A life in dance: remembering local legend Carol Allen

Carol Allen, founder of the Carol Allen School of Dancing.

Carol Allen, founder of the Carol Allen School of Dancing. - Credit: Alan High Photography

The founder of an eponymous Welwyn Garden City dance school which marks its 60th anniversary this year is being remembered in a special show two years after her death.

The Carol Allen School of Dancing was founded in the borough in 1962, and is marking the occasion with their show Diamond A Life of Dance, which is being performed at Campus West this weekend.

Carol Allen was born in Bangor, North Wales, the middle of three girls, and studied the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) method at the dancing school she went to as a child.

Her husband of 60 years, Graham had a career in aeronautics and the couple moved to Hertfordshire for his job.

Carol then worked as a draftwoman (man!) for a water company, and the couple had one daughter, Andree.

The seed of the school was sown in 1962 when Carol and her pianist friend Jill decided they wanted to share their love of music and dance with children. Classes were first opened in Hatfield and then expanded to St Albans.

On moving to Welwyn Garden City in 1967, Carol was approached by many parents to start a school in Panshanger. Her husband Graham, a loyal supporter of all of Carol’s initiatives, wisely said to her: “If you don’t, someone else will!’

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Carol was a life member of the IDTA (International Dance Teachers Association) and also studied the Cecchetti method under the prestigious teacher, Eileen Langman.

Her friend and mentor Meg Ainsworth was with Carol when they were introduced to Rudolph Nureyev backstage at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden.

Carol also met Richard Glasstone who started the Cecchetti Centre in London in 1983.

Current school principal Jean Wise first met Carol at an IDTA meeting in London, and after she started working for her, they used to travel up to London for IDTA meetings and seminars, often taking a car load of students with them!

Carol and Graham were also heavily involved with getting Panshanger Community Centre built and running, and did a lot for the local community. She always saw the theatre at Campus West as the dancing school's "home" theatre and the school has always given profits from their shows to a local charity, usually something to do with children.

Jean said: “Carol was extremely passionate about dance and wanted to give that passion and dedication to all the children she taught. She was totally dedicated to dance and to the school.”

The Carol Allen School of Dancing is marking its 60th anniversary.

The Carol Allen School of Dancing is marking its 60th anniversary. - Credit: Carol Allen

The Carol Allen School of Dancing is marking its 60th anniversary.

The Carol Allen School of Dancing is marking its 60th anniversary. - Credit: Carol Allen

The Carol Allen School of Dancing is marking its 60th anniversary.

The Carol Allen School of Dancing is marking its 60th anniversary. - Credit: Carol Allen

The Carol Allen School of Dancing is marking its 60th anniversary.

The Carol Allen School of Dancing is marking its 60th anniversary. - Credit: Carol Allen