1950 – 59

Sisters Joy and Sheila Banyard held dance classes in the 1950s at The Meads (now Sam’s night club) a gentleman by the name of Mr. William Watkins attended lessons with his fiancée Rosemary in preparation for their wedding. On learning that Mr. Watkins could play the piano they asked if he would be kind enough to accompany classes.

By the end of the 50s the Banyard School of Dancing moved to St Thomas Church Hall, Eastfield Road with Bill as resident part time pianist. At this time Erica Swift also started teaching with Sheila Anderson (nee Banyard). Bill continued to play until the late 60s.

In 1959 Erica took over the school retaining its name and continued to teach ballet for the next 28 years.

1960 – 79

Hazel Collins became a pupil of the school in 1967 and attended ballet lessons with Erica for five years when having completed Grade 1 – 4 she auditioned for Bush Davis School in Romford, where she continued her training until going to the Laban Centre in London.


In 1984 with her two young daughters in hand Hazel Smith (nee Collins) returned to Erica to enquire about ballet lessons for youngsters.

Hazel enrolled Samantha and Natalie for classes and also began attending the adult class. After a short while Erica persuaded Hazel to teach a few lessons a week.

By 1986 having receiving news that the Hall was to be sold and consequently demolished, Erica decided to retire, asking Hazel if she would like to continue to run the school. Initially running the school single-handed was a frightening prospect, so with Erica as mentor overseeing the academic side they moved the school to the Sea Cadet Hall in St Edwards Way, Brentwood where they worked together.

1987 – 2007

In 1987 Hazel spoke to the booking officer for the United Reformed Church Hall. New Road. Arrangements were made and the school became ‘Miss Hazels Brentwood School of Dance’ and moved to its current home in May 1987 with Fiona Ross (also ex pupil of Erica’s) as her pianist. Coincidentally Hazel as a young girl had been a member of the church Brownies and Guides.

The school then offered ballet lessons to approximately 30 pupils. Within the first year the number of students tripled. Erica to this day has supported the school, attending all presentations and shows but most importantly as a mentor.

Having returned from performing abroad Nicola Baines opened her shop ‘Dance World’ Ongar Road Brentwood in 1988


In 1990 Hazel auditioned for a new pianist and Mr. William Watkins applied. Bill has continued to be our pianist.

In March 1991 Nicola danced as a guest in ‘Workshop 91’.

In September 1991 Hazel invited Nicola (who also had attended Bush Davis and been a close friend of Hazels youngest sister) to become head of modern. They formed a partnership in 1992 and formed The Central School of Dance which became The Central School of Dance & Drama in 2000.

In 1998 the school hired their third studio at the Ursuline School in Eastfield Road.

So things have gone full circle.


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