Anna believes the Hype

Sheffield Hype dance school. Founder Anna Olenjnicki. Student Hannah Jones and tutor Lauren Clow in the background.
Sheffield Hype dance school. Founder Anna Olenjnicki. Student Hannah Jones and tutor Lauren Clow in the background.
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When Anna Olejnicki organised her first ever dance class she was, it’s fair to say, somewhat disappointed when no-one turned up.

She waited two hours in a hired room in Garden Street but, despite giving out flyers, putting up posters and appearing in The Star, not a single person showed. The same happened the next week, and the one after that too.

“Then, on the fourth week, a single 17-year-old stuck her head round the door,” remembers Anna. “She said ‘Is this the dance class?’

“I said ‘it is but it’s just you and me’. We had a good lesson, though. The next week she came back with a friend.”

That was in the early noughties.

Today, the dance academy - called Hype - that was born from those classes teaches 200 people every single week, employs seven tutors, has a dedicated two-studio home, and puts on an annual extravaganza that is one of the biggest dance shows in the Sheffield calendar.

It is also, next month, set to celebrate its 10th anniversary.

Now, to toast the landmark birthday, The Diary has been invited for a tour of Hype’s home, a converted glass works in Earl Street.

“Did I ever think of giving up?” ponders Anna, as girls prance and pirouette in the next room. “Of course not. I was sure it would work if I gave it time.”

As it turned out, those early weekly classes got so popular she soon moved to thrice-weekly sessions at the Sam Jones Health Club in Drakehouse which themselves became over-subscribed. So, in 2004, Anna - a part-time professional dancer herself - quit a day job in sales, started Hype and moved her academy to a specially adapted studio above The Leadmill nightclub in Leadmill Road.

“Why do I think we’ve been so popular?” muses the 38-year-old. “Because we offer fun and energetic classes for all ages and all talents.”

Energetic is right.

More than 40 weekly classes include everything from ballet to tap, hip hop to jazz. There’s open sessions for people who want to move for fun, and structured lessons for those working towards exams. Pupils range from three to their mid-50s.

So far no-one from Hype has turned pro - “but we’re still young in terms of dance school,” notes Anna, who grew up in Doncaster but now lives in Longley, Sheffield.

Besides, it’s about, more than just making the grade.

You’ll see some people come in for their first lesson and they’ll be so shy and timid but within a few weeks their confidence has grown hugely,” says Anna. “We’re here to empower people.”

She’s hoping for more of the same for decades to come too.

“We want to keep growing,” she says. “We’re passionate about dance and we want to keep spreading that.”

A 10th anniversary show, featuring 200 dancers, will be held at The Blue Shed, Brightside Lane, March 9 and 10. Tickets from £8. See hypedance.org.uk