In Conversation with Jeanetta Laurence OBE
I was very happy to receive Anna Trevien’s blog post . It told me about the very interesting talk by Jeanetta Laurence at the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) Headquarters as part of their Guest Lecture Series celebrating women who have made a significant mark in the field of dance and dance education.
I was delighted to be able to hear about Jeanetta’s life story. It seems that coincidences and events throughout her life provided fabulous experiences and career opportunities. It was particularly interesting to discover that her early learning was through the RAD and then the Royal Ballet School, and that her family was not involved with ballet or the arts. This was similar to my own background. She, however, progressed on to an illustrious career, joining the Royal Ballet Touring Company in 1969 and going on to become a soloist then assistant ballet mistress with the Royal Ballet New Group which later became the Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet. After a family career break, Jeanetta and dancer Rashna Homji co-founded Dance Directory, an agency for freelance dancers and choreographers. After a few years Jeanetta left the agency to work with director/choreographer Gillian Lynne. In 1990 she returned to the Royal Ballet as Artistic Administrator going on to become Assistant Director and then in 2009 Associate Director. During this time she worked closely with four different Artistic Directors; Anthony Dowell, Ross Stretton, Monica Mason and Kevin O’Hare.
When reminiscing about her school days, Jeanetta mentioned studying Benesh Notation with Joan Benesh when she was at White Lodge and thoroughly enjoying the experience. I too learned Benesh at the Royal Ballet Upper School in Barons Court but only for a short time. I found the notation fascinating but a little difficult!! However, it has been of help to me as the RAD Syllabus is now notated.
In retirement Jeanetta is as busy as ever. She mentioned that the day before this lecture, she had been in attendance at the unveiling of blue plaques in memory of two special Royal Ballet giants; Dame Margot Fonteyn and Sir Fredrick Ashton. Much of the rest of her time involves her role as a trustee of the Ashton Foundation who are currently working on their Ashton Rediscovered project. In the Autumn they plan to film and notate the revival of excerpts from three ‘lost gems’ in the Ashton canon, as a means of preserving this precious legacy for future generations.
Jeanetta has had an illustrious career with a job that she loves and about which she is passionate. Remembering that she came from a family with no ballet, dance or artistic background, it begs the question … Where does this “spark” come from? Where does this love of ballet and performing come from? – Sue Hewgill Peterson, June 2016
Sue Hewgill Peterson is a Life Member of The Royal Academy of Dance. She started ballet classes at the age of 3 at a Royal Academy eof Dance School progressing on through Elmhurst, Phyllis Bedells School and Royal Ballet Upper School. Here she was introduced to and studied Benesh Notation.After performing she established and ran a full time dance studio and dancewear shop. Then on to be Head of Dance at Queen Margaret’s Independent Boarding School in York after which she moved to the USA. She introduced RAD and was Executive Director for a Studio in North Carolina. She is Founder and President of Special Needs Charity “We can Dance”. Presently, she guest teaches and adjudicates in America and UK.