Has ballet always been part of your life?
It’s really funny – I was into the scouts and running around outside. I cried at ballet class – I never wanted to be there. Then my grandma thought ballet was wonderful and would give me so much. I wasn’t convinced. I didn’t like it – it was a lot of structure. My teacher was old-school, Russian-style, very firm. I was having some issues with my behaviour, but sweet grandma said, ‘Ballet will do the trick.’ And I remember feeling – I am not going to cry anymore, I am not going to let this win over me.
Nowadays, how do you approach students who are as rebellious as you once were?
I trick them. I do not present any structure at the beginning. First of all, I make them fall in love and be curious about it. I use a lot of slang in my class – and once they’re hooked, that’s it! I know the benefits of dance and ballet, so I can’t let anybody go.
How did you come to teach dance classes in your own home?
The school where I taught was kicked out of the place they were renting. My house was about four blocks away, so I said let’s all go together and do our ballet class. That’s the way it started. I remember a special moment when I looked at my class and saw more boys than girls and thought – oh, that is unusual. I always look at their eyes and I could see them believing me. I realised, I’m responsible for these kids because they trust me.
How do you make ballet attractive to boys?
We’ve created a generation of boys. In 2020, five of our students qualified for The Fonteyn, I’m so proud. A few years ago I was invited to teach a class in a local school and thought, I’m going to trick them into rhythm and movement. I put on music they related to and we started with claps and syncopation steps and then a simple turn. At the end of the class I said, ‘Guess what guys. I’m a ballet teacher and what you were just doing is called a promenade. This is ballet.’
What have you learned through teaching dance?
Passion is something that you build. I’m passionate about my work because I had to really fight for it. Dance can change people – not just you, but your friends, family and community.