Actress Helena Bonham-Carter pays tribute to her childhood ballet teacher Rona Hart

Former pupil Helena Bonham-Carter with her first ballet teacher Rona Hart taken by Ms Hart's daughte

Former pupil Helena Bonham-Carter with her first ballet teacher Rona Hart taken by Ms Hart's daughter Charlotte Newson - Credit: Archant

Actress Helena Bonham-Carter has lead the tributes to much-loved Hampstead dance teacher Rona Hart who died last week at the age of 88.

Pupils of Rona Hart School of Dance performed at a ceremony to celebrate the life of Rona Hart and t

Pupils of Rona Hart School of Dance performed at a ceremony to celebrate the life of Rona Hart and the 70th birthday of her ballet school in Hampstead - Credit: Archant

The star, who was taught ballet by Ms Hart as a child, said: “I have vivid memories as a three-year-old being taught ‘good toes, bad toes,’

“I met Rona again two years ago and she hadn’t aged a nano second which I put down to having spent her life loving what she did. And I was one of the lucky ones who benefitted.”

Ms Hart, 88, died on October 16 just a week before her Hampstead dance school celebrated its 70th birthday on Sunday.

Current pupils from the Rona Hart School of Dance performed in Rosslyn Hill Chapel on Sunday in celebration of her life.

Linzi Else, who now runs the school, said: “I loved everything about Rona but particularly her ethos. In her school it didn’t matter whether you were tall or small, whatever you may be you were encouraged.

“After my intense years of training at te Royal Ballet School, Rona made me realise tha dance could indeed be for everyone and she singlehandedly resurrected by own love of ballet.

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“She was truly the most inspirational person I have ever met.”

Several years ago Burgh House ran an exhibition about Rona, who founded the school in 1946 at its present site in the Rosslyn Hill Chapel, where thousands of pupils, including Miss Bonham-Carter and Royal Ballet choreographer David Dawson took their first ballet steps.

Mr Dawson, who was taught by Rona from the age of seven, said at the time of the exhibition in 2013: “I always loved to dance, for as long as I can remember I was constantly moving. It was in 1979 when my mother first brought me to the Rona Hart School of Dance. Miss Hart taught me my very first steps.

“I always remember her open, smiling face and that she always looked like a ballerina. I coudl feel that she cared deeply about every single student, nurturing them like a mother.

“I respected her so much for her knowledge and was inspired by her stories of her dancing days with Ballet Rambert.”

Rona was born in December 1927 in Uganda and her family left to move to Scotland and then Cornwall in 1939 when the Second World War broke out.

She said of her childhood: “I had a happy and joyfulchildhood during which I developed an aptitude for dance and a love of dressing up in a variety of costumes.”

This aptitude developed into a passion and Rona studied dance at the Ginner-Mawer school of dance and drama.

She then danced with the famous Ballet Rambert, ultimatley fulfilling her ambition to become a dance teacher.

During her career, Rona particularly championed the Greek style of dancing.

Former pupil Jane Singer said: “I have so many memories from my childhood going to ballet lessons and classical Greek dancing.

“She holds such a special place in so many people’s hearts.”

Ms Hart died peacefully at her home in Suffolk, surrounded by family.

She is survived by her husband George, 85, three children, five grandchildren and five great grandchildren.

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