Donna Schoenherr, founder & director Ballet4Life

Profile by Bridget Osborne

April 2018

Images are ©Donna Schoenherr.

Too often ballet is seen as the preserve of little girls, or talented stick thin young people who are focused on becoming professional dancers. Ballet 4 Life is determinedly not that. The dance school offers a comprehensive programme of high-quality ballet and dance courses across the range at all levels of ability.

The classes are predominantly for adults and range from beginners to experienced dancers with special classes for those of us who have limited movement. Its founder Donna Schoenherr was a professional dancer at an international level before settling in west London and setting up her company Ballet4Life. She is on a mission to bring the joy of dance and its physical and mental benefits to all.

Touring the world

Donna is a New Yorker. Starting out with the Festival Ballet of New York, she did her formative training at the prestigious Botsford School in Rochester, where she trained in classical ballet technique, pointe, ballet mime, folk dance and advanced ballroom dance. She went on to dance with the Cleveland Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago and Michael Mao Dance Co where she was proud to be an integral part of two dance works that were made in collaboration with sight impaired dance artists; ground-breaking works which toured the country. Donna went on to train, dance, choreograph and teach across the globe, touring the United States, Mexico and Europe before settling in her chosen home of west London where she has lived for the past twenty years.

Setting up Ballet4Life

Ballet4Life, which she set up in 2004, was one of the first organisations to provide adult learners in London with comprehensive programmes of high-quality ballet and dance courses. The B4L class line-up includes pointe, masterclasses, contemporary dance, beginner courses, barre and 50+ ballet classes; which have proven especially popular, making many a childhood ballet dream come true for Chiswick locals!

In 2015 she launched Move into Wellbeing®, a dance programme for people living with Parkinson’s disease and other mobility restrictions. Move into Wellbeing® was inspired by Donna’s father who lived with Parkinson’s for thirty years and who she saw benefit hugely from music and movement based therapy. Move into Wellbeing® is a registered charity and has received funding from One You Hounslow and the London Borough of Ealing.

Go to Ballet4life’s website for details of classes (most days of the week during term time) and look out for the next open day with FREE classes for the local community to try out these inspirational and inclusive dance classes.

Ballet4Life is a member of The Chiswick Calendar Club Card scheme

Seen in a different light

Donna is also a photographer: ‘I shoot dance, people, nature, places, shadows, light, and little oddities. I also photograph sports, and my art work. I love colour, light, shapes, unusual happenings, improvising, catching a tiny moment before it passes, noticing beauty and my environment. I just listen to my instinct and shoot away. I am the daughter of an esteemed photographer and taking photos is natural to me and has always been part of my life. I can take about 20-100 pics during a normal day sometimes’.