September 17 2014 Latest news:
Anna Dubuis, Reporter
Thursday, July 12, 2012
Beth Price always dreamed she would become a professional dancer, but at the age of 13 she had an accident while performing that left her unable to walk.
A year of being stuck in a wheelchair followed with Beth realising that dancing wasn’t an option and she needed to take her life in a different direction.
But when back on her feet and working in a shop she always knew things didn’t feel right.
So her mum, who works at Kings Farm Primary School in Gravesend, suggested Beth started an after-school dance class for the pupils there.
Things kicked off and last year Bethany’s Dance School launched, offering free classes to children in the Kings Farm estate, an area with long-standing social and economic problems.
For Beth, now 20 and living in Chatham, it is a way of keeping dance in her life. “I did miss performing when I first started and I was welling up, but now I channel all my energy through them. Watching them gives me my enjoyment,” she said.
Her dance school takes over the Miracles Youth Centre in the estate on Thursday evenings and Saturdays and offers street, hip-hop and freestyle dancing to children aged four to 17.
She started off in September with about 30 children turning up – now there are more than 60, and it’s not just the young ones that come along. “I started the dance classes at the school and from then on the kids were asking if I could do more. More and more people came from the community and now the parents also come and have a coffee morning while they wait for their kids.”
Beth is convinced in the benefits for children not only for learning a new skill but for life in and out of school.
“When we first started we had a lot of worry from the parents saying the kids had bad concentration and poor attendance and social skills.
“But once they have been with us we had really positive feedback and I check up on the kids that they are going to school,” she explained.
“They come here and seem to be a lot happier. I know a lot of them have a lot going on at home, it is a bit of an escape coming here. It is something to do rather than hanging out on the street, and their confidence has gone through the roof, I can’t shut them up!”
Having launched on a start-up fund of £200 the dance school faces a struggle to stay open. She and her four volunteer teachers run a tuck shop to pay the rent and Beth earns money from doing classes at local schools, but isn’t drawn to teaching private dance lessons. “I haven’t got any money ties and I can do this for them now. I get rewards from the kids. They get to experience the same as I had as a kid, and at the time you take it in your stride but looking back you are thankful for those experiences.”