Be Inspired Series
Choreographer and Dance Tutor
Crescent Arts Centre
What does your job involve?
I teach ‘Second Chance Ballet’ to adults at the Crescent Arts Centre which is situated in the heart of the Queen’s Cultural Quarter in Belfast.
My classes attract all age groups — some students are keen to take to ballet again after years of absence, while others are coming to it for the first time.
Throughout my classes, I work hard to ensure that everyone accomplishes a sound technical grounding, which often involves a return to basic skills, while making sure that students enjoy and feel confident and relaxed with their developing sense of movement.
If my students begin to appreciate the beauty of dance and really learn to enjoy it, my job is done!
How did you get interested in ballet?
My father always had a keen interest in modern dance and ballet. When I was growing up in Belfast, he took me to see the International Ballet, which, at the time, was based in London but often visited cities where no other troupe would perform. I was mesmerised by what I saw.
Everything about the performance fascinated me, the music, the movement of the dancers, and the costumes.
There was no looking back — I was hooked.
What is your career background?
Though I always had a passion for dance, from a professional point of view, it wasn’t until my late twenties that I began to forge my career as a dance teacher.
In those years, I took classes in Dublin before moving back to Belfast where I joined the Belfast Ballet Club.
I got my first job as a trainee ballet teacher with highly-respected local tutor Maxine Graham, where I passed my exams to become a member of the Royal Academy of Dance.
I later got involved both as a performer and choreographer with the Lurgan Operatic and Ulster Operatic Society.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career?
One of the most rewarding aspects of my career is proving ballet is not just for the young, but also the young at heart.
Many of my students are of an older age and have either never had the opportunity to dance as a child or are simply reliving early ambitions.
I take a great deal of pleasure in seeing my students excel to get what they want from the class — no matter what standard they may start at. The Crescent Arts Centre is reopening after a major £7.2m upgrade.
What difference will that make to you and your students?
New, state-of-the-art dance studio and performance spaces will make all the difference. Our new dance studio boasts a lightlysprung dance floor, full-length floor-to-ceiling mirrors and a dedicated changing area.
In terms of the other disciplines on offer at the Crescent, the new extension means that there is more performance spaces, more art and photography studios and flexible workspaces.
The Crescent has long played an important part in Belfast’s cultural and artistic heritage from the grass roots up and the completion of the new building will mark another exciting phase in the continued development of Belfast’s arts infrastructure.
What advice would you give to someone hoping to make a career in the performing arts?
There is no denying that the performing arts arena is notoriously competitive.
As a career, it’s not for the fainthearted. To achieve, you must have real drive and ambition.
My advice to anyone interested in making a career out of the performing arts is to start training as early as possible and get a good dance teacher.
Luckily there are plenty to choose from right across Northern Ireland.
What’s the dance talent like in Northern Ireland?
Northern Ireland is home to some incredibly talented performers such as the Maiden Voyage Dance Company, Dance United and Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company, not to mention all of the dancers that specialise in world dance, and in recent years we have seen the emergence of some fantastic new talents from the world of ballet, too.
Dancing and the performing arts are sometimes perceived as something enjoyed by “somebody else” or only younger children.
But with community arts centres like the Crescent offering dance, performing arts and theatre, classes and workshops to all age ranges and abilities — the arts are actually very accessible to all.
What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love the outdoors and enjoy taking walks in the country and working in the garden — but only in good weather!
I also enjoy travelling, eating out and spending time with family and friends.
Tell us an interesting fact about yourself.
I’m very pleased to say that I had the pleasure to work alongside world-renowned international choreographer Royston Maldoom, who set up an initiative called Ulster Youth Dance Festival in Northern Ireland to draw groups from all communities into the world of dance.
Royston has led the choreography at many eminent professional dance companies including the English Dance Theatre, Scottish Ballet and Irish National Ballet.