Abbie Jennings L.I.S.T.D DDP – Principal and Teacher
Abbie founded AJ Dance and Fitness in 2012 and started out with just an adult ballet and adult tap class in Chandlers Ford on a Wednesday evening (these classes are still going strong!) Classes have continued to grow and expand over the last 5 years. Abbie is a fully qualified and registered ISTD Dance Teacher in Imperial Ballet, Modern Theatre and Tap Dance and is a qualified Fitsteps Instructor. In 2017 Abbie graduated from the Level 6 Diploma in Dance Pedagogy in which she specialised in Tap Dance. Abbie studied this degree course part-time in London alongside teaching full time in Hampshire. As well as running AJ Dance and Fitness, Abbie also teaches for other dance schools throughout Hampshire and is an Associate Lecturer in Tap Dance at the University of Chichester.
Background – Abbie started dancing with a local dance school, Oakwood Academy of Dance, when she was only two and a half years old, studying Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing (ISTD) Imperial Ballet, Modern Theatre and Tap Dance and continued with the Academy until she had completed all of her major dance examinations. Abbie also attended the Urdang Academy in Covent Garden for two years from the ages of 11 to 13 on their Musical Theatre course where she performed in a revue show and also in the musical Godspell.
Abbie attended the Toynbee School where she was Head Girl in Year 11 and chose to study GCSE Dance, Drama and Music which she passed with A’s and A*’s. As well as a love for dancing herself she has always wanted to teach dance and pass her passion of dancing on to people of all ages. To further her studies Abbie attended Chichester College after leaving school and studied a BTEC National Diploma in Dance and a BTEC Subsidiary Diploma in Musical Theatre, passed with Distinction and Distinction*, alongside the ISTD Teaching Qualifications, Diploma in Dance Instruction (DDI) and Diploma in Dance Education (DDE).
Jemma Conner ISTD DDE – Teacher
Jemma first started dancing when she was just 4 years old at Oakwood Academy of Dance, studying Imperial Ballet, Modern Theatre and Tap Dance and has passed her major examinations in all three subjects.
Jemma has always had a love for dancing and chose to study GCSE Dance at school followed by studying A Level Dance and a BTEC Subsidiary Diploma in Dance at Totton College, alongside English Language and Sociology. She went on to study at Chichester College where she gained her ISTD teaching qualification, Diploma in Dance Instruction (DDI) in all three dance genres in 2015. She then went on to study for her Diploma in Dance Education (DDE) which she successfully completed in July 2016.
Whilst studying at Totton College, Jemma had the opportunity to perform as part of the curtain raiser for Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton, after taking part in a weeks workshop with the company. She has also performed in several shows with the Christchurch Gilbert and Sullivan Society as a dancer. In October 2015, Jemma had the opportunity to perform at Her Majesties Theatre in London with Oakwood Academy, which she was very excited to be part of.
Hayley Roberts ISTD DDE – Teacher
Hayley gained her DDI and DDE ISTD Dance Teaching qualifications at Chichester college in Imperial Ballet, Modern Theatre and Tap Dance. Whilst at college she also studied a BTEC National Diploma in Dance for two years as well as an AS Level in Musical Theatre which she passed with Distinctions across the board. Alongside this Hayley was also running her own dance school from 2012 and merged with a local dance school. Hayley has had experience working for other Dance schools and colleges in Hampshire since leaving college in 2012. Hayley’s passion for dancing started when she attended her first Jazz class at the age of three. Since then she has gone on to achieve high grades in exams and has placed many times in local festivals, which granted her a chance to dance at Saddlers wells and achieved 2nd place in the All England Dance final. Hayley has recently set up another dance school to challenge her teaching profession. Hayley is looking forward to teaching for AJ Dance and Fitness and can’t wait to get started.
Jack Simmonds – Teacher
Jack is a local lad who started singing in his school choir in Year 3 and learning to play the saxophone. He has always had a keen interest in musical theatre and singing and that only grew as he did.
Jack has taken music lessons on as many instruments as he could get his hands on and plays saxophone, clarinet and flute, as well as piano. He has also studied drums, brass instruments and violin and cello at one point or another, his diverse range of hands on experience contributes to the arranging/composing side of his career. He also took singing lessons and is especially grateful for his time with Elin Davis, a woman who he often still quotes in his own teaching.
After finishing college with A-Levels in Music and Music Technology, as well as a BTEC Diploma in Performing Arts, he went on to write and produce his own musical at Barton Peveril College. He also collaborated with Mark Wheeller’s ‘Oasis Youth Theatre’ as their composer for the physical theatre project, Jack and Blunderbore. OYT took this to the All England Theatre Festival and scooped up a few awards along the way, including the Adjudicator’s Award at the semi-finals for Jack’s soundtrack. Jack and Blunderbore garnered so much attention that OYT were invited to take it to the IDEA Conference in Paris to perform it in summer 2013 and take part in a Q&A on the rehearsal and development process for the piece, a process which lasted years. During his time as an OYT collaborator he worked with OYT 006, their offshoot company for members to direct their own projects, on The Milkman, with Charlie Wheeller. Jack was Assistant Director and Composer for the piece which won ‘Best Use of Sound’ at the 2012 Woking Theatre Festival.
In the middle of all this, Jack headed two hundred and fifty miles north to Hull, where he studied for a degree in Music. While he was there he specialised in Composing, Arranging and Conducting. At the university he conducted HUMS Contemporary choir. His arrangement of Bastille’s Icarus features the choir performing on their mixtape, Other People’s Heartache 2 [Track 1]. While living in Hull he worked with Hull Truck and the Children’s University on several projects, including plays in a week and composing songs for the young people to perform in several of their Youth Theatre plays. Jack was also Musical Director for Hull Community Voices, a community choir who will always hold a special place in Jack’s heart as an inspiration and testament to the warmth that choirs can bring to people’s lives.
While in Hull, Jack also performed with and acted as Musical Director for Hessle Theatre Company, dancing in Sister Act, playing sax in Return to the Forbidden Planet, MDing Into The Woods and playing the role of Princeton in Avenue Q.
After Hull, Jack moved out to the Canary Islands to sing for a hotel chain in the south of Fuerteventura. He sang as part of a group, performing ABBA, Hollywood and Broadway shows, as well as singing in the bars and sometimes round the pool in the day time. That kept him on his toes…!
Jack has found that his passion is not for performing but for getting other people to perform. There is nothing like the thrill of watching somebody else realise they can do something that they never thought they could. Jack believes that anybody can sing, so go on, I dare you, bring him a challenge!
Dance Class Testimonials
Abbie is an amazing teacher. She is brilliant with young children as well as adults and always pitches the lesson just right. I cannot recommend Abbie highly enough. I am very happy to have her as a teacher for both myself and my daughter. She always choreographs interesting and varied routines suited to the ability of her pupils. If you are looking to keep fit, refresh some old skills, or learn some new ones in a fun environment then Abbie’s classes are for you!
A really brilliant adult tap class! It is extremely friendly, fun and a great way to escape for an evening and get some exercise! Abbie is an amazing teacher and keeps us on our toes
This is a fantastic tap class, we work at a good pace and Abbie always makes it interesting and challenging for us all. A great work out with lots of enjoyment. Highly recommended.
Fitsteps on a Monday eve is brilliant fun and great exercise!! Can’t recommend enough, well done Abbie.