Interview with Connor Taylor: professional ballet dancer turned dance teacher

We speak to Connor Taylor, founder and principal of Adore Dance London in East London, all about the impact of lockdown on creative practice, gaining confidence to dance for yourself, and what it's like to run an entire dance school. 

Interview with Connor Taylor: professional ballet dancer turned dance teacher

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader? 

Hello, wonderful Voice Mag readers! 

I’m Connor Taylor, a world professional ballet dancer turned qualified dance teacher, and now Founder and Principal of Adore Dance London- a dancing school in East London.

What was your own path into dance? 

My love of dance began at the age of 8 years old after attending my local dance school in South Yorkshire. Once a week turned into twice, then three times a week and suddenly it was a huge part of my life. Aged 10, I successfully auditioned for Northern Ballet’s full-time training programme which I did alongside my school studies and then aged 16 I received a place at Central School of Ballet’s BA(Hons) degree course. During my degree, I had the pleasure of working with top choreographers and I performed at some fantastic venues, as well as, running workshops in local dance schools whilst we were on tour. This was my first time teaching dancing when I was running the workshops and where I think my excitement for it grew. Aged 19, I then graduated with a degree in Professional Dance and Performance and went on to audition at various dance companies, receiving a place at Alberta Ballet, Canada. After an amazing time with Alberta Ballet, I moved back home and took some time out of dance for the first time in 10 years. 

Whilst visiting my now husband’s mother (who runs a dancing school), I was asked to run a couple of workshops for her students, which eventually led me to teach more regularly and thus, my love of teaching started! After a few years there and qualifying in Ballet, Jazz and Freestyle dance teaching with IDTA, I moved to London and balanced teaching with a “normal job” in retail as well. When the pandemic hit, both sides of my work stopped overnight and whilst being on furlough, I started to think about opening my own studio, Adore Dance London.

619a04dd49ea4d1453797cb80879eac6174bf893.jpegClayton Smith Photography

Can you tell us about the dance school, Adore Dance London, that you founded?

Adore Dance London is a fun, friendly and welcoming dancing school for adults and children of all abilities and ages in East London. It’s about combining top dance tuition with a relaxed and inclusive atmosphere, far removed from the strict ballet masters/mistresses we all remember. The focus is always on FUN! Our classes now welcome almost 200 students every week, from Adults Musical Theatre dance to children’s ballet and jazz and our most popular class, Adults Beginner Ballet. 

You opened Adore Dance London during lockdown, what realisation did you come to during that quite isolating and difficult time that made you want to create a dance school and how did you make that into a reality?

Lockdown was both a blessing and a curse for me. On one hand, I was on furlough from the job I loved and, like everybody else, bored of zoom meetings with friends and family at home. I’m such a social person normally but I really struggled with the isolation. On the other hand, it gave me the time and energy to think about what I wanted to do next… Open my own dance school! It started off by sharing a ‘register your interest’ form in a few local communities and groups, which to much astonishment received over 200 responses. From that point, I knew I was onto something so with the support of my now husband (Joe), we got everything together and were ready for the moment Covid restrictions eased and lessons could start up.

How’s Adore Dance London doing now that we’re slowly progressing out of COVID-19?

We’re very fortunate to have opened up as lockdown restrictions eased, so never experienced the devastating blow lockdowns gave to so many businesses like dance schools, gyms, yoga studios etc. 

Originally, children could do activities indoors before adults so we launched our children’s classes in April 2021, then in July 2021, adults could also do group activities so we launched adult classes too. Since then, we’ve been growing strength to strength launching new classes every month!

Is there anything that you’ve learned from lockdown that you’ve incorporated into your practice going forward?

Business-wise we’ve remained optimistic but cautious from lockdowns, realising that if things spiral we could be back to square one. We’re very lucky to have great relationships with our venues so we can almost always ensure we can make something work in the worst-case situation. 

On the other side, what we really learned about what we were doing was how dance brings people together. We saw neighbours who might’ve lived just a few doors down from each other and never met, attending our lessons, finding a shared interest in dance, and then fostering great friendships. Being part of the community and seeing these amazing relationships grow has been incredibly rewarding. Almost every week we have parents dropping their kids off and going for a coffee together, or adult classes heading for a bite to eat or drink after class. 

It’s because of this direct impact we’ve felt that community remains a huge focus for us going forward.

What’s your favourite part about running a dance school?

Wow! What a question… I have no idea! Everything?!?! It’s been my dream for so long that it feels so natural. If I had to choose, it would be simply being able to have a career where my passion and hobby are able to also pay the bills. Seeing our amazing dancers improve week after week and find their passion for dance keeps me going on the bad days too!

c93e944a94abf1043fc7721fce2305babe6f86f5.pngConnor Taylor -- Adore Dance

It’s clear that Adore Dance London cares about sharing impactful and uplifting messages through dance, your dance school has been featured in The Metro, The Independent, IDTA Magazine, BBC Radio London, and BBC Radio Kent for highlighting important topics such as improving community spirit, dance for better mental health/loneliness, promoting adult dancing, and raising awareness on cleft palate awareness week. Is this objective something that has come from your own personal experience? 

When I first started the dancing school, as a dancer and teacher, I thought it would be all about the dance. Of course, that’s still true, however, I quickly realised that it’s about much more than that. We bring a community of like-minded people together (almost 200 and growing every week) so how we use this reach is really important. Also, as a male dancer growing up with cleft palate and lip, the stories I’m able to share with local or national news sites can hopefully encourage more boys and more people with cleft palate and lip to get into dance. I had no role models of people who looked like me growing up so I really hope I can give more visibility.

To some, beginning to learn dance can be quite intimidating. Do you have any advice for anyone who is hesitant about giving it a go because of a lack of confidence?

Do it for yourself and not for others. It’s easy to say, but dance can teach you so many skills which transfer to all aspects of your life such as time management, coordination, people skills and more. It’s a beautiful art form and life is too short to worry about the small things. 

I would also recommend finding the right studio. You’ll want to dance in a safe, non-judgmental environment to get yourself going, rather than in a class attended by professionals. I think this is part of the reason why Adore Dance London has done so well. We create a fun, safe and welcoming space for dancers who just want to have fun. There are no snooty noses or strict ballet mistresses in sight!!

f649196cae40ce21fe540c3eff654374ce57912f.jpegClayton Smith Photography 

Who are your inspirations?

I would definitely have to say my inspiration is Wayne Sleep. He was an amazing icon for me growing up, and someone I looked up to. Really he was the only male dancer “in the media spotlight” at the time. 

What message would you send to 16-year-old Connor if you could?

Looking back I would tell 16-year-old Connor not to worry, and to have more self-belief in my work and myself. I would also say enjoy the performances more, as that is the main reason why we dance on stage. I used to worry about getting corrections instead of being in the moment more.

Where can people find more of your work?

You can check out our website https://www.adoredance.london/ or Instagram @AdoreDance.London for some pics, videos and upcoming events

Header Image Credit: Copyright Clayton Smith Photography

Author

Flo Cornall

Flo Cornall Kickstart

Flo Cornall is a recent English Language & Linguistics graduate who is a self-acclaimed film enthusiast, critic, and writer. She attributes her film taste with her star sign (Gemini) which means she'll watch anything from Cheetah Girls 2 to Twelve Angry Men. From her background in performance poetry, she is a big believer that great artists aren't born but made and is passionate about making the arts sector more inclusive.

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