In this blog, Sophie Tolley explains how she first got involved in dancing and how she has forged a successful and rewarding career from it. Sophie has done all that the academy has to offer including group classes, private dance lessons, wedding dance lessons and our very own teacher training course. Greg Gillespie FISTD
How did I first get involved in dancing?
I started dancing at the age of 3 where my parents enrolled me in the local dance school called “Classique” in Leigh on sea, Essex. I began learning Ballet and then progressed onto Tap and Modern by the age of about 5. I took part in various exams and loved nothing more than working towards the annual dance show. It was a little girls dream to be dressed up in sparkly shoes and glistening costumes (that cost mum an absolute fortune!). At the age of 7 I was chosen to be a dancer for the RAD grade 1 ballet training video, something which made me feel very privileged. I also had to learn basic French from a very young age as I was expected to know all of the French terminology for each of the ballet steps.
Unfortunately from the age of 8-11 I stopped dancing due to a knee injury; however this didn’t stop me from pursuing my dream of wanting to become a dance teacher and at the age of 11 I continued dancing again, making sure I monitored my knees at all times. By this point I had moved to Suffolk and had enrolled at Saxstead School of Dance. It was here that I took daily lessons in Modern, Tap, Ballet and Jazz and worked through both the ISTD and RAD syllabus, achieving Distinction (previously known as Honours) in nearly all exams. On two occasions I auditioned for and got into the English Youth Ballet, performing at Ipswich Regent theatre in “The Nutcracker” and “Sleeping Beauty”. My time at SSD also gave me the opportunity to become a Dance Captain in the local pantomime, “Aladdin”.
During my time at high school there was unfortunately very little dance provision. There was no Dance during KS3, GCSE Dance was unavailable and I only got to do Dance at A level through Performance Studies, but even then it was taught by a P.E teacher. It was this experience that actually further inspired me to become a Dance Teacher as I wanted to provide students with more opportunities within school that I was not presented with and I wanted to deliver it with passion and enthusiasm for the subject.
During my exam periods at both GCSE and A level I found I had an advantage against my fellow pupils in that I was so used to memorising steps and each syllabus, so when it came to revising I found it so much easier to absorb facts and figures and my memory was excellent. This, along with discipline, is one of the many advantages that I feel dance can teach us.
By the time I left SSD and Sixth form, I was on Advanced Foundation in Ballet, Intermediate Foundation in Modern and Grade 5 in Tap. I went on to attend Middlesex University and gained a 2:1 in BA (Hons) Dance with Performing Arts. From there I undertook a PGCE in Performing Arts (Dance) and have been teaching Dance in Secondary schools ever since. It was shortly after that I found The London Academy of Dance and was able to pursue my love of Ballroom and Latin dance. At the academy I joined group classes, took private dance lessons and enrolled on the teacher training course. As I was looking for wedding dance lessons in London for my first dance, I was also able to take these at the academy with my husband and fellow dance teacher Dan Tolley.
I will always be grateful to my parents for encouraging me to dance at such a young age…who knew that it would turn into my biggest passion in life and provide me with such a rewarding career.