I loved everything about my dance school and dance family growing up. It was my happy place growing up and I’m forever grateful for my dance experience.

My own teacher saw something in me early on. I can still remember her kind words of encouragement. She was “old school” in many ways and boy we had to work hard to get approval, but when it came, wow it felt good! I still remember her looking down on me one day as I worked hard in our floor barre class, she said to me “you know you really are beautiful”. I have never forgotten it. They were exactly the right words at the right moment for my teenage brain, and I knew she meant more that just the way I looked.

I was the first one there on a Saturday morning helping out with the babies, my teacher observed my natural ability to teach, and encouraged me to pursue gaining my teaching qualifications. She saw my ability to hold the attention of the students, impart good technique and a love of movement and dance. I’m so glad she saw these qualities in me.

After I finished school I went on to university and continued to teach dance, gaining my teaching qualifications along the way. I worked for a number of years in community development and disability. I was fortunate to be working at the forefront of community development and inclusion.

I was a member of a quite rebellious team within what was known then as the Spastic Society Victoria (now Scope). I was a member of “Rec” team, we were the rebels, we were at the bottom of the organisational pile. But that did not stop us, we knew we were making a difference and we truly understood the power of recreation and community. We understood the benefits of reciprocal and meaningful relationships that formed when a person was participating in something they enjoyed and were passionate about. We also witnessed the all incredible effect on a person’s mental health and well-being when they were socially connected and active members of their community.

Studies show resounding support to the idea that positive relationships and connections equate to a positive sense of self along with good mental health. You can read more on this from one of my earlier blog posts here: http://peninsuladance.com.au/dance-better-therapy/

For me the benefits of a learning to dance were resoundingly clear. Place a kid who loves to dance in a positive, nurturing environment, surrounded by people who also love to dance and the long-term impact can be profound.

When I started my studio I was tentative.

I took over a very well-established school and I was working hard to do what I thought those around me wanted ie. We were established in 1961, trained XYZ blah blah blah….. you know the drill right?

Fast forward 11 years and I’ve now learned that people come to my studio for me and my values not the history of the school. Side note – if you have not got a set of values for your studio I highly recommend creating them. It is a great exercise and provides a great deal of clarity for you as a business owner.

I now have a studio that I adore. I love putting my key in the door and have an incredible team of staff. It truly is my happy place.

So why on earth am I doing this? Creating a network for Dance Studio Owners? There have been two driving forces..

Together really is better

I have been fortunate to be part of some very productive and supportive business networks in my local area. Being an active member of these networks demonstrated to me that “together really is better”. Learning from one another, sharing and celebrating successes, supporting each other through the challenges and the lows, knowing you’re not alone. The list goes on.

When Jess Soloman, Director https://www.backstagedanceacademy.com.au/ last year initiated some social catch ups amongst the Melbourne studio owners, I jumped at the opportunity. I attended a couple of meetings and really enjoyed chatting and connecting with the dance studio owners. Peta Hungerford, Director http://www.hungerfordance.com.au/ also took the initiative to organise a guest speaker at one of the meetings, focusing on HR issues. Everyone was keen to share and learn. I came away thinking that perhaps a more formal structure could work.

A rising tide lifts all the boats

The other key driver for me is that of recent times I’ve been noticing more and more negativity around dance. I am a member of many local Facebook Mums pages and as a Mum of 3, studio owner I hear it all!  It does concern me greatly though when parents come into the studio not really wanting to be a dance mum. I have noticed this happening more and more and I thought wow why is this happening?? Is this a barrier that we will continue to face as studio owners?

I don’t want to see the negativity overshadow the powerful positive and life changing benefits dance can have. I dream of some more driving forces that lift up the industry, Letting the positive out shadow and outshine the negative. I love the saying “a rising tide lifts all the boats”, I really believe that we could be that tide and work together for the betterment of the industry.

Imagine if we had a place to share those stories powerful stories that happen everyday inside our studios. You know the ones… the little kid that tentatively takes the stage for the first time when you never thought she would, the teenager that has a melt down the week before the exam and goes on to smash it because you believed in her. I could go on but I am sure you get my drift.

Imagine how much impact those stories would have on the perception of dance and our wonderful dance community?!

Beyond my comfort zone

To be honest I was nervous, you know the kind of self-talk we all have….. “who am I to do this” …. “what will people think”…. But after a few reassuring conversations with some trusted DSOs I thought okay let’s do this. So here we are here we are!

How can you get involved?

You can contact me via email principal@peninsuladance.com.au or make a booking for a meeting here:

https://www.trybooking.com/QURN

Diary Dates for upcoming meetings (all 9.30am-12.30pm)
• Western Region – Thursday 24th August (West End PA, Braybrook)
• Northern Region – Monday 25th September (Diamond Valley Dance Academy, Bundoora)
• Eastern Region – Tuesday 24th October (Academy of Dance Vic, Box Hill North)