News Archives - Star Steppers

Goal Setting – Reach for the Stars

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Reach for the Stars

I thought in this blog it would be really interesting to explore the benefits of goal setting for children and young people as a new year dawns.

As adults we are constantly creating mini goals as we write endless to do lists, mull over mid-term goals “Shall I take up adult ballet?” (Which I urge everyone to do!!!) and then those huge life time goals such as career changes, buying a house etc.

But how important is goal setting for children and what are the benefits…

Independence: By encouraging children to create their own goals they gain an autonomy over their learning. As a result children and young people more independently problem solve, sort a strategy for learning and a process for achieving their goals.

Motivation: We all need a kick start sometimes to energise us to be active, to learn, to be productive. Increased effort enables us to work towards our goals with greater persistence resulting in a positive cycle of behaviour. Whereby we set our goals, work with motivation to achieve our goals and then enjoy the positive highs of success.

Focus: Goal setting gives children and young people focus and helps with decision making. This enables them to conduct themselves in the learning environment with increased confidence and a greater desire to learn.

Purpose: Goal setting and achieving goals helps us to gain self-belief, self-esteem, greater self-image and overall confidence, working with a purpose makes learning worthwhile.

Growth Mindset: A healthy growth mindset enables children to understand that who they are now, and what they know and are capable of now, isn’t a fixed thing. Believing that they can change and grow and trusting that making mistakes is not failure but a learning opportunity.

At Star Steppers we have overall classroom learning goals such as being able to skip, being able to pirouette, being able to leap, being able to sing on our own, being able to recall and perform our drama lines and we work as a collective to reach these milestones. For many of our members, the latest goal is to perform on a big stage in front of 500 people! Our goal as teachers is to work closely with each individual child to set personal, attainable goals so that each Star Stepper is able to realise their full potential.

“Becoming is better than being”. By Carol S. Dweck.

Why Bother To Be Creative?

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Why bother to be Creative?

What a good question! Is it necessary in a digital age to be creative? Most of the children I teach know how to use my phone, computer, music devices better than me, if I haven’t got a clue what to do, they swiftly come to the rescue. (And I am most grateful!)

In schools we see more and more technology entering the classroom, which is great but sadly there is less and less funding for creative subjects such as dance and drama. Children are not having the opportunity to participate in these subjects as much and are missing out on cultural experiences such as trips to the theatre. Does this mean we now grow up in a less creative world and is it a problem?

Why does it concern me? Well I am not so sure that it is always a good thing that by simply pressing a button, swiping a screen you get what you want, see what you want, a task complete in a matter of seconds. There is something quite fulfilling about working towards a goal, making progress, learning from mistakes, taking time to achieve. The learning process is enriching and the learned information embeds itself more deeply.

Don’t get me wrong I believe in the power of technology, it is an amazing creation that is empowering, educational and inspirational but I believe in the power of being creative too.

Why is Creativity good and how can we promote it?…

Daydream: The brain is still highly engaged in this state and connections are made, solutions and ideas are formed. Positive affirmations can be internally repeated to boost confidence and self belief. At Star Steppers we encourage children to self problem solve, e.g. how can they perform that jump better? Can they recall the tools and techniques we have given them, can they think about how to apply these methods in their own way to achieve a better jump? By allowing the children to think before doing offers opportunity for them to make their own solutions and then put this into practice in a way that makes perfect sense to them. We encourage the children to have self belief through positive praise and constructive feedback, allowing a child to think about and create their own positive mantras is essential to allow them to be individual, independent and determined in spirit.

Explore: Allowing children the freedom to explore helps with intelligence, physical and emotional growth. One of my favourite drama activities to do at Star Steppers is role play with the younger children and improvisation with the older children. Giving the children the freedom to explore narrative, characterisation, senses and experiences. Resulting in the most incredible ideas and performances. The children immerse themselves in different worlds and roles, they develop their vocabulary, movement and emotional responses.

Take Risks: Without taking risks we are not aware of what we can physically and mentally do, we limit our capabilities. We need to risk take in order to form life skills, survival tactics and to realise our full potential. At Star Steppers we would never purposefully put a child in danger. The risks we encourage the children to take could be speaking drama lines, singing a solo, trying a double pirouette, performing on a stage. You see the children reach for those learnt skills which then embed themselves in the mind and body for the future. You see them trying and trying, not always working the first time, then trying again, each time building resilience. Then once they have taken the risk and achieved the goal, we see the true sense of joy, fulfilment, pride, the confidence boost and the children feel on top of the world!

So perhaps this is what technology cannot give us and why we most promote and engage children in being creative. We need creative people to problem solve, to challenge, to be innovative, to inspire and to excite us. The world would be a very grey place without creative souls and our duty is to ensure that all children realise their full potential and feel on top of the world.

An interesting quote by the technology genius Steve Jobs: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesise new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.”

To Be Or Not To Be A Super Star Stepper

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To Be Or Not To Be A Super Star Stepper

This term at Star Steppers we have been focusing our work on plays written by the awesome William Shakespeare. To some this could sound a bit boring, a bit too serious not really ‘Star Steppers’. But I’ll stop your thoughts there! We have of course explored Shakespeare ‘Star Steppers Style!’ – upbeat, creative, inclusive and, in the main, encouraging the children to explore, challenge themselves and to use their imaginations.

Our youngest groups Step 1, have explored the story of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ via the fun children’s film Gnomeo and Juliet, our middle groups Step 2 have been learning about the story of the ‘Tempest’ and our eldest groups Step 3 and 4 have been acting out and script writing the story of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.

I have to say I was a little bit nervous at first telling the children that Shakespeare would be the theme for this term, I was expecting cries of ”No!”, yawns of boredom. However quite a different response, the Monday Cheam class actually clapped and cheered.

So off we went and 10 weeks later it has been a fantastic project, a learning curve and an exciting experience for all. One child actually said last week ‘you make Shakespeare more fun!’ Which made us feel we had, maybe just maybe, achieved our goal this term!

Step 1 have explored new and complex vocabulary, sung their hearts out to “Don’t’ Go Breaking My Heart” and danced their socks off learning partner steps and tricky stage formations in their ‘Love Story’ dance.

Step 2 have thrown themselves into the stormy waters of the Tempest and have been working on a beautiful piece of children’s theatre which they will perform especially for Step 1, including stage and prop management, physical theatre, sound-scaping, a Monster dance routine and underwater song.

Step 3 and 4 have created, written and directed their own monologues and duologues based on the infamous tale of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ and they perform them beautifully in an edgy, modern context. They have taken such pride in this project and we have been thrilled with how well they have engaged with the themes and story.

Wow! It has been busy but fun and a lot of in-depth learning and progress has taken place too! The progress the all the Star steppers have made is incredible. Children who once were shy are now proudly performing their lines with character and projection. Classes of children are working together as a team to change and/or create scenery, the work ethic and pride is immense and so wonderful to see.

At Star Steppers we pride ourselves in teaching the 3 main strands of performing arts; dance, singing and drama. The benefits of dance and singing often speak for themselves, however the role drama has to play is very important too.

At Star Steppers Drama is not only used as way for children to act out and narrate stories. It is a valuable learning tool and a successful way of building children’s confidence, speech, language and communication skills, team work, spatial awareness and to enhance their imaginations and to build upon their creative responses. The Star Steppers team plan and write each drama script (never ever bought and used directly form the shelf) as we want to ensure each child has an opportunity to act, speak, performa and shine and be the Super Star Stepper they deserve to be!

An interesting thought to leave you with……
“The future of our nation depends on our ability to create – and to be creative. During the coming decades our most important national resources will be human resources. If our nation is to continue to meet the challenges of the future, we need to develop creative leaders.”
From Performing together: The Arts and Education, jointly published by The American Association of School Administrators, The Alliance for Education and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in 1985.

So… Super Star Steppers, step forwards and be the leaders of tomorrow, of course in “Star Steppers Style!”

Believe In Me

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Believe in Me!

Star Steppers Classes

At Star Steppers on Saturday as part of our news circle I asked the children to tell me what they thought they were good at. I received some brilliant responses such as;
“I am good at colouring”
“I am good at swimming”
“I am good at writing”
The children freely and confidently told me about their strengths and talents. I repeated this throughout the week with older students and adults and what was interesting was, that as I spoke to older students and adults they found it increasingly hard to think about what they were good at and were almost embarrassed to confess they had any talents at all.

Following this I thought it would be interesting to explore the importance of self belief and what role Star Steppers classes play in promoting self belief.

First of all I wanted to look at the dictionary definition…..

noun. confidence in oneself and one’s ability. But there’s an alarming lack of self-belief about the team. His self-belief evaporated. I have a lot of self-belief and if I receive a negative remark I use it to motivate myself.

My reaction to this definition is disbelief, how can something so positive as self belief have one positive definition and 3 negative definitions? Self Belief to me is integral to survival!

I researched some scientific dance journals about the link between dance and self esteem and thought about how Star Steppers positively encourages self belief and ensures survival.

Empathy: Star Stepper teachers teach with care and understanding, listening to the children, using a collaborative teaching approach and encouraging the children to have empathy for other members of the class to ensure a coherent community in Star Steppers classes.

Developing Potential: Star Steppers recognises the strengths of individual children and the class as a whole and sets targets that the children are able to strive for and are always complimented for their achievements.

Realistic Aims: Star Steppers ensures class content is attainable and appropriate for our students so that they feel safe, not out of depth and gain a sense of pride and self satisfaction.

Equality: Star Steppers respects children and makes sure the ‘Star of the Show” is a different child every term!

Star Steppers says dream BIG and believe in yourself – now! xx

We dance for laughter, we dance for tears, we dance for madness we dance for fears, we dance for hopes, we dance for screams, we are the dancers and we create the dreams. Albert Einstein.

Life Without Ballet Is Pointe-less

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Life Without Ballet Is Pointe-less

Star Steppers Adult Ballet
Star Steppers Adult Ballet Class
At Star Steppers we have been running our adult ballet class in Reigate now for 3 years and it has become a wonderful community of men and women who share a desire to dance, to challenge the body, to engage the mind and take some valuable time out from their busy schedules.

It has been an honour and pleasure to watch their confidence develop, to see their bodies strengthen and tone, their technique improve and breadth of movement vocabulary increase.

Some of the ladies in the class even requested to do pointe work, to turn a childhood dream into a reality. Of course the answer was yes we can do pointe work but in the back of my mind my initial reaction was ‘ouch!’ as I recalled too clearly the painstaking hours I spent perfecting my pointe work at ballet school. The next week, in they came with new satin pointe shoes the same beautiful pink as newborn babies feet. At first they were tentative, a little fearful and there were a few exclaims of “this hurts!!!” However (6 weeks later) on Tuesday our last class of the Autumn Term the ladies achieved 8 exquisite échappé’s performed in the centre of the room without the aid of the ballet barre and multiple soutenu turns. Wow what an achievement and I told them how proud and amazed I was. Not to be patronising in anyway as I was honestly so impressed. If anyone has watched the challenge of pointe work you would be impressed too. And then I witnessed the true meaning of what this adult ballet class means to its participants. The warmth and happiness that glowed from the ladies as a smile trickled along their face from ear to ear, an inner feeling exclaiming self assurance and worth, their shoulders dropped, they grew a little taller and left the class with a bounce, talking excitedly to their friends about what they hope to achieve next term.

I am fully aware of how valuable this weekly class is to my lovely learners, they struggle with cancelled trains, run out of the house as partners take over childcare, carry the burden of daily stress into the dance studio. But once at the barre, the music strikes its first chord and the first plie is performed, harmony and happiness is restored yet again.

So what is the ‘pointe’ of ballet? Why do it? What are its benefits? Here are the main ‘pointe’s…

Improved cardiovascular fitness
Improved posture
Improved flexibility
Improved strength
Improved mental well-being

Surely the above is what everyone is looking for in a workout, the key components and how amazing all of the above can be accomplished in a ballet class. If you don’t believe me check out the following articles http://www.telegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/wellbeing/8274379/Ballet-classes-Getting-back-to-the-pointe.html and https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/apr/12/take-up-ballet-adult-classes and http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/ztk3r82.

We are so convinced by the wonder of ballet we have decided to open a new adult ballet class in Cobham in January. So please do come and join us…
Cobham – Sacred Heart Church Hall – Mondays at 7.30pm-8.30pm
Reigate – Reigate Community Centre on Tuesdays at 7.30pm-8.30pm.

For more information visit http://star-steppers.com/classes/adult-ballet/ or contact us at info@star-steppers.com 0781 0808 228.

Stage Fright

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Stage Fright

I am sure all of us have at one point felt the fear of having to speak to an audience, give a presentation, karaoke, best man speech and in the case of our Star Steppers performing to an audience that is not just Mummy, Daddy, Granny, Grandad, but a sea of unknown faces.

Hannah and I completely understand the panic the children feel, no matter how many weeks of perfect practice in that split moment nerves take over. However the end performance/ the end product is not what drives us to teach – we are far more excited by the process.

When we sit down to plan the terms work we consider the children first and foremost. Everything we do is child-led, after-all it is their class. We decide what skills need introducing and enhancing. We then create and develop our own syllabus of work; we do not rely on or follow a ready-made exam syllabus as a platform for our classes, which can be repetitive and boring. Instead we hand pick the music for our classes, choreograph our own dance routines, select our own songs (often rewriting lyrics) for singing and devise our own scripts. Thus the process starts….

Tentatively spoken lines that progress to clearly articulated spoken lines, with animation and characterisation.

Wobbly new dance moves that turn into impressive diva dance routines with dynamic, expression and a smile.

Songs quietly sung that turn into confident melodies delivered tunefully with good projection, narrative and an ability to bring a tear to the audience’s eye.

Stage fright has disappeared – we are in the presence of a class full of happy, confident children what happens thereafter doesn’t quite matter as we know lessons have been learnt and barriers have been broken.

As the famous lyrics go – “Its not how you start, Its how you finish’ and the children at the end of each Star Steppers termly performance will experience an inner sense of belief, knowing they can. The breadth of their valuable skills has broadened again, skills that they will draw upon and access over and over throughout their lives… when they step out to give their first lecture, present their latest creation, as they share thank you’s at awards ceremonies and maybe even as the first Star Steppers prime minister!

As the great dancer Isadora Duncan said “Let us first teach children to breath, to vibrate and to feel and to become one with the harmony and movement of nature. Let us first produce a beautiful human being, a dancing child”. A great philosophy to base Star Steppers classes upon don’t you think?

Star Steppers Summer Show
Willy Wonka in our Summer Show

Star Steppers Get to the Pointe

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Star Steppers Get To The Pointe

Following their wonderful performance in the Star Steppers Summer Show in July, our fabulous Adult Ballet Class were looking for a new challenge…. Pointe Work! Some have never done it before and others not since their childhood ballet classes so it’s going to be an exciting new adventure. It is important to build up to this next step with care and good preparation. So we have drawn up some useful exercises to help any budding ballerinas progress to this stage successfully.

Star Steppers Welcome
Pointe Preparation

New Beginnings – That September Feeling!

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Star Steppers Welcome
A warm Star Steppers welcome

New Beginnings

I have always loved September and the start of a new academic year, shiny new writing pads, sharpened pencils, a new pencil case (Hannah is also a stationery fanatic) and the promise of challenge and exciting adventure. In the case of Star Steppers it is perhaps new dance shoes and dance wear, an updated music playlist, new choreography, fresh melodies, crisp new scripts and lyric sheets, fun drama games and most importantly welcoming new children to our classes.

Eager, excited, expectant faces, a tiny bit nervous until one of our delightful Star Stepper members comes along takes their hand and invites them to sit next to them in the news circle. Then they are off and away and before they know it skipping down the room, hi-5-ing their new mate and jumping high into the air with happiness and innocent glee.

There will be many families about to experience just the same, as their children start new schools, colleges and universities and it is so important that both child and adult feel safe, reassured and has confidence that the experience will be a happy one.

Although I don’t have children (though very proud godmother to my gorgeous godson who I love to the stars and back and who is my wonderful best friend and co-director of Star Steppers’ son) I fully understand and appreciate how and why a young person’s first experience at a dance/ performing arts class is so important to get right. Believe you me I have had my fair share of good and bad experiences starting at ballet schools and these experiences have shaped the Star Steppers welcome that we aim to provide! Being introduced to the group, being placed where they are most comfortable and can see what is happening, being paired with a buddy, and a friendly, smiley teacher to say well done and that we really hope to see you again. Such simple things that can often be overlooked. This is why Hannah and I set up Star Steppers in the first place, to be different from your average dance school, to be a kind and warm place whereby children cannot wait to return to the class to learn the new dance routine, to sing that song, to play that game and to be with their friends.

The summer holidays are a great time for reflection and I have been thinking about our mission statement at Star Steppers and the promise that we deliver….

“Classes in a fun and safe environment. Young people are encouraged to develop their skills in dance, drama and singing as well as having their imaginations and creative minds nurtured”.

The key words being FUN, SAFE, ENCOURAGED, CREATIVE and NURTURED. I am proud to say that is exactly what Star Steppers does do! Children are not dictated to, not made to feel scared or stifled – in fact the complete opposite. We have managed to create a wonderful performing arts school where children are the heart and centre of what we do. Encouraged to share their ideas, which often form the basis of our work. Skills and techniques are taught in a collaborative way and every child is given the opportunity to shine.

So adults please feel safe and encouraged that your child will be nurtured and will have fun at Star Steppers and we look forward to seeing many new faces as well as our fabulous Star Steppers members in September.

Best of luck to you all as you start your new adventures and I cannot wait to hear all about them in the news circle!

Anna xx

Star Steppers Circle time
Star Steppers News Circle

Little Steps Makes Big Steps

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Little Steps Make Big Steps

Hannah and I have had lots of fun this term trying to hone our toddler teaching skills. Recently, we have had the wonderful pleasure of teaching tiny people from babies to tots each week in Reigate Priory Park. These sessions have been free to all who attend and come rain or shine we are greeted by eager faces who cannot wait to wiggle and groove and of course belt out ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen. What has been amazing to witness is the fast progress these tiny people have made, stronger on their feet, better balance, improved coordination and gained confidence in expressing and sharing ideas for role play and creative play.

It’s free, so I hear you asking the question what does Star Steppers get out of it? Well I cannot deny Hannah and I love the cuddles we receive and the tiny hand that finds its way into our palms fills us with a warming love and the cheeky smiles that often meet our stressed and tired faces make us laugh. Hannah and I have learnt that yes the practice of teaching traditional nursery rhymes has its place but children already know those tunes and have actually taught us the actions (we are now professionals at performing nursery rhymes and I am sure that one day this will come in useful when faced with the role of entertaining our own children!!) Children love modern, upbeat pop songs whether it’s Taylor Swift ‘Shake it Off’ that they love shaking to or singing a lovely Disney song, holding a pretend microphone and performing like a pop star. Their little faces light up and awaken, they are completely engaged in the activity and one of our favourite lines we hear is ‘My mum has that song in the car, I know this one’ and we know that when driving home and the radio is on playing Taylor Swift ‘Shake it Off’ further learning is taking place and being embedded in these young minds. However the main reward is seeing the benefit dance, singing and drama has on the lives of little people and we strongly feel that this should be an opportunity experienced by all willing tots.

Even though as Head of Performing Arts at a Pre-Prep School working with Nursery children to Key Stage 1, I observed first-hand the benefits creative subjects had on the academic learning of young people, the experience of seeing the benefits of dance, drama and singing out of the school environment is over whelming. If you don’t believe me please read the following research taken from the National Dance Education Organisation…

“Dance is pre-verbal, beginning before words can be formed. Children possess the natural, spontaneous ability to move and dance before they have command over language and is stimulated when thoughts or emotions are too powerful for words to contain.”

“Children move naturally. They move to achieve mobility, they move to express a thought or feeling, and they move because it is joyful and feels wonderful.”
“Dance is a natural method for learning. Children learn movement patterns as readily as they learn language.”

“Dance is a powerful ally for developing many of the attributes of a growing child. Dance helps children mature physically, emotionally, socially, and cognitively.”

“Physical Development: Dance involves a greater range of motion, coordination, strength and endurance than most other physical activities. This is accomplished through movement patterns that teach coordination and kinaesthetic memory. Young children are naturally active, but dance offers an avenue to expand movement possibilities and skills.”

“Emotional Maturity: Dance promotes psychological health and maturity. Children enjoy the opportunity to express their emotions and become aware of themselves and others through creative movement.”

“Social Awareness: Children learn to communicate ideas to others through the real and immediate mode of body movement. Children quickly learn to work within a group dynamic.”

“Cognitive Development: Young children will create movement spontaneously when presented with movement ideas or problems that can be solved with movement response. Movement provides the cognitive loop between the idea, problem, or intent and the outcome or solution. This teaches an infant, child and, ultimately, adult to function in and understand the world.”
 
Please visit http://www.ndeo.org/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=893257&module_id=55419 regarding this research and for more information.

So Hannah and I have found our method; fun, upbeat, energetic, engaging classes but we are not going to give all the answers away in this blog so please do visit our toddler classes to wiggle and groove with us soon.

Anna x

Performing Arts For Boys

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‘Let’s hear it for the boys!’

Performing arts classes are not just for girls and we spoke to some of the boys who attend Star Steppers to see what they think about it…

‘I like Star Steppers because I get to see my friends and dance.’ – Jake
‘Thank you for running Star Steppers I love the cool dance routines that you teach us.’ – Henry
‘Star Steppers is fun, star steppers is great. Come and join in we’re having so much fun. I like drama you might too.’ – Ethan
‘I like it because you get to show your family what we have done. My favourite thing is dance.’ Ben
‘I like Star Steppers because it’s active.’ – Joel
‘It is enjoyable for everyone.’ – Oliver
‘I like star steppers because I love singing, dancing and acting and its very fun.’ – Harry
‘I go to star steppers because it is cool and we do shows.’ – Billy
‘Star Steppers is because we do lots of fun activities.’ – Daniel
‘I love star steppers, it is the best club in the world.’ – James
‘I joined star steppers because I wanted to be a good dancer, a good actor and a brilliant singer. I got to do all those things because star steppers helped me do all of them. Come and join it’s the best club you will ever join!’ – Joseph

These were just some of the comments we collected from the 31 boys aged 4- 12 years who took part in our bi-annual Star Steppers show. Each and every one of them took to the stage, performing song and dance numbers and came off the stage beaming and buzzing with the joy and success of their performance. They loved it and it was such a pleasure for Hannah and I to witness.

Hannah and I have the amazing opportunity of teaching boys in all of our Star Stepper schools 6 days a week. Their energy, creativity, physical ability bring an exciting dynamic to the class and every single one of them are keen and eager to learn new dance skills, to sing and to act. Our team of teachers work hard to ensure Star Stepper classes meet the demands of the mixed gender learner groups and we can confidently say that the boys and girls thrive from learning from each other, form confident friendships and we believe they gain a higher learning and social experience.

Sometimes dance isn’t even considered for boys and is seen as a hobby for girls. However dance requires stamina, strength, agility, coordination, flexibility, agility, discipline and focus, the same skills required to perform well on the football pitch and there are many famous footballers who use ballet and dance to support their training and attribute ballet to their success on the pitch. Rio Ferdinand started out at ballet school! Each week the boys at Star Steppers develop these skills through learning technical dance skills, dance routines and choreographing their own dances. The boys at Star Steppers love to be creative and we encourage this, as it gives opportunity for them to develop their artistic skills and gain confidence in self-expression and communication.

The boys that attend Star Steppers have done so for a long time and are truly committed and I believe this is because our philosophy at Star Steppers is to engage, nurture, inspire, develop and ensure equality.

One of my favourite quotes is by Ashley Page, the male Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet ‘Dance is capable of transcending perceived barriers and enriches the lives of so many others.’ And I do believe Star Steppers has given a positive dance experience to the boys who attend our classes and I am sure they will go on to share their love of dance and performance with others and will spread the word that ‘boys can dance too.’