With cuts to school arts projects starting to bite, one Bridlington dance school is determined to give every child access to the benefits of performing.
Self-confidence is a life skill everyone needs to succeed, but how do you encourage a shy child to spread their wings and believe in themselves?
The answer, say many, lies in the arts, but reductions in school budgets are leaving music, drama and dance departments vulnerable to cuts.
According to Michelle Hatton, proprietor at Michelle Hatton School of Dance and Performing Arts in Bridlington, these subjects shouldn’t be seen as an easy target.
"Access to the arts, including dance, has been shown to have such a beneficial impact on children.
“It builds self-esteem, and opens up the world. It helps them to believe they can achieve what they want to achieve in life,” said Michelle, who said she had wanted to be a dance teacher for as long as she could remember.
“The arts give young people the chance to experience things they wouldn’t have the opportunity to otherwise, and I think that’s so important. Being denied these opportunities at a young age has an impact later in life.”
A number of studies have reported a direct link between performing and self-esteem, she said, while others have shown children who regularly get involved in the arts do better at school.
“Learning to perform can actually reduce levels of anxiety and help children build their self-esteem over time. It helps them realise they are good enough,” added Michelle, whose school marked its 20th anniversary at the start of the year.
Dance, drama and music departments in schools across the county are reporting having to tighten their purse strings, and local authorities are finding it more difficult to invest in community arts projects. And that’s why Michelle has redoubled her efforts to keep her classes affordable.
“Children shouldn't have their dreams restricted. Everybody is the same no matter what background they come from. It is such a shame that money stops everyone from having the same opportunities.
“I keep prices low for classes, and the trips are paid for by fund-raising. It’s really important to me that everyone is equal," she said.
She added: "I believe dance should be affordable. Everyone should have the chance to dance, to take ourselves away from our reality and our problems if just for a short time. Dance heals."
With students ranging from age four to 80+, Michelle's school is living proof that dance can be inclusive.
"Everybody can get involved, no matter your age, fitness level or state of health. In dance, you never get bored. Dance is not what we do, it’s who we are.
“There’s always something new to learn, always some way to better yourself, something to work for. Some people come for the social side, but there are shows and exams to work towards if you want to. It can be social or serious.
"As you become fitter you improve your stamina and your posture, you build confidence and you have a better sense of wellbeing. That’s just what dance does."
For more information on Michelle's dance school, go to http://www.michellehattonschoolofdance.co.uk/ or call 01262 400 999 or 07929 859 334.