My Dance Story
I wanted to tell you all a little bit about me and how I came to open Rise Studios, in 2005. I’ll try to be brief, but I warn you, there is a lot to tell!
I’ll start at the beginning…
I grew up in the Seaside town of Torquay, in Devon. Started ballet at 3 years old, at Castle School of Dancing, Torquay. I loved it, and was desperate to start modern and tap, but back in the day, we weren’t allowed to start that until aged 6, so I had a long wait! As soon as I was 6, sure enough, I joined the modern and tap class too. There wasn’t an option to do street dance, performing arts or anything else at my local dance school, it wasn’t quite as widely available or popular as it is now.
At 16 years old I left Torquay Grammar School for Girls and went to the local college to do A level dance, Business Studies and French. The head teacher told me ‘What a waste. You should be staying here to do proper A Level’s, not dance’ This made me even more determined to do it!!
I didn’t last long at college! It wasn’t where I wanted to be. So, I made the decision to audition for a Vocational dance college. I was one of 6 children, and there was no way my Mum could afford to send me to dance college, she could barely afford to get me to London for the auditions, but I decided to audition anyway and see what happened.
I had auditions booked at Laine Theatre Arts, Doreen Bird and Arts Educational. After attending the first audition at Laine’s, I fell in love with the place, and cancelled the other auditions. Firstly, Mum couldn’t really afford to bring me back to London for them and secondly, I KNEW Laine’s was the place for me!
It was a few weeks wait to find out if I’d been successful or not. I remember waiting for the letter- yes letter NOT email back then! It finally came, and I’d been accepted. Then the realisation hit… there was NO way I could afford to go. I remember calling Betty Laine, and explaining that we couldn’t afford it and asking if there were any scholarships available. Sadly, they had already been allocated.
I didn’t give up hope. I decided I was going to Laine’s no matter what, and there began my fundraising journey! Firstly, I went to the library- remember, the internet wasn’t what it is today! I found a book that contained all the local company listings, and I began writing to them all asking for sponsorship. I must have written to hundreds of companies, explaining my situation and asking for help.
Meanwhile, my Gran (Who used to be a clown in the circus, and a dancer- I guess that’s where I get it from) decided to put on local talent shows in order to raise money. We did several heats, at local venues, and then a grand finale, where I also performed my solo audition piece for the audience. The newspapers got wind of what we were doing, and ran a story about it, which helped massively! The local pubs held raffles for us. The Princes Trust donated £250 towards uniform. The Council for Sport and the Arts donated £1500 towards fees and a family friend donated £2000.
I finally had enough to attend for ONE TERM! This was 2 days before term was due to start. I remember calling Betty Laine (I was only 17 years old at this time) and telling her excitedly, that I had enough money to come for one term. She arranged ‘digs’ for me, and two days later Mum drove me up to Epsom in Surrey, to begin my dance training.
Knowing that I only had three months, I worked my butt off. I did every class available to me, most days filling in my hour-long lunch break with an extra class. I also got a job after college, and worked from when I finished until 10pm every night, to pay for my digs, and food. It was hard work, but I knew this was what I wanted to do.
After just two weeks of being at Laine’s, Betty Laine rang my Mum to tell her she was offering us a Bursary for the rest of my tuition, for the full three years! I cannot describe my emotions when hearing that on the phone from Mum- Shock, disbelief, excitement, joy, it was crazy, and finally my hard work had paid off.
The next three years at Laine’s were amazing. I took every opportunity offered to me and continued to work hard in every lesson.
After graduation in 1998, I did a couple of contracts onboard cruises, which gave me the opportunity to see the world, get some much-needed performance experience AND get paid. On returning from my cruise contracts I based myself in London and spent the next 10 years working as a professional dancer.
Professional Dance Career
I did many awesome jobs, but amongst my favourite was a trip to Iraq just after the war there. I went out for 5 days to be part of a show for the troops. It was the most humbling and surreal experience I have ever had and I will never forget it. 5000 soldiers watching our show with their guns over their shoulders. They were allowed one beer each, incase they got called off to war halfway through!!
I guess my most prestigious jobs were dancing at the Royal Albert Hall at the Brit Awards in the 2006 (I think) Such a fabulous experience. I also performed there for the Classical Brit awards for Catherine Jenkins, dancing a tango!! Also, an incredible experience.
I loved performing and still miss it to this day, but I had ALWAYS wanted to teach, and my dream had always been to have my own dance school. I had a lot of teaching experience, having assisted and taught since the age of 15. In 2005 I finally started up Rise. I started with Baby Ballet, Primary and Grade 3 with about 7 kids in each class. I had been teaching for various other schools up until this point, which had given me an insight into how a studio was run. I learnt a lot about what I liked and didn’t like when it came to being the principal, from watching others do it. Being approachable and building a community within my school was really important to me, and I really feel that we have achieved this with Rise.
I have worked hard to build Rise Studios to the school it is today, and sometimes I forget to sit back and look at all our wonderful students and everything we’ve achieved and just be grateful and proud. Writing this blog post has reminded me to do this in fact, watch this space for my next blog where I’ll talk about all the things our students have achieved at Rise!
I hope that for anyone reading this I have inspired you to not let go of your dreams. Dream big and don’t give up. I could have sat back and said ‘I can’t afford to go to Laine’s but I didn’t. I fought for every opportunity that came my way. Nothing was handed to me on a plate, but I was driven and determined and never gave up! You can absolutely achieve everything you set out to do if you really, truly believe in yourself and go for it!
What Dance Taught Me…
I am stronger than I know (both mentally and physically).
I am determined
I am resilient
I am dedicated
I am passionate
I am beautiful
I am respectful of others
I am social
I am creative
I am ambitious
I can do anything I put my mind to
I am willing to fight for my dream
What will dance teach your child?
By Claire Munday.