The school was set up as Louise Sheaves School of Dance in 1982 with Louise Sheaves as the sole teacher, and has been growing steadily ever since, becoming Harpenden Dance School in 2017. 

In 2007 Louise Sheaves handed the school over to teacher and former pupil Philippa O’Donovan. Approximately 400 pupils now attend weekly lessons, and Philippa O’Donovan is assisted by three other teachers who bring a wealth of qualifications and experience to the school. We also enjoy the benefits of talented pianists in all of our ballet and pre-school dance classes.

Pupils have the opportunity to be entered for examinations with the Royal Academy of Dance and/ or the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing.

A large scale school show is produced every two years at the Harpenden Public Halls.

The school is friendly and inclusive, we view dance as an important part of any pupil’s overall education, but we also have the capability to train the more gifted pupils towards a professional career. Former pupils have attended full time vocational schools including the Royal Ballet School (Lower and Upper School), English National Ballet School, Tring Park School for Performing Arts, Urdang, LIPA, or studied dance at university.


School Principal

Philippa O’Donovan 



Louise Sheaves

Louise Sheaves set the School up Harpenden and in 1982 Louise Sheaves School of Dance was Launched.

In 1990, Louise gained a Master of Arts degree in Dance Studies from Laban Centre, London. Louise taught A level dance for 5 years at Oaklands College in St Albans and for 2 years was a moderator for AS level dance. In 2005 she was appointed a Practical Teaching Supervisor for the RAD’s CBTS teacher training course.

Louise retired from running the School in July 2007, and with her husband moved to Dorset where she still lives.


Louise Sheaves and Philippa (nearest child to her)


Philippa O’Donovan

Philippa O’Donovan is a registered teacher of both the Royal Academy of Dance (ARAD) and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (Fellow). 

Philippa trained in ballet, modern and tap at Louise Sheaves School of Dance until the age of 18, before going to Liverpool University where she gained an honours degree in Law and continued to dance at the Merseyside Dance and Drama Centre and the McKee School of Dance.

For her teaching qualifications she trained with Louise Sheaves at the Royal Academy of Dance and at The dance College, Royston with Penny Meekings

From 2005 – 2007 Philippa taught ballet, tap and jazz dance at Bedford College on their BTEC National Diploma Performing Arts courses.

As a freelance teacher she has worked with vocational students at The dance College and Tring Park School for the Performing Arts.

Miss O’Donovan has been teaching for the Louise Sheaves School of Dance since 2004, becoming Principal in 2007. 

Heather Nicholls

Heather Nicholls is a registered teacher of both the Royal Academy of Dance and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing.

Heather started dancing at the age of 3 and realised at 16 that she wanted to teach dance as a career. She trained at ‘The dance College’ in Royston with Penny Meekings, where she obtained her ISTD teaching qualifications in Imperial Ballet, Tap, Modern Theatre and National Dance.

Heather then trained for 2 years with the Royal Academy of Dance obtaining her CBTS teaching qualification.

As well as dance, Heather is a Level 2 ETM fitness instructor and Zumba® Instructor and teaches both dance and fitness in and around Hertfordshire.  

Zara Oreng

Zara began her dance training in Peterborough where she gained excellent examination results with several ballet teaching societies including ISTD Cecchetti, NATD (Russian Method) and the RAD. Due to a recurring injury, Zara moved away from dance for a time and worked as an instructor and trainer for a large outdoor education company. Eventually, Zara returned to ballet classes and after only one year of training gained a place on the prestigious BA Ballet Education degree at the Royal Academy of Dance.

Since graduation, Zara has taught ballet to children and adults of all ages in schools in the London and surrounding areas, including regular cover teaching at Pineapple Dance Studios in Covent Garden. Mrs Oreng is now looking forward to sharing her expertise with dancers at HDS and helping them to achieve their potential.

Rebecca King

We are excited to welcome Miss King onto our teaching faculty. She has been dancing since the age of three, training in Ballet, Tap, Modern, Contemporary, Commercial, Street/Hip Hop and Jazz and has been involved in many shows as a performer and a choreographer.  Miss King is currently in her final year of training at Momentum Performing Arts Academy on their Musical Theatre Performance course and is in the final stages of completing her teaching qualifications in Ballet, Tap, Modern and Commercial Associate.  


Miss King brings with her not only a wealth of experience but also the very latest knowledge of ballet and teaching techniques and can’t wait to pass on her enthusiasm and expertise to you all!


Steph McMillin

Steph studied for three years at Doreen Bird College gaining a BA (Hons) in Professional Dance and Musical Theatre. Since graduating, Steph has been working in the dance and musical theatre industry both through performing and teaching and has become a registered ISTD teacher.

Steph has trained in Jazz, Modern, Tap, Ballet, Contemporary and Musical Theatre. She is in and around the industry, keeping up to date with current styles and techniques used today. Her passion and enthusiasm are something she wants to share with others, encouraging future generations.

Melissa Wareham

Melissa began dancing at the age of 3 and through her love of dance she auditioned and performed in many Pantomimes. Whilst studying for a BTEC in Performing Arts (Dance) at North Herts College, Melissa decided her heart was in teaching rather than performing. This led her to ‘The Dance College’ with Penny Meekings where she gained her DDE teaching qualifications in Imperial Ballet, Tap and Modern.  

Melissa has been lucky enough to perform in the 2012 Olympic Closing Ceremony and the 2015 Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony.

In 2013 Melissa re-located to live in Surrey, where she gained a wealth of experience teaching Ballet, Tap and Modern at a local dance school as well as Tap and Modern at the Italia Conti Associate School in Reigate.

Melissa returned to Herts to start her own family, and is now excited to get back to teaching the genres she loves the most! 

Jasmine Osborn

Miss Osborn started her professional training at Evolution Foundation College, and was also a former member of the UKs best known song and dance troupe, West End Kids, performing all across the country at various venues including West End Live, Royal Albert Hall and Move it. 

Jasmine went on to graduate from Performers College with a Level 6 Trinity Diploma in Professional Musical Theatre. During her training, credits included: Thoroughly Modern Millie, Urinetown as well as featuring in annual summer shows Livin’ on the Edge, Captivated and 30. At Christmas, Jasmine was a Principal Dancer in Sleeping Beauty Pantomime for UK Productions where she understudied for the evil fairy, Carabosse.

Whilst at Performers Jasmine also achieved ISTD qualifications in both Tap and Modern, and is now excited to pass on her passion for performing to HDS pupils.

Dawn Kistruck

Dawn Kistruck holds a BA in Contemporary Dance as a Practice and is a qualified yoga instructor. She attended the London contemporary dance school for three years where she gained a qualification to work as a professional dancer and choreographer in the styles of Ballet, Contemporary and Tai chi chuan. 

Dawn went on to study Indian classical dance and Afro Caribbean dance, where she was fortunate to tour and perform in Holland, France and in the UK at London’s Barbican theatre with the Caribbean Carnival Extravaganza show.  She also has extensive experience in Jazz dance styles, working with Temujin Gill and Co, training with the Jiving lindy hoppers in traditional Jazz and Matt Mattox Jazz dance style. 

Dawn has won lottery funding for her choreographic work at WAC (London’s weekend Arts College), and has worked in contemporary projects performing at Sadlers Wells Theatre and the Royal Albert Hall. 

Mrs Kistruck is very excited to be joining Harpenden Dance School to teach Ballet, Jazz and Contemporary dance.

Sophie Coster

Sophie started dancing and singing from the age of 8, and trained as a Royal Ballet Associate and at Laine Theatre Arts. After graduation with the classical cup and award for the Laine all round performer, Sophie danced at Tokyo Disney in the show ‘One Man’s Dream 2’ where she was lucky enough to portray many Disney princesses. This theme continued as she then performed at Disney Hong kong as The Little Mermaid as a dancer and aerialist. As well as performing as a singer and dancer on Crystal cruises, she has worked at Universal Studios in Singapore and appeared in many Pantomimes. 

Sophie then transitioned into dance teaching where she has furthered her qualifications with the RAD and ISTD. She is also a certified Pilates instructor and has most recently attained a first class honours degree in Professional practice in the Arts. Sophie is currently continuing her professional development by studying for her Diploma in dance teaching studies at the RAD. Sophie has spent a number of years teaching around the Surrey and Berkshire district, and having recently relocated into the Bedfordshire area, she is very much looking forward to teaching at Harpenden Dance! 

Charly Ralph-Day

Charly has over 10 years experience running her own business and is a lover of all things organised. She can usually be found in her office with a cup of tea by her side and some music on, outdoors with her family and a camera or with her horse, Goose. 

She has taken on the Administration Role alongside her small design business where she sells beautifully designed cards and framed prints. If you would like to take a look you can find her at www.lilac-butterfly.co.uk

Harpenden Dance School established 1982