A 104-year-old Bristol dance school owner and teacher who has dedicated the last 70 years of her life to passing on her love for dance to Bristolian youngsters has been recognised with a British Empire Medal on the Queen’s Birthday Honours List 2022.
Grace Angela Redgrave, founder and principle of the Bristol School of Dancing, was praised for her services to dance and is the oldest person on the List.
The talented dancer and teacher is well known in the dancing circles of the south west for caring deeply about children and for her dedication to the oldest dance school in the city.
Having taken over ownership of the school (established in 1947) in 1970, Ms Redgrave scoured Bristol to find a suitable location for the dance academy, before buying and establishing it in the Swedish Gymnasium on Lansdowne Road.
The school had been left to run into a bit of disrepair at the point Ms Redgrave took it on, but she worked hard to build it up to have a wonderful reputation, something that still stands today.
Despite being 104, she even managed to keep the school functioning online throughout Covid-19, allowing the children to have access to dance classes for the entirety of the pandemic.
Ms Redgrave told Bristol World: “It’s very nice of you to talk to me! I’m very personally amazed by all this - why me?! But I’m very happy and very proud, it’s all very wonderful.
“I was staggered, really staggered to get the award. If I was standing up, I would of fallen over, but luckily I was sitting down. What a terrific honour. I’m so happy, so proud and so thankful.”
I wonder if it was something Ms Redgrave ever imagined she would receive. “Never in a thousand years,” she says.
“Why me? There are other people doeing wonderful things so why me? I’m very grateful, very proud and very happy. I suppose it means a big thank you for all the years spent, which I’ve thoroughly enjoyed, coaching, loving and looking after little children.”
What is most important to Ms Redgrave with the school? “Mainly, to love and enjoy dancing - that is, of course, the main thing,” she says.
“When you’re enjoying dancing, the whole body lifts up and the whole body becomes lighter. You’ve got to have the face, and the most important part of the face is the eyes. If your eyes are sparkling, happy and focused, then everything looks alright.”
Ms Redgrave tells me of the challenges faced over the years running the school. “There are ups and downs,” she says.
“Some years everything goes well, and other years it’s not so easy. But this past one, thank goodness, has been a very pleasant and happy year. Covid-19 has affected everybody but we are all in it together.”
What does Ms Redgrave hope for the Bristol School of Dancing in the future? “In the future, I hope that it carries on as it is. I hope it continues loving, producing and helping young and older girls and boys to achieve what they hope to do in the world of dancing, and dance as part of a whole entertainment picture,” she says.
“I can look back and be proud of the school. One of our lads is in America doing very very well and I feel proud that we started him, we started his first little steps and now he’s out there on top. It’s amazing.”
We talk about how incredible it is that Ms Redgrave is sharing the celebration with the Queen and joining her in 70 years of public service. “I feel very modest,” she laughs.
“After all, the Queen whom I think is wonderful, has done so many wonderful things, so I can’t compare myself with her, I can only grovel and tell you how wonderful she is.”
More than 12 other people from the Bristol region were included in the Birthday Honours list. Click here to read more about them.