I'm a working mum writing about life in Edinburgh (and anywhere else we go) with two curious, adventurous, and imaginative children. Visit my blog at www.linzertortes.blogspot.co.uk. Follow me on Twitter: @LinzerLaw
Published September 22nd 2012
Everyone can learn to dance
Through the week Dance for All has a programme of professional dance and theatre training for young people. They've been training young people for a career in the performing arts for decades, and have an excellent reputation.
Many of the classes have teaching assistants who are current students in the school, as they prepare for life as a professional teacher.
On Thursdays and Saturdays, the studios are transformed into a bustling hive of activity as children as young as three take their first steps into the world of dance. The premises look exactly like I'd always imagined a dance school would – a labyrinth of stairs and corridors of which posters and paintings of famous ballet dancers and shows adorn the walls.
I love the old-fashioned character of the dance studio building; it's straight from a Noel Streatfield novel.
I tried a few dance classes for my daughters before I found this one. None of the other classes we tried managed to get a healthy balance between exams, and just dancing for fun. At a previous school, they were only interested in the children who felt had potential, the others were side-lined and unwelcome in the annual show. At another, there was plenty of fun and frolics, but my elder daughter was keen to work towards a certificate, which that school didn't offer.
Stockbridge Dance for All offers the best of both worlds. It is an inclusive, friendly dance school which accepts the wide variety of pupils who cross its door. They are happy to work with the children who wish to take their exams, but equally understanding of those who are just coming along for fun. Most importantly, the director Tracy Hawke, and her teaching staff, seem to genuinely want to impart their love of dance and engage young people in a healthy and creative activity. Children can find the usual offerings of tap, jazz, and ballet, but Dance for All is also unusual in that it has qualified flamenco teachers. My daughter has been carried away with the romance of a flamenco skirt made especially for her, character shoes and castanets. My younger daughter is quite fond of princesses, so is quite enchanted with the pink uniform she wears for her ballet class.
A young dancer just starting out in the world of ballet.
Each different class requires a different coloured leotard and uniform, but there are always parents who are offering a second-hand uniform from a child who has moved up. Often, these will only have been used once a week for two to three months, so will be in quite good condition. Likewise, the school is flexible over when you must buy the uniform, so your child can have a taster class in a t-shirt or leggings before you book them in. They also offer a discount on extra classes beyond the first.
For adults, there's a range of dance classes from beginners ballet, tap, or jazz to classes at an advanced level. There are some drop-in classes, and some that you can block book. The ballet lessons are a rarity in that some of them have a live piano player, in an era where most classes have moved on to providing music from an iPod hooked up to a sound system. It's a lovely experience as it means a class is more seamlessly taught if the teacher does not need to keep on going backwards and forwards to start and stop the music. There are also some more unusual classes, like flamenco, and if you aren't dance-inclined you can go for yoga or pilates to increase your flexibility.
A warm welcome awaits anyone with an interest in dance.
There's also a café, which sells sandwiches, toasties and other light refreshments, where you can wait while your little people are dancing their hearts out.
Like the rest of Dance for All, the service is very personal and friendly, and it is much more well-priced than the local cafes of Stockbridge.
I'd recommend it both for something to keep the children occupied, but also for an adult beginner venturing into the world of dance. And if you are an experienced returner then the ballet classes with live piano will get you back into dance with style.