January 2021

Street dance in the community

Ernestine Ndzi reflects on her experience of coming to the UK from Cameroon and integrating into local dancesport classes

Growing up in Cameroon, dancing was something that we do for fun whilst playing with friends. Moving to the UK, I realised that there was more to dancing than I thought.

Moving to the UK

I had my two daughters here in the UK. My first daughter was an extreme introvert when she started school and I was looking for activities that would help build her confidence, allow her to express herself and socialise. 

I tried many activities, but none worked until I tried dancing. Making the decision to enrol my daughter for dancing was difficult because, from researching, I knew that dance activities were heavily white-dominated.

Having suffered racial discrimination myself, I was really concerned that the dance school I was considering, Surrender Dance Academy, had only two mixed race children, with the rest all white. I decided to contact the principle of the school, Michelle Arnell and give it a try.

Starting dance school

I remember the day I took my daughter to dance for a trial. As soon as we walked into the hall, we were immediately greeted warmly by Michelle. I was extremely nervous because I did not know whether my daughter would settle and make friends, or whether the other mums would accept me. 

My daughter initially refused to join the class, but Michelle came to talk to her so many times and finally convinced her to participate. As timid as she was, other children started coming warming to her. Before I knew it, she had made lots of friends! 

Not only was the teacher warm and welcoming, the other parents were friendly and encouraging, asking me to let my daughter join the competition class. Before I knew it, I made a family with the dance school and my daughter started excelling in dance exams and competitions.  

Dancing in the UK

Since then, my daughters and I have danced with Dance Beat and now with Dance Addicks. I am proud to say that I have a family with three Imperial Society of Teachers of Dancing schools. Whenever all three schools meet at a competition, I feel like I am having a family day out, characterised with so much laughter and many hugs.  

I have never looked back on the decision for my daughters to take the Society’s DFR classes. The friendliness and encouragement from the dance teachers got me into dancing and even taking part in competitions and dance shows myself. This would never have happened if not for the schools' inclusivity.

Being a part of the dance community

Watching how far my daughters have come is simply unbelievable. I cannot put how I feel into words. Many thanks go to Michelle Arnell who laid the foundation, Jessica Ward (Dance Beat) who made me achieve what I could only imagine, Liz Young (Dance Addicks) who is currently making sure the girls continue doing what they love best, and the Society DFR for having such quality dance schools.

I want to encourage more ethnic minority parents to leave the fear of racial discrimination and allow their children to explore their talent because the schools are truly inclusive. I took that step many years ago now and I have never regretted it.

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