We experienced 3 dance schools before settling with Marjorie Wise. The first one collapsed for financial reasons, the second two were downright destructive of girls’ self -esteem and confidence- if you didn’t have the right figure and competitive spirit, they basically didn’t want you and made that very clear. They also encouraged cliqueness and verbal meanness. My daughter, Caitlin went all the way with Miss Spence at Marjorie Wise school to grade 8 honours learning alongside Laurie for much of that time. We greatly appreciated the way all levels of talent were welcomed whatever their body shape and ability. Also, the girls danced there because they enjoyed it and winning competitions was not the sole aim. My daughter was never going to be a ballerina but her experience here gave her body confidence, poise, worhwhile and fun exercise and a love of the stage and performance. I would genuinely recommend this school for any younger parents looking for a dance school for their little ones
A history of the school…
Marjorie Eileen Wise – a Christmas Day baby!
As with lots of little girls, Marjorie Wise wanted to go to ballet lessons, and her parents, Harry & Grace decided at age 6, she could go to Leicester ballet teacher, Queenie Green and enjoy a few ballet lessons. Marjorie’s parents were unaware of the talent that their daughter had!
Marjorie enjoyed her ballet lessons, and took her Royal Academy of Dancing (RAD) exams one by one until by the age of 17, she had passed her Advanced Exam and had begun to achieve the relevant teaching qualifications to be able to teach RAD ballet and enter children for exams. Just before her 18th birthday, she decided to open her own school and thus Marjorie Wise School of Dancing (MWSD) was born. Harry & Grace Wise were keen to assist their daughter with this venture and moved from the family home in Aylestone to a house on Saxby Street, Leicester, because it had a dance studio in the basement. This was converted into a ballet studio with bespoke mirrors, barres and floor.
Marjorie Wise became a household name in Leicester and the school thrived. Marjorie herself continued with her own ballet study and soon expanded into International Dance Teacher’s Association (IDTA) tap and theatre craft study. Marjorie travelled weekly to be taught by Sissie Smith in Nottingham and furthered her knowledge of ballet. Soon, Saxby Street was too small for the expanding school and Marjorie started hiring local halls to teach in. Her cousin, an excellent pianist, accompanied the classes on the piano and her parents dealt with the admin of running the school.
In the 1960’s, a young girl called Yvonne Saunders, joined the school for her lessons, as she wanted a classical RAD ballet school for her training. Yvonne was a very talented dancer and Marjorie quickly recognised an outstanding talent in this pupil. She was not wrong, as Yvonne went on to be the lead dancer with the Royal Ballet, partnering the likes of Rudolf Nureyev and dancing solos with the Company all over the world. To this day, Yvonne keeps in touch with Marjorie on a regular basis.
Marjorie Wise and her team of senior dancers, were regularly invited to join local Operatic Society’s as the dancers in the productions and Marjorie was the production Choreographer. This did not only include theatre shows but also parades, processions through Leicester, Royal Celebrations on Parks and the Lord Mayor’s Ball Cabaret. Marjorie took leading roles in many productions and it was here that she met her future husband Malcolm Holyoake, and later married in 1957. Malcolm then took over the admin of the School from Marjorie’s parents – truly keeping this a family school, and a few years later daughter’s Sally & Nicola were born, who went on to take ballet lessons along with their school friends, from their Mother, and eventually became teachers at the school and performed in the Operatic Society team of dancers for many years. The whole Holyoake family were now a part of Marjorie Wise School of Dancing!
Marjorie went on to be made a Life Member of the Royal Academy of Dancing in 1986 and successfully entered hundreds of pupils for RAD exams twice per year, plus IDTA exams of tap and the new “modern Dance”. The bi-annual Marjorie Wise School of Dancing Show was a mammoth event, but something that all pupils loved and gave them a flavour of stage performance. With 300 girls and boys on stage for the final in class and height order, a massive snake of pupils of all ages and very excited, would be lining the corridors of the YMCA in Leicester to make sure that they were all in the correct place for the curtain calls, and all wearing a small raffle ticket number pinned to the inside of their costumes to ensure this precise detail did not go wrong. All choreography, creativity and designs of costumes were done by Marjorie and her now expanded team of very dedicated staff, friends and family. One such member of staff, who had been a pupil of Marjorie’s since a very small child was Janice Spence, who became Marjorie’s closest friend and was like a third daughter in the family. Jan and Marjorie spent hours choreographing shows, musical productions and cabarets and could be seen in the lounge of Marjorie’s home with note books surrounding them, sheet music and costume ideas on a very regular basis.
The school further expanded but kept it’s family ethos and in 1993, Marjorie decided it was time to hang up her ballet shoes. She had dedicated her whole life to her pupils and at the same time was a Mum and Wife. It was now time for her to enjoy evenings at home and family life, especially as a grandchild was soon to arrive. Marjorie was delighted to offer the school to her dear friend Janice Spence, who she was confident would continue it in the same ethos that she had created over the past 50 years. She was so pleased when Janice agreed to continue the school and to continue it in it’s original name of Marjorie Wise School of Dancing, which she successfully did!
Marjorie and Malcolm have just celebrated 60 years of married life together and enjoy their life in Kibworth, with their two dogs Lulu and Alfie and Sally and Nicola living close by. As for their grandchild, they have just one – a boy! No ballet for him – he prefers a rugby pitch!
Janice Spence started dancing with Marjorie Wise School of Dance at the age of 7, as a gift for her 7th birthday. At approximately the age of 13, Marjorie asked if Janice wanted to earn some pocket money and work a tape machine at classes in Evington. It was at these classes Janice observed Marjorie’s teaching skills and her patience and dedication for the art of Ballet. Soon enough Jan was an assistant teacher with the school and started helping at Evington Village Hall. This led her on to taking associate classes and exams to become a fully fledged RAD registered teacher. At the age of 19, with Marjorie’s encouragement Jan started her own school at Market Bosworth. Whilst working on building up her own school, Jan continued to run classes for Marjorie at the same time. She ran her own dance school for 16 years and during that time she met her husband Ian and eventually decided to give up running the school. Although taking time out to concentrate on family life – getting married and having her son Ashley, she still ran her classes with Marjorie.
At a birthday party in 1993, which was held at Jan’s home in Frisby-on-the-Wreake, she was chatting to Marjorie about dancing and had been thinking about setting up a school in the area. Whilst discussing this with Marjorie, she just happened to ask if Jan fancied taking over an already established school in Leicester! Hers! She had decided to retire and offer the school to Janice. Obviously, Jan was thrilled as they had become the best of friends by now and to continue in her steps was a huge honour. In September 1993, Janice Spence took over Marjorie Wise School of Dance. She continued to run the school as Marjorie had, achieving 100% pass rates in all exams – many with high distinctions. She opened a new branch for the school at the village of Gaddesby, this was a great success for several years. Outstanding pupils Sarah Swinfield attended Ballet Rambert School and Helen Brown went into work in TV in London. 2009, the school hosted its biggest show to date at Wreake Valley Community College, celebrating it’s 60th birthday. It proved to be a great success and VIP guest on the Saturday evening was Marjorie herself. At the end of the night everyone wanted her autograph which was a huge delight – she felt like a celebrity! Due to the success of the 60th anniversary show, a few years later the whole school took part in a Recital, again at Wreake Valley College, which was something slightly different as parents could come and observe the work the students performed in class and ultimately for exams.
Janice had planned to hold another Recital in 2014, but sadly had to cancel as her dear husband Ian had been diagnosed with Cancer. Her decision to retire was with mixed feeling, but with Laurie now back after her training and performing days and studying to become an RAD registered teacher, she felt it was the right time. Janice’s last term as principal with the school saw dancers Hannah Fossard Jones and Molly Cleere, move to London to study at Central School of Ballet and the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts. Joel Fossard Jones – the only boy at the school, was excelling in performances at ‘The Curve’. Laurie was working hard on her course and eager to take over the school, so for Jan it was the right time for closure on her years of dancing and teaching.
What our graduates say
I loved my time at Marjorie Wise & have fab memories of classes at Mayflower taught by Miss Jan and Laurie. Achieving my Grade 8 Ballet with Distinction has to be a highlight but week to week I looked forward to every single class. Best of luck with everything Laurie! Can’t wait to watch the school blossom.
I attended this dance school alongside Laurie for 17 years and then occasionally came back to classes ran by Laurie whilst I was at Uni. I have such happy memories here! It was such a special place and always welcoming and inclusive. I loved learning a structured ballet syllabus and knowing that I was being trained by some wonderful, professional women. The shows were always a highlight too and a lot of fun! And I know Laurie is going to take what’s great about this school and make it even greater! I would highly recommend joining the family!
My daughter has been going to ballet classes here since she was little. She has continued to enjoy it and recently took her Grade 6. As an extension of the ballet school, she attends contemporary classes on Saturdays