Skip to main content
With extensive experience in dance training and a clear and engaging teaching style, Kate Hartley-Stevens is one of the most popular instructors on our dance training platform, BalletActive.

We sat down with her to talk about her career, her favourite dance work, and why you should start taking dance classes as an adult.

At what age did you start dancing? What do you remember about your first years of training?

I started when I was 9 years old so I was later than some. I went with a friend and was reluctant at first, and took a lot of convincing to enter the space, but as soon as I started I didn’t want to stop!

My teacher was fantastic and gave me a lot of support, she took me to London to watch Swan Lake and I was just mesmerised. She inspired me to carry on and have a career in dance.

Ballet with Kate - Sleeping Beauty 2
Kate Hartley-Stevens teaching a Sleeping Beauty-inspired class on BalletActive.

What dance styles do you specialise in?

I specialise in ballet, but I enjoy teaching creatively with a lot of contemporary dance influences and draw on a range of dance styles. I’ve trained in Ballet, Contemporary, Kathak, Tap, Greek and National, and they all contribute in their own way. Ballet companies perform such a wide array of repertoire nowadays and work with contemporary choreographers all the time, so ballet and contemporary movement are often so intertwined anyway.

Can you tell us about the different places or countries dance has taken you?

Normally my work is UK based, and I love travelling all over and exploring different cities. On a few occasions, special projects take me abroad. I did some fantastic training in Brookyln, New York, with the wonderful Mark Morris Dance Group, to support people with Parkinson’s. And last summer I was teaching workshops with English National Ballet on board the Queen Mary 2 Cunard cruise across the Atlantic. That was a highlight!

In addition to being a dance tutor, you’re also a qualified yoga teacher. How does yoga help you when teaching dance?

Well there are so many similarities and so many differences between dance and yoga. I teach a flow-based yoga which never really stops, whereas dance classes stop/start a little more between exercises. Teaching yoga encourages me to keep a sense of flow in a dance class, so that you don’t lose focus and energy. I also bring a lot of breath work into my dance teaching, and always encourage dancers to focus on how a movement feels instead of how it looks.

Who are some of the creative voices that inspire you, and why?

The people who inspire me the most are the dancers I teach. For example, I lead a class for people living with Parkinson’s, and their strength, bravery and determination to show up and dance no matter what’s going on for them, inspires me every single week.

A dance teacher wearing a black t-shirt is dancing with an older man wearing a plaid shirt. They are holding hands and arms in a dance pose. In the background, other people can be seen participating in a dance in a bright, windowed room.
Kate Hartley-Stevens teaching a Dance for Parkinson's class at English National Ballet's studios © Photography by ASH

Do you have a favourite dance work?

I love Akram Khan’s Giselle. I’ve explored this repertoire a lot in my classes. It’s such a powerful work with themes of inequality, belonging and being ‘the outsider’ that really resonate today. The choreography is beautiful and works so intrinsically with the music, and the set design provides a dramatic backdrop that transports you. For me, it’s a visceral emotional work that I feel deeply as I watch.

You have been teaching online classes through our BalletActive platforms. How else are you involved with English National Ballet?

I’ve been lucky enough to work for English National Ballet since 2012, and over the years have taught on an array of programmes, including Classes for All, Dance for Parkinson’s, Dance for Dementia, ENBYouthCo and the My First Ballet programme. I’ve taught dancers ranging from 2 – 100 years old! I’ve also worked in the Engagement department as a Producer on a range of projects, including some intergenerational dance film projects which have been fantastic to be a part of.

What’s your favourite part of being a dance teacher?

I love seeing the transformation between the start and end of each class. Students might arrive a little sleepy and cold, but it always ends with them leave feeling energised, free and smiling. Dance is magical, and it’s an honour to hold the space for people and watch this magic to happen.

Kate is such a motivating and kind teacher.
B., BalletActive subscriber
Kate, this is a lovely barre and center routine. It was very easy to follow the foot placement, which left plenty of brain focus to think about the other elements of correct technique. Thank you for your good work!
Billie, BalletActive subscriber

What would you say to someone who is considering starting ballet/dance as an adult?

Give it a go! Different teachers and dance styles all offer something different. The structure of a ballet class normally starts slowly at the barre, and gradually the energy and speed picks up so that by the end of class you’re flying! It’s fantastic for improving posture and coordination, and building strength and flexibility, but mostly it’s about moving to music and having fun.

Are there any motivational or practical tips you’d like to share to someone who takes online dance classes from home?

The wonderful thing about doing dance classes at home is that you really can dance like no-one is watching! You can adapt exercises to make it work for your body and your space, and you can pause, rewind and recap as much as you like. For me, ‘little and often’ works and if I find a class I like I’ll repeat it a few times before moving on to something else.

Check out Kate’s classes on BalletActive, with options from Improvers to Advanced – including some lovely repertoire classes! Start your 14-day free trial today.