Julie Allen, one of Parenta’s Recruitment Liaison Officers, teaches children dance in her spare time. Here, she explains how she got into teaching and the benefits for children of doing this kind of exercise from an early age:
So they say to ‘Dance like no-one’s watching’ and this is by far the best advice I was ever given!
I started dancing at just 4 years old and I competed in national championships as the years went on. I went on to dance professionally, performing in London before an accident forced me to stop. I had to find a way to use dance as my creative outlet – as there was absolutely no way I could just stop – which led me to teaching.
I now teach young people from ages 4 – 17 to help them realise that no matter what their age, size, race or religion they can use dance as a way to express themselves.
Over the years, I have seen students enter my studio with zero confidence for whatever reason and with the weight of the world on their shoulders, which saddens me. However, after a class (which could be anything from 30 mins to 5 hours) they leave refreshed, focused and free. It’s a feeling that is priceless. You see, there are few things in life that money can’t buy: the first is self-confidence and the second is self-belief.
As an adult, think of how many times you question yourself about making the right decision every day. This can often be about things as trivial as your choice of lunch, right through to life-changing decisions like marrying the person you love. Now, how much easier would it be if each of us learnt how to trust ourselves, our instincts and believe that we can overcome any challenge that is put before us from an early age?
If we were building confidence and channelling creativity as a way of communicating our emotions as young as pre-school age, we would see just a huge improvement in the overall wellbeing throughout every child’s life. I feel that it is so important to allow children of all ages to express themselves physically, through the power of movement.
I currently teach for a Youth Theatre School in Kent where I would love to share just one example of how performing arts can work for everyone! Our first site was in Sittingbourne; we did auditions after a few weeks for a Gala show we were planning. We were a little concerned about how we would put on our first show with just 6 children, but we persevered.
One of our students was a lovely cheeky little chap that came into the auditions and said, “I don’t do dance, I don’t do singing and don’t do acting”. At that point, I looked at the other teachers, hand on my head, thinking: “What’s the point!” I asked the young man why he was here and he said that he wanted to do lighting. It emerged that this young lad also had a lot of health issues and was medicated for ADHD, amongst other things, which did prove a challenge to manage within a relaxed teaching environment.
Now, 6 years on, and this young man is 15 years old, my strongest male dancer/actor and is so passionate about our theatre group he said he never wants to leave and wishes to train to become a teacher! As amazing as his story is, it does not end there – he now takes a fraction of his medication and is doing amazingly well at school. He and his family tell us that they truly believe it is the work we have done with him and building his confidence that has made him the young man he is today.
Now you can understand why I believe in the best advice ever given is: ‘Dance like no-one is watching’; it truly changes lives.