Dancing is my most loved sport. As a child, it helped me grow in confidence, as a teen, it helped build some of the best friendships, and as an adult, it helped give me that release of energy and made me feel free and happy.
When I started dancing, I was the one at the back biting my nails and trying desperately hard not to be noticed by everyone. I couldn’t touch my toes, was not confident in tights, and certainly did not like to have anyone looking at me. As the years rolled on, my extremely patient and dedicated dancing teacher drew me slowly from the back of the class and taught me how to love the art of dance. I slowly became able to be a part of group dances, building friendships that will never be forgotten. Moving into my adult life, I became more and more confident. Perhaps not 100% but to me, it was a 100% improvement. This filtered on to other areas of my life and I really feel the impact that dancing has had. Looking further to the health and fitness benefits that it has had – I have been trained to have good posture and strong form. This has been taken to every Pilates class, yoga class, gym class, even swimming.
There is one person I know who has a passion for dance greater than all other and that is my dancing teacher, Bonnie. Let’s hear what she has to say:
When people ask me what I do for a living and I say “I teach Dance” the response is predictable in a few ways. Mostly, its “aah” or “Can you do the splits? “ or “Do you get all those steps from a book? “ but the response I love most is “How interesting!” … and from that a fascinating conversation begins on dance.
You see, dance is not just about all those steps or teaching your body to move and eventually getting it to do those famous splits. It’s about so much more. Dance is about discipline, inner strength, friendships, confidence and life skills. All these things feed my passion for what I do. When one walks onto that dance floor, you enter a different world… an exciting world, one full of wonder and excitement, achievement, hard work and satisfaction – for dancer and teacher alike. That’s what dance is about.
When I talk about dance it covers two areas:
Firstly the body. Dance enriches your body by making it strong, flexible and supple. It creates muscle memory with repetitive movements and teaches endurance. It takes a minimum of one year to begin to see the benefits of a dance class. Dance classes can be taken to aid in sports performance, and is even becoming increasingly popular with men. I incorporate a diverse programme of exercise when preparing the bodies for dancing – including yoga, callisthenics, body conditioning and isometric. This is over and above the dance exercises we learn in our syllabus. This trains the body in strength, posture and form, ensuring limited injuries and optimal movement.
Secondly, and for me the most important, the mind. There is no greater reward than seeing a painfully shy child ( I was one of those) turning into a confident young person through dance. Something that will stay with them forever. Confidence is a life skill everyone needs and that can be filtered through so many walks of life.
Students are mentally and physically prepared before they are entered into competitions where they either dance alone or in a group. Both are equally exciting and beneficial for their own reasons. Solo dance is all about yourself and reflects your preparation, hard work, passion and determination. When one dances in a group or in a duet with just one other person, it teaches team work. The team has to work together to obtain the best result. There is nothing more rewarding than a group of people all working hard together, despite sore muscles, tired brains, and long hours, to get something not just right, but perfectly in sync. It builds a camaraderie that can, and does, in many instances last a lifetime.
Standing backstage, waiting to be called on that stage is always the most electrifying experience for an entrant, and for me as a teacher. Every student that steps out takes a piece of you with them. When their 1 1/2 minutes are up and they run off and the excitement is such that they always want to do it all over again. The report feedback is taken and used in a positive way to improve a performance so we are always learning to progress with a positive attitude. (On a side note: The one thing I learnt from Bonnie is the power of positivity and ‘silver linings’. Nothing gets her down!)
Taking a piece of music and building a story around it – turning it into a piece of art in motion, then watching it from the audience has no equal. The choreography is always most exciting. I love finding steps and moves to project an emotion and to tell a story in such a way as to make people want to watch. The dancer puts so much emotion into a performance that extends to the audience, that when they go home, the imagery goes with them, as does the emotion. I love being able to do that. It gives me great joy sharing my passion with others, not only through my dancers, but through those who see them perform.
I firmly believe anyone can dance, maybe not at a performance level, but everyone can. The benefits are lifelong! How fabulous it is when you are an old person and still able to move around like a person 10 years younger than yourself. As one gets older, the benefits are just as great as it aids with mental health, encouraging the memory with those ever changing steps, plus it excites the muscles and brings them alive. It strengthens the bones and loosens the joints. The wrinkles don’t matter, but how you feel does. This all aids longevity.
I can talk forever on why I teach dance and the benefits to people of all ages. There is no one reason but a collective group. For me it’s not a job at all, it’s a passion, and sharing that with children and adults is a reward that has no price. I shall probably dance forever.
Bonnie has been an important mentor in my life and has always encouraged me to continue dancing (even though it might not be my natural calling). If you want to get in touch or see more about the studio, visit the Facebook page – just don’t hold any of the old pics against me!
(Main image: Gabrielle van Hinsbergen)