Sarah-Jo is a teacher at St Johns Primary in Clifton, each year she brings a group of young people to Stages the annual dance spectacular run by Bristol Plays Music at Colston Hall.
Can you tell us what inspired you to become a teacher?
It all started when dance teacher Tracy Bedford turned up at my Primary School to teach us a routine for Stages. This led to teaching dances for Stages to younger children as I grew older. Whilst I was studying for a BTEC in dance I taught an after school dance club at Parson Street and Victoria Park Primary. I loved teaching so I asked to do some work experience and Parson Street kindly said yes. Soon after, I was off to the University of Chester to study ‘Primary Education’.
What is it you love about dance?
I love dance because it is completely inclusive, anyone can enjoy and excel at it. It builds self-esteem, confidence, as well as teamwork and a sense of belonging. When I walk into a dance studio I can’t help but have a smile on my face. Everything stressful in my day disappears and pure joy fills my body. That feeling is why I dance and teach dance.
What is the best thing about being involved in Stages?
I always teach Year 5/6 a dance for Stages. It is incredibly sweet to hear the younger children talk about how much they are looking forward to taking part when they are older. The children become so passionate about the dance and the sense of fun and excitement from the children, in the run up is priceless.
What are the age ranges you work with?
I teach year 3/4 but I teach Stages to Year 5/6.
Can you describe how you choreograph the pieces of dance the children perform at Stages?
We usually have a theme, which could be linked to a topic or something that has inspired me. This year we have an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ theme as it was the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carol’s book. I choreograph with the children, so they are fully involved with the creative process.
What has dance taught you?
Dance has given me confidence and self-esteem. It has taught me that by working hard you will achieve great things. It has allowed me to travel the world to compete and given me the most amazing experiences. I have met friends for life and it’s led me to have a job that I love. Choosing to take part in that dance club when I was 7 was the best decision I ever made!
What do you think dance teaches children?
Dance is a fun and engaging physical activity that enables children to improve their fitness but to me, dance is much more than that. Dance allows children to be free. It makes them feel good, releases their stresses and encourages creativeness.
What has been your best moment?
The best moment is watching the children perform in front of hundreds of people with confidence. The joy the children have when they walk off the stage is something they remember into their adult lives. I feel a huge amount of pride.
What are your influences?
My biggest inspiration is my first dance teacher, Tracy Bedford. She took me under her wing at the age of 7 and taught me my first ever dance moves. She helped me start teaching dance at Angels Dance Academy and encouraged me to pursue my teaching career. 11 years later she still works n South Bristol, with children to help them achieve.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a dancer?
Do it! Anyone can be a dancer! Whether you dance 7 days a week as a professional or once a week in the community centre, everyone should give it a try! Find a supportive class with a style that intrigues you.