evenings, or weekends. Some options are beginners-only, but many also offer Improver and, by invitation only, Intermediate levels. Taster classes are available for the undecided and there’s a private tuition option, but there are no single or drop-in classes.
Fees: Typically, £55 to £100 per course, bookable on-line.
Website: http://www.dancebuzz.co.uk. Workmanlike and low-key, the site is comprehensively informative and easy to navigate. There are videos of classes in action and Dancebuzz is also on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+.
GREENWICH DANCE AGENCY
Although it addresses dance professionals specifically, Greenwich Dance Agency (or GDA) also caters to the general public. This one of the best dance schools in London offers a wide range of classes and levels, but I’ll refer only to those listed for professionals. If you feel you’re not yet at that level, there’s plenty of other options to choose from on the website. All are held in Greenwich, south-east London.
There are six professional-level courses, covering disciplines such as Bartieneff Fundamentals (dancers must know; I don’t), tai chi, movement workshops, and Limón principles. Most are taught by a single, named, tutor over the entire course of, typically, 7-10 weekly evening classes.
Fees: Single dance classes are priced from about £4.20 ($6.40) and a multi-class card goes for £25 – £56 for 7-10 classes. You don’t have to book: just turn up. Dance courses, available only for selected styles, cost about the same. Republicans will cringe, but these low prices are the outcome of public funding from the Borough of Royal Greenwich and the Arts Council of England.
Website: http://greenwichdance.org.uk. A lively but non-pushy and informative resource. Teachers are listed with photos and bios; a helpful touch. Class videos are posted and you can also follow GDA on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and via RSS feed.
PINEAPPLE DANCE STUDIOS
Founded in 1979 by Debbie Moore, OBE, a former model, and housed in an old Covent Garden fruit warehouse, Pineapple Dance Studios is easily one of the best dance schools in London which is also a brand as much as a dance school. Close to Soho and theatre land, it boasts 20 dance styles across a claimed 250 classes per week. Everybody goes there, beginners and pros – even Madonna.
There are no dance courses, but classes are available in tap, ballet, street/commercial, world, and jazz/contemporary, at all levels, including professional, in state-of-the-art facilities. There is also a shop, selling Pineapple dancewear.
Teachers are all accredited and experienced professionals, such as Antonio Susinni, who has taught jazz/contemporary to Diana Ross, Grace Jones, and the now-retired, but still-worshipped ballet goddess, Sylvie Guillem.
Fees: Pineapple keeps it simple. Individual classes are £8 for a 90-minute session, which is good value for a commercial operation with no public funding, especially given the central location and top-class amenities. All classes are drop-in; no booking required.
Website: http://www.pineapple.uk.com. Slick and bright, but well laid-out, informative, and easy to use. The only wrinkle is an unhelpful search function; a drop-down selection menu works much better.
Rather grand: its patron is the Duke of York, the Queen’s second son, and its chief executive is another OBE, Kenneth Olumuyiwa Tharp, listed as one of London’s Most Influential People. London Contemporary Dance Theatre, one of the UK’s leading dance companies, is The Place’s conservatoire, with a 40-year history and it would be very wrong not to include it among other best dance schools in London.
The Place is all about contemporary dance, but ballet classes are also available and all levels of experience are covered. Classes for non-professionals are evenings-only and some are drop-in – no booking required.
Professional dancers can book daytime classes in an array of development projects and programmes. For the career dancer or choreographer, a three-year, full-time, honours BA is available from London Contemporary Dance School. There are also full- and part-time postgraduate courses (MA or Postgraduate Diploma). Allied to these dancing courses are apprenticeship placements with a range of celebrated European dance companies.
Fees: The Place is funded by the UK’s National Lottery and the Arts Council, so classes and courses are cheap. By the same token, they’re also in great demand. Individual classes cost from £4 to £12; a 10-class card saves 10% or more. Student-card holders get concessionary rates.
For those with accredited experience, two full-time terms with Scatter Dance Company, affiliated with The Place, cost £360 and can be paid by installment. For undergraduate and postgraduate courses, fees vary for UK, EU, and non-EU students, so check with London Contemporary Dance School; contact details are on The Place’s website.
Website: http://www.theplace.org.uk. An excellent site: informative, non-promotional, clear, easy to navigate. It takes a little immersion to work out which affiliate is the right one for your desired class or course, and which would be the best dance classes in London for you specifically, but that’s a result of the completeness of The Place’s services and support.
There’s an online resource called Juice, for dance pros, keeping them up-to-date with UK and overseas jobs, auditions, performance platforms, classes, training, conferences, etc. Lots of helpful links are included. For more, go to: http://www.theplace.org.uk/juice.
TRINITY LABAN CONSERVATOIRE OF MUSIC & DANCE
Get past the suspiciously pretentious name. Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance is an established, respected, and well-resourced school, tracing its roots to 1872, the foundation date of the original Trinity College of Music (the late Yehudi Menuhin was a former president). In 2005, it merged with the Laban Centre, brainchild of Rudolf Laban, a pioneer in movement and dance theory, to create the first conservatoire of its kind in the UK.
Assisted by financial support from the Arts Council and the Higher Education Funding Council, this is another one of the best dance schools in London and this dance faculty is housed in the award-winning Laban Building in Blackheath, south-east London. It boasts one of the world’s largest teams of contemporary dance teachers, using 13 purpose-built studios and Europe’s largest dance library, among other facilities.
While the overall tone is serious, dedicated, and professional, all levels of skill are welcomed. Alongside diploma, undergraduate, and postgraduate courses, there’s a range of adult evening classes in contemporary, classical, jazz, and street dance styles, with some available to drop-in participants. Open days provide an opportunity to see the conservatoire in action.
Trinity Laban offers special arrangements for overseas students, with a Study Abroad programme for diploma, undergraduate, and postgraduate courses. Interested US residents can attend periodic workshops and auditions in New York. There’s also a Fulbright Scholarship option.
Fees: Individual class fees are about £11 per class, with discounts for multiple bookings. For diploma, undergraduate, and postgraduate courses, part-time or full-time, non-EU students don’t qualify for the conservatoire’s publicly-subsidised fees and have to pay £2, 175 ($3,310) for a part-time choreology diploma, up to £18,400 ($27,975) for a full-time one-year MA.
Website: https://www.trinitylaban.ac.uk. Sober, comprehensive, complete, with multilingual options and an effective search facility: you should find everything you need, including advice on student exchange programmes, accommodation, finance, visas, etc. There’s also a blog and the school is on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and SoundCloud.
Top 3 Best Dance Classes in London as Alternatives
CECIL SHARP HOUSE
This institution is hallowed ground for folkies, so its London dance classes are strictly for fans of morris, baroque, Irish, and clog dancing. If any of those are for you, you’re already beyond the reach of reason and I’m not going to encourage you further. Beard up, don an Aran jumper (folkies know what it is), don’t wash for a while, and check it out for yourself.
Unconnected to either Andy Warhol’s famed workshop or Manchester’s storied former home of British indie rock, this Factory is mainly about fitness. It doesn’t seem to offer anything very serious for the aspiring actor or aspiring dancers looking for professional training, so I’ll pass over the class details and just note the website. It can benefit some actors who cannot attend any of the best dance schools in London noted previously.
KAREN HARDY STUDIOS
A ballroom dance studio based in London that can be an alterantive for actors looking to exercise a little and learn some dancing. This is good for those who for whatever reason cannot attend any of the best dance schools in London listed above. This is a private, “luxury” studio with a small team behind it. From the website: “. . . greets you with luxury and glamour the moment you walk through the doors – from the Swarovski encrusted wallpaper and chandeliers to the bespoke soft furnishings.”
That’s it for our list of best dance schools in London. If you’re an aspiring actor in this city, these 11 schools listed above should have enough options for you to start working on your dancing skills and add this very valuable skill to your acting CV.
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