by Kate Adams
I’ve been teaching creative dance to children for a lifetime; the lifetime of my daughter! She was only a year old when I first started teaching dance to young children in Brighton and now 21 years later, I’m still doing it and yes, I still love it! I didn’t plan to be here at this point in my life, and I certainly didn’t imagine myself doing this when I was the age my daughter is now and fresh out of dance college. However, here I am still teaching dance, still dancing pretty much every day.
It was convenient at first. I could fit the work flexibly around childcare, and I soon realised it was a far better option for me than office work, which paid far less per hour; a big factor when returning to work part-time after having a child. Working for myself had its good and bad points – setting up the business and creating the class content was exciting and I had a lot of drive for it. However, I have always found marketing and self-promotion tedious and challenging. I soon discovered that the actual teaching was a small part of the work. Through trial and error I gained more experience as a teacher, I also acquired new management skills in running my own small business and created my own unique style and service. I diversified and ran ‘making and dancing workshops’ in the holidays and trained to teach Bollywood dance to adults. I learnt to be resilient, patient, persevering and tolerant – skills I was already employing as a mother.
It hasn’t been plain sailing and there have been many challenges along the way, such as an unpredictable income, illness, injuries, and most challenging of all – the Covid 19 pandemic. This hit at a point when I was doing better than ever, with many young dancers signed up to a course of classes that I was now worried I couldn’t fulfil. Straight away I set myself up on Zoom – something I had no experience of whatsoever! I moved furniture in my living room and created a dance studio, I made a lot of noise trying to get the music output right, found ways to place my laptop on top of a chair which was on top of a table, to get the height to see the whole space I was dancing in. I muddled my way through. I probably disturbed the neighbours and certainly annoyed my family but I was lucky as they also found it quite amusing. I created some ‘making packs’ and delivered them to each of the children so they could make props to dance with. Once restrictions allowed, I ran classes outside – I did everything I could to keep myself and my students dancing. Somehow, two years later, when I expected to have given up, I am still going, still teaching, still dancing.
I often ask myself why and how can I still be doing this? I mean it certainly isn’t for the money! In the end it always comes back to an internal need to keep active and keep dancing – above all because I enjoy dancing so much, I want others to feel that too. I know it helps me keep a positive and happy mind and working with children, although sometimes unpredictable, can be a real delight – my favourite morning is a Monday when I arrive to teach at a local nursery and the children are so excited to dance.
As a family, this summer we have spent time celebrating the achievements of both our now adult children, with my daughter graduating from university and my son completing his A Levels. Motherhood has shifted to the next stage where I now find myself in a new place where my children desire less attention whilst my ageing parents are becoming more and more needy. So now, I particularly love being around young children through my work because of their innocence, energy and enthusiasm.
I am probably about 15-20 years older than most of the parents reading this and I hope to keep teaching dance for a while longer. If you are thinking of combining parenthood with self-employed work doing something that you have a passion for – I say, go for it! It may not be the most secure, and it might feel like stepping off into the deep end, so I would advise starting small and part-time. But if you can make it work and still enjoy what you do then it will be worth it because it will bring you happiness, in the same way as bringing up a child and watching them grow into a wonderful young adult does.