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.  

Lucy Stern

Lucy Stern trained in dance at the Arts Educational School, Tring and at the College of the Royal Academy of Dance in London where she gained her L.R.A.D. and A.I.S.T.D. teaching qualifications. Lucy then danced professionally for three years before going on to teach dance in Maine, USA. Subsequently she worked with the Education Unit and then the Marketing Department at English National Ballet.

Mrs Stern joined the Louise Sheaves School of Dance in January 2008 and as well as teaching for the school has been teaching dance to people with Parkinson’s Disease since 2012. She is a keen runner and completed her 25th marathon in December 2016.

Miss 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!


Miss 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.

Miss Sharp

Emma started dancing at the age of 3 at North Central Herts School of Dance, learning the disciplines of Ballet, Tap, Modern Theatre, Jazz, Commercial and Contemporary dance. Throughout her time at NCH, Emma took part in many exams and dance shows, alongside performing in the Stevenage Pantomimes at the Gordon Craig Theatre 5 years running, and productions at the Royal Albert Hall & Disney Land Paris.

During her time at North Central Herts Emma was an assistant alongside her dance teacher, helping out with the younger students; having always wanted to be a Dance teacher from a very young age, this strengthened her passion for teaching. Emma is also a qualified personal trainer and is currently working towards her DDE’s in Ballet, Tap and Modern. Emma teaches at several dance schools around Hertfordshire and is looking forward to sharing her passion and enthusiasm for dance with Harpenden Dance School.

Miss Cole

Catherine Cole trained in ballet at Brewer Dance Academy from 2001, and completed all of her Graded examinations.  She started assisting in classes at the age of 15 and then began teaching after her A levels. Catherine is now a registered Royal Academy of Dance Ballet teacher, having completed over 1000 hours of teaching, and attended a 10 day intensive study period at the RAD HQ as part of her training. Catherine is passionate about teaching ballet, including preparing dancers for pointe work, and continues to take classes herself.

Mrs Turnbull

Sarah has over 30 years of secretarial and admin experience, 15 of which have been in the world of dance and dance education. 

Sarah previously worked for Penny Meekings at The dance College for many years, developing a wealth of knowledge with particular insight into the ISTD – while working part-time to juggle the demands of her young family. 

Though her children are now independent adults, she continues to enjoy working part-time and splits her week between supporting dance schools and reclaiming some precious me-time.

Harpenden Dance School established 1982