Leeds 'BNP ballerina' dances into controversy

A children's dance teacher dubbed the "BNP ballerina" says her pupils' parents are fully aware of her political background and she welcomes youngsters of all races and religions to her Leeds classes.

Professional ballerina Simone Clarke – once a principal dancer with the English National Ballet – was previously 'outed' as a member of the far-right British National Party.

She was also once engaged to one of the BNP's most senior members Richard Barnbrook.

It has now emerged the 39-year-old is teaching ballet to children as young as two at the Yorkshire Ballet Academy, based at Shadwell Village Hall in Shadwell, Leeds.

On the Academy's website no reference is made to Miss Clarke's name or associations and she is referred to only as a "former principal dancer with the English National Ballet."

The Yorkshire Evening Post approached Miss Clarke for comment after we were contacted by a concerned resident who said: "The community has a right to know who they are paying to teach their children."

Miss Clarke at first refused to answer questions.

However when pressed, she claimed parents of children in her classes were fully aware of her political background.

"All my parents know," she said. "I don't handpick people. If anyone wants to come to my school to learn ballet they are welcome."

Asked directly if she taught ethnic minority children, she said: "Of course I do."

And questioned on teaching Muslim children, she again said: "Yes I do."

Ms Clarke declined to comment on whether she is still a member of, or actively involved in, the BNP.

On an updated 2009 BNP members' list leaked on to the internet yesterday, a "Miss Clarke" registered at Simone Clarke's previously published Shadwell postcode, is listed as a 'family' member of the party.

Although the list does not state if she is active in the party, the membership expires at the end of this year.

The revelation about Miss Clarke's past affiliations comes at a time when the Government is considering banning members of the BNP from teaching.

David Parker, treasurer at Shadwell Village Hall, stood by the committee's decision to keep Miss Clarke on its tenants list, having found out about her political leanings after taking on her lease.

"We have been aware more or less from the beginning – it has never been a secret – but it has nothing to do with teaching or dancing.

"If we put her out of a job she will be living off the state.

"Politics does not come into the teaching of ballet – it cannot come into it – and she is teaching very young children.

"With Simone's links to the English National Ballet there could not be a better ballet teacher.

"I don't go along with her views and if the BNP wanted to hold a rally meeting here we would say 'no'.

"However in the two years Simone has been here there have been no negative comments, no problems."

He said Miss Clarke was "not a racist" and had at least one black child in her ballet classes.

He added if another hirer of the village hall was found to have extremist leanings, they would be treated exactly the same, as long as they kept their politics out of the building.

The BNP's chairman Nick Griffin is this week due to controversially appear on the BBC's Question Time. His party, which has openly criticised mixed-race relationships, was last week ordered to amend its constitution to allow members of ethnic minorities to join.