Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Dance Track Celebrates 25 Years
By Diane Parkes
An innovative project which provides free training to children with a talent for dance celebrates its 25th anniversary in 2022. And to mark the occasion, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Dance Track is inviting everyone who has been through its programme to a celebration.
Launched in 1997, Dance Track offers specialist dance training to hundreds of inner-city children aged between six and 11, providing free classes, uniforms, the chance to see live shows and the opportunity to perform.
Run by BRB’s Learning, Engagement, Access and Participation department, the programme aims to reach into the community and support children who may not have access to high quality dance education. Many Dance Track children have gained places at the Royal Ballet and Elmhurst Ballet Schools and have gone on to dance professionally but the team believe all the participants have benefited.
“I am so passionate about the programme because we are changing lives – it’s not just about teaching dance,” says BRB Learning and Participation Manager Rebecca Brookes. “It’s about teaching social skills, self-development, independence, how to interact and communicate with each other. It’s also about understanding how to work as a team, how to perform, be an appreciative audience member and learn to be a critical thinker to enhance their ballet skills.”
Dance Track would not be possible without its many supporters. The programme’s 25th anniversary activities will be supported by HSBC UK and Birmingham Royal Ballet is totally committed to the project.
Since its launch, Dance Track has supported 3,500 youngsters and now the team are keen to hear from as many former Dance Track students as possible for the 25th anniversary celebrations which include a new book and an event in the spring.
“We want to reach all those people who remember Dance Track, remember their teachers, remember what it did for them – however big or small – to know what that impact was. Maybe it changed their life choices,” says Rebecca. “We would like to celebrate the achievements of everyone, students and staff, who have been involved in the programme.”
Nine-year-old Joshua McKenzie was just five when the Dance Track team visited his school, St Teresa’s Catholic Primary in Handsworth Wood, and he was offered a place on Dance Track. Joshua has excelled and is now a Royal Ballet Associate and an Elmhurst Young Dancer and was picked to dance a child role in this year’s BRB production of The Nutcracker at Birmingham Hippodrome.
“It’s a life-changing experience for him,” says his mum Pei. “We didn’t know that he would find that ballet was something he would go on to become really passionate about. Before this he was someone who liked to be in the background but ballet has changed him and given him so much more confidence. He now enjoys being in the spotlight.”
This September, Joshua’s seven-year-old sister Kimora also joined Dance Track and Pei is grateful for the opportunities the programme brings.
“Most of the kids on Dance Track are just from normal families,” she says. “Dance Track is a place where everyone comes together and we feel we are valued. It is free and they get the best. Everyone is so wonderful, it’s the best programme in the world.”
*If you are an alumni of Dance Track, the team would love to hear from you at email@example.com