The Royal Academy of Dance: Breaking Barriers
Her Move are delighted to being working with the Royal Academy of Dance on a series of articles breaking down the stereotypes of what it means to be a dancer.
In this interview, we meet with Sophie Rebecca, one of the first ever transgender students to take a RAD exam.
There are over 8,000 teachers registered with the RAD worldwide – many qualified in a range of styles. By choosing an RAD Registered Teacher you are choosing quality, safety and professionalism. Dance has been proven to have numerous overall health and wellbeing benefits, and many RAD dance teachers cater for all levels and abilities whether you have no previous dance experience or are at professional level – and everything in between
Sophie Rebecca is an IT consultant and adult dancer who started dancing later in life at the age of 33.
Sophie was one of the first transgender students to take a Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) exam and talk openly about the process.
Her struggles with gender identity made it hard to fit in at ballet class; it was important for dance class not to be another place where she was forced to conform. After 20 years of searching, she went on to find a place with an RAD teacher, and continues to dance regularly today.
What inspired you to start dancing?
‘When I was really young, I remember watching some professional dancers on Blue Peter and, like many youngsters, I fell in love with the movement, the pointe work and the costumes! I never had the opportunity to dance when I was young and didn’t start until I was 33.
When I found my RAD Registered Teacher, who taught me the correct female variations, this kicked off my journey. I passed my RAD Intermediate Foundation ballet exam with a Merit and this year I performed in the USA for the first time.’
How do you feel when you dance?
‘It’s so hard to describe the feeling when I dance. The closest approximation I’ve come to is giving my soul wings. There’s a real freedom I get from dancing and a sense of achievement as I’m always improving.’
Have you ever been confronted with any stereotypes in relation to your dancing? If so, how do you respond to them?
‘I get confronted by stereotypes all the time. People have this image in their head if you say ‘ballet’. They have a belief that there’s such thing as a ballet body or that it’s delicate and feminine. It can be – but it can also be powerful and strong. It takes strength to be a dancer, both physically and mentally. Professional dancers are the most inspirational people to me.’
What would you say to someone who wants to dance but might feel like it’s not for them?
‘I’ve met many adult dancers, and many people who stopped dancing, or never got the opportunity. My advice to everyone is always the same - go for it! There’s no such thing as a ballet body, ballet is for every body.
You’ll find an incredible community of supportive and friendly adult dancers that has grown so much over the last 5 years I’ve been dancing. Every 3 or so months I attend adult intensives, like The Ballet Retreat, where 45 adult dancers will learn a variation over a weekend and the friendships we forged there have lasted years.’
What benefits do you feel, both physically and mentally, from dancing?
‘Mentally dancing keeps me together. I have a busy and stressful job. I dance about 6 hours a week over 4 days at the moment. My time in the studio is my time, the time no one and no problems can find me. My legs have muscles on muscles! It keeps my whole body toned.’
Why do you think it is important to keep active?
‘Keeping active is important to remaining healthy and mobile as we get older. Dance is unique in that your brain gets a work out too. There are some amazing people who have started dance in their 60’s, 70’s & even 80’s. You only need to look at the RAD Silver Swans programme for inspiration. It gives me hope I’ll be dancing for another 40 years or so!’
Is there anything else you would like to add?
‘I’ve been very lucky that my dancing has led to opportunities to perform. I will be jetting to LA to perform in the summer!
I know many dance schools give their adults the chance to perform at their local shows which is so very rewarding and enjoyable. I can’t describe the feeling of waiting in the wings to go on stage. Many of the younger students tell me what an inspiration the adults are to them!
I feel that taking exams is a great way to mark your progress or focus on a goal. The RAD has no upper age limit on their graded exams. I started at Intermediate Foundation and I’m currently working towards my Grade 7 and Discovering Repertoire Level 2 & 3. Taking exams is quite the experience but incredibly worth the effort.
Lastly, I’d say to anyone sitting on the fence about dancing to just give it a go! You’ve got nothing to lose and a lot to gain. Whether you used to dance and don’t know why you stopped, or never got a chance, there’s an amazing community of adult dancers just waiting to greet you and a huge range of health benefits to boot!
I hope to have many more opportunities to perform and to share my love of dance in the future.’
By choosing an RAD Registered Teacher you are choosing quality, safety and professionalism. There are over 8,000 teachers registered with the RAD worldwide – many qualified in a range of styles. Find your nearest RAD teacher here.