Ok, take a deep breath, here it is...my first blog on what I am almost too scared to believe is our journey home. Back to our dancefloors, back to the big ballrooms, back to the friendships, back to the competitions, the shows and most of all back to the studio!
My beloved Example Dance Academy students, friends and followers I can only apologise for the long pause between blogs. I am aware that I have not written for some time, although I can assure you that I have started to write many, many times. The truth is I just couldn't. I couldn't write at a time when our industry was so uncertain.
The difference now? Well, the difference now is that there is hope...and whilst understandably partner dancing will remain the worst affected and hold the longest recovery rate, for the first time ever there is a sparkle of hope - and anyone who knows me at all knows I will always follow anything that sparkles!
So, here we are, a year later and it's spring, the days are that little bit longer, flowers are appearing and it just feels like the perfect time for new beginnings.
And what happened in a year? I think most of us would scream "NOTHING!" but, and somewhat weirdly, the dance world may have had one of the most monumental shifts we've ever seen. Firstly tuition has gone digital and although we've had the awkward "no don't step on the cat!" or "your other left - towards the microwave" or my personal favourite "please take your hamster off your head", I think digital teaching will be around forever. It's opened up our world so much. Firstly, it's given all of us (professionals included) access to some of the greatest coaches in the world - distance is no longer relevant. Will this end the minute studio doors open? Almost certainly not. Already I have students booking digital 30 minute training sessions with me midweek in between lessons when the studio would normally be closed. Students who don't live locally are still able to continue and, let's be honest, holidays and snow days are now a thing of the past for very keen students. It's a fabulous development and whilst it will never replace the feeling of dancing in a studio with a teacher or a partner, it has served us well and we've all (myself included) learnt so much.
Example itself has grown digitally over the last 12 months and whilst on the surface we may look to have done very little, we've actually had our most successful year yet. So much so that I'm not even sure where to start. Covid should have stopped everything but it didn't - we adapted. We took part in two online competitions, one filmed in the studio and one (even more bravely) filmed by the competitors themselves at home. Bear in mind Example was barely a year old when covid hit. We hadn't yet had a chance to get out onto the competitive floors, so for our amazing students to enter their first competitions digitally is humbling even for me. And, because we are Example and we like to shine as brightly as possible, we were fortunate enough to take two first places and have students hit the top 6 in every category. Now that's how you lead by Example!
We've also finally got our YouTube channel now which has led to the birth of 'Star Bursts' - short no-nonsense tutorials designed to break down complex techniques and give even those with two left feet an easy way to improve their skills. This has also led to the addition of guest teachers and we were fortunate enough to welcome my dear friend Honor Roche, professional dancer and star of stage and screen. Honor provided us with some amazing jive insights and I'm sure provided welcome relief from my northern tones! Even when we are back, our new channel will allow practice time between lessons, welcome refreshers and of course lesson reminders from me!
The children's academy produced a lockdown dance challenge which made it onto TikTok and, despite it requiring an immense amount of concentration from our young dancers, they have also managed to work through three whole IDTA gradings in Latin American. I'm so proud and grateful to each and every one of our academy members for showing up every single week and working so hard. 2021 will, I hope, bring the start of our 'Example All Stars' as we look to develop the children's academy - so watch this space...
Also I'm afraid to say I've been a bit of a traitor to my school as I was invited to hold some guest workshops for the incredibly talented students as Test Valley Dance School in Hampshire. Many of these students are pre-professional dance or theatre schools and were an absolute pleasure to teach. It was my honour to be asked to teach their first taste of ballroom and latin and I look forward to working with them again in the near future - all thanks to Zoom!
Our adults have also been working hard with many people opting to continue their dancing via online private lessons, a rare chance to focus solely on their individual skills, and it's been monumentally beneficial to have this different but rewarding time together. Our student teachers have continued their studies and are now anxious awaiting the IDTA opening up their professional examinations, then we can look forward to welcoming our first ever qualified teachers - wow!
We've even had charity dance fundraisers. One of our adult students took things to a whole new level by challenging herself to dance an incredibly complicated lyrical/commercial number to raise money for Young Minds. The music and routine reflected the trials of lockdown and raised a fabulous sum of money for such a worthy cause. I'm just blown away by everyone's commitment and enthusiasm.
So I guess this blog is a lot less about the dancing we do and more about the people who do it and the dedication and passion we all share for dance. I'm so proud to be your principal and if we can do all of this throughout a pandemic, just wait until we hit the dancefloor again! I can't thank you enough for getting us through a time when we may have folded and for keeping me sane at a time when every dance teacher in the land wanted to give up. Your loyalty and commitment I will never forget and for those of you I haven't seen - I can't wait to welcome you back as soon as we can.
To quote the anthem of the arts from The Greatest Showman:
A man learns who is there for him when the glitter fades and the walls won't hold. 'Cause from the rubble, what remains can only be what's true. If all was lost, there's more I gained, 'cause it led me back to you...
And We Will Come Back Home.
Example Dance Academy studio private lessons start 16th April
Welcome Home Example