Our Story

How Move Through Life Dance Studio began

from Studio Owner Jo McDonald

When I was a teenager, my aspiration was to get into the Bachelor of Arts Dance program at the South Australian College of Advanced Education with David and Simi Roche, and from there to become  a professional dancer.

I succeeded in the first part of this plan, but after 6 months, I decided it wasn’t for me.  I’m not entirely sure why.  Perhaps it was because my body ached all the time.  Perhaps it was because I knew I didn’t have the talent or the personality to succeed as a performer.  Perhaps it was just because I was 18 years old and wanted to get a job and move out of home.   Regardless, once I’d done it, and a year had passed, I regretted the decision, and I thought I’d closed that door forever.

But then I started dancing again in my early 20s, at a suburban dance school, and loved it.  I was lucky that there were a few others there who were around or near my age, so I didn’t feel too out of place.  But after a few years, I was feeling frustrated. It was a childrens’ dance school after all, and we were just an add on. It was frustrating waiting years for an examiner from the UK to come out so I could complete my higher technical and teaching exam, and it was frustrating working on a wonderful dance and performing it only once at the end of year school concern.  I started wanting more.

Look, it’s a long story, so I’ll just give you the basics. I started dreaming of creating a performance group for people like me.  I talked about it a lot, and was encouraged by the number of people who said they’d be interested in being part of that.  I decided to complete my teacher training in another way – not through the dance society system, but through the university sector completing a Graduate Diploma in Creative Industries (Dance Teaching) through Queensland University of Technology.

In 2004, I had put together a group of performers, and we staged our first production – eMerge.  We did this another time, and then decided it was worth making it official and became an incorporated association.  We continued for a number of years.  Each year I thought the show was even better than the last.

People started saying they wanted a company class between projects, so they could stay in touch and train. And after starting that, I had lots of people telling me they wanted to dance too, even if they hadn’t danced before.   And so we started our general public classes with a series of seasonal dance programs – Get Fit For Summer in spring, Keep Your New Year’s Resolution in summer, and Beat The Winter Blues in winter.  The programs went for 8 weeks each season and was a chance to test out how much interest there was in the classes.  The first program sold out!  And it lead to ongoing weekly classes in contemporary, ballet and jazz at beginner and advanced levels.

It was at one of these seasonal dance programs that I first met Louise.  She had just had her second child and had seen an ad in the local paper.  I can’t remember exactly how it happened, but I came to rely more and more on Louise, and then I asked her to become my Class Coordinator.  Louise’s work made a huge difference in being able to increase the classes and continue the performing company.  Louise has now returned to the job she had before her first child, as a school dance teacher, but I’ll forever be grateful for her work and moral support.

By 2015, we had staged 10 performance seasons, and had seven classes each week for beginner, intermediate & advanced dancers in ballet, contemporary and jazz.   I’d also created a choreographic program (Expand) and a performance initiative (Illuminate) to give choreographer and dancers a chance to create and perform new dance works.

At that point, the organisation had grown and could no longer be managed as a volunteer organisation, as it had started. To address this, I suggested we split the organisation in half.  The company (with its choreographic and performance work) would continue as Move Through Life Inc, and the classes would continue as Move Through Life Dance Studio. This decision was accepted at the end of 2015, and I have been running the classes as my own business since then. Sadly, the company didn’t have the energy to keep going without me pushing it, and folded in May 2016.

I do plan at some stage to bring back the performing company, and to have other performance opportunities for less experienced dancers as well.  I hope one day that the studio will earn enough money to so that it can help fund the company, and give even more people the chance to have dance as an important part of their life, and to train, choreograph and perform.

My other dream is to grow the studio to the point where I can have a physical studio space and offer classes every day of the week, in the morning, afternoon, and evening, so that anyone who loves dance, regardless of age, size, shape, physical fitness, or previous dance experience, can choose to make it a big part of how they stay happy, healthy, creative, and connected to others. And who knows, maybe one day I could even have multiple studios to open the door to dance for even more adults across the state, the country, and (dare I say it?) the globe!