April 2019 saw the 10th year anniversary of my business. I didn’t mark the date as it’s been a busy year, and one that is full of milestones, momentous change and lots of goings on. The main thing is the new studio build which is taking over pretty much everything, preparing to leave my current leased studio, not to mention the recent trip to the Cheer and Dance World Championships, where, 10 years after starting cheerleading “just for fun”, 2 of the our dancers competed representing Scotland.
So I thought I’d use this blog for a wee reminisce down memory lane in celebration of my (missed) 10 year anniversary (and I promise a proper celebration when the new studio opens though I’m not committing to a date yet)!
Scroll down if you just want to see up to date pics of the studio and skip the fluff!
I started my adult evening classes and kids after school classes on April 13th 2009. It makes me laugh now to remember that the bookings came in by letter with cheques enclosed. The main classes were Salsacise (this was before Zumba had really hit the UK)and Dancercise - fun dance fitness classes for a range of abilities… not much changed there then. That first Spring I also helda packed out “Dirty Dancing masterclass”, an adult’s cheerleading taster and a very random Bananarama wear-yellow-and-dance-to Banarama greatest hits fundraiser for World Cancer Research Fund (the first of many dance fitness fundraisers I’ve held andbeen involved in over the past 10 years).
I also started with cheerleading and street dance for primary school and senior school pupils as well gentle lunchtime classes. Actually looking back at my first timetable, things haven’t really changed that much - including the random but fun dress up / themed dance events!
The classes sold out pretty much immediately. I was lucky to start at a time when there was a growing interest in dance as fun and fitness - Strictly was still in its early years, and films like Jai Ho with big dance scenes had got people interested too.
There wasn’t much available for adults interested in dance which was what led me to set up Isle Dance. As someone who had always danced, through school, uni and beyond, it was the thing I missed most when I moved to the islands. I was able to continue my yoga and pilates practice (thanks to Mike and Peggy Briggs) but I needed something more too!
After having approached the Comhairle, an Lanntair and the sports centre about the lack of provision for adult dance I carried out a survey of 250 people to show demand (there was lots of it!). It was Tony Wade who gave the confidence and encouragement to make a go of it myself. I was working full time, and it seemed like a stretch of the imagination to think I could start a dance business - I had been working at a community dance provider in Glasgow, but I didn’t feel remotely confident enough, nor had I any business experience. However, I began to see the merit - the demand was obviously there, and it would fulfil my need to move as well as well as helping me meet new people in a place I’d only been living for a couple of years. Although I might have secretly hoped, little did I think it would become my full time career.
So I did some training and shadowing, attending dance conferences, classes and workshops, picking people’s brains and researching different dance styles, and finally advertised my evening classes. Since then there has been no looking back.
Over the last 10 years I cut down my full time job, eventually taking the leap and going fully self employed in 2010. I’ve trained further, being lucky enough to get in on Zumba at the beginning, and also diversifying by training as a Pilates and Yoga teacher. It hasn’t always been easy - I work hard to try and stay relevant and fun and always try to stay true to my original aims of giving people the chance to dance and move and have fun with it and generally feel good in their bodies. I spend more time than I’d like at the computer, but I’m lucky that I get to move every day as part of my job.
I’ve been lucky too, having a fantastic customer base, many of whom have stayed with me for the past 10 years. Having a wee look through the original adult bookings I can recognise many of them as current customers . The people I’ve taught over the past 10 years have become friends, and I’ve seen them going through their own milestones, attending their weddings and birthdays, and often moving on to teach their children / husbands / parents / friends. At one point I had 4 generations of the same family attending! I’ve taught people through their pregnancies, and then had their babies at class too (like wee Aria who comes along with Mummy and 10 year customer, Ruth).
I’ve had wee ones come along as cute, but uncoordinated, children and leave as confident young adults, and more recently we’ve had a number leave to study dance full time. Many of our original kids who attended my first block of kids’ cheer classes, are still coaching and helping with our programme. It is this continuity and community that makes my job so enjoyable, and makes our studio so special.
So where am I now, 10 years on? Still enjoying teaching classes and pinching myself that this is my job.
And why you really starting reading this blog - what stage is the new studio at now?
Well, we’re moving on all the time. There are walls and partitions so I can walk around the studio and get a feel for the space. The velux windows went in this week (we’re starting to see the light!).
Two of the most important issues to me are the floor and the heating. Both the sprung floor itself, which is essential for keeping a dancer’s joints safe, and the surface of the floor - which we want to avoid being too shiny / slippy or too matte / sticky. The heating is something it’s difficult to control in a rented space, and often over the last 10 years we’ve struggled with being too hot or too cold so I’m determined to get this right in the new space.
We’re currently sourcing the best sprung floor which is compatible with our heating choice (underfloor air source central heating). These decisions are so huge, so important, and so expensive that we need to get them right, so the pressure is on as we research options.
Hence i’m up again at 5.30am, unable to sleep, worrying about flooring, spiralling costs, heating systems and my current lease ending in 6 weeks. But the overwhelming feelings I have (despite the stress), are complete and utter gratitude to everyone who has came along to classes over the past 10 years and made this dream possible, and total excitement for the adventure that is just around the corner. I know that whenever the new studio is ready, and whatever it looks like, that you guys will make it a unique and special place!
Thank you, thank you, thank you!
PS were you one of the originals? Would love to hear from you!