babyballet is the UK’s leading pre-school dance programme and started life with ten pupils in a children’s play gym in Halifax, West Yorkshire in 2005.
Collectively, the UK and Australasian teachers instruct over 20,000 young children in ballet and tap dance in over 1500 babyballet classes a week.
Sharing the news at babyballet’s annual conference, founder and director Claire O’Connor, who also featured in Channel 4’s Big Ballet documentary, said: “The last twelve months have been the most successful in babyballet’s history as franchises continue to grow at home and abroad. We continue to look ahead and with aims of introducing babyballet in America and Canada, encouraging more boys and girls to dance and exercise, the future looks bright for our pre-school dance training programmes.”
babyballet continues to inspire thousands of young children from 6 months to 6 years of age to fall in love with dance and exercise. The classes provide a happy and safe environment for boys and girls to learn to dance and gain confidence. Through her own personal experience, Claire spotted a gap in the market for non-competitive dance classes for children of all abilities and the company has swiftly grown into over 100 franchisees worldwide.
After featuring in Channel 4’s three part inspiring arts documentary Big Ballet, Claire still continues to spread the positive message that the documentary upheld – everyone can do ballet! Claire’s dream of bringing ballet to all, not just the most talented students, began with her own painful experience of taking up dance. She attended classes from the age of three but she soon discovered she didn’t fit in.
Claire explained: “I loved ballet but it didn’t love me. I was the wrong shape and I felt that only the best students were accepted. It left me with a tremendous lack of self-confidence and a very poor body image which followed me through to later life. I started babyballet so every pre-school child who attends class has a positive experience of dance whilst still learning the basic ballet technique, with a focus on play and lots of fun.”
Working closely alongside her mother Barbara Peters (babyballet co-founder and registered Royal Academy of Dance teacher and former worldwide examiner for the RAD), Claire developed babyballet’s unique syllabus and teacher training programme and set to work to bring fun, non-competitive quality classes to pre-schoolers.
babyballet teachers are carefully recruited, trained and supported in order to provide the very best tuition. By offering four key stages of ballet and tap classes, every child builds confidence and social skills and develops their basic ballet technique, coordination, musicality, balance, posture and rhythm. With an emphasis on fun, without any pressure, the fully qualified teachers are joined in class by the babyballet bears Twinkle & Teddy, who help to encourage the young ballet stars to interact and share as they learn.
Over the last seven months Claire has visited Australia on three occasions to spread the word and build babyballet, and has encouraged more women to expand their individual businesses.
Claire adds: “All the teachers in Australia and New Zealand who have taken out a license are women and already run their own dance studio. With babyballet’s knowledge and experience we can help our franchisees develop as business leaders too.” Claire hopes babyballet teachers from the UK, Australia and New Zealand will have the opportunity to meet at a worldwide conference followed by an exchange programme for teachers from the UK to work in Australasia, and vice versa.
As babyballet expands and financial turnover continues to grow, the launch of the new website and the opening of a larger warehouse in Halifax will meet demand for the ever-growing interest in babyballet and its global brand.
Claire sums up the context of the success and said: “At the heart of babyballet is the young children and watching them on both sides of the world enjoying the pre-school dance programme is a dream come true. We hope we can encourage more young children to dance and exercise whilst building their confidence and enjoyment of dance too.”
Claire, along with her company, has won numerous national and regional awards (including a prestigious netmums award and an ITV This Morning mumpreneur award – full list below). babyballet also fundraises. Last year, babyballet joined forces with Tommy’s for Tommy’s Danceathon 2016. Supported by Amanda Holden, television presenter, actress and singer and judge on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent, the Danceathon and young babyballet stars raised over £371,154.47 for Tommy’s – enough to fund a Tommy’s research centre for nearly a year, helping save many babies lives.