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Europe’s first gender-neutral community dance studio

tumblr_static_ro0x5xrjrfkgcs4o0w84gwg_2048_v2   Irreverent Dance, the LGBTQ-friendly body-positive adult dance school, has this week opened Europe’s first gender-neutral community dance studio in Kentish Town, London. Supported by a Kickstarter campaign in 2014 that raised more than £36,000, bookings are now open for the dance school’s first term of classes in its new home.

Irreverent Dance began with a single teacher offering a single gender-neutral, body positive ballet class in 2012. By the end of 2013 there were seven teachers running 60 courses a year. In 2014 it hit 90 courses and ran out of studio space to hire by the hour, so ran a Kickstarter to raise funds for its own studio, which opens this week.

The dance school runs classes starting on Jun 8th in ballet, tap, and partner dances like swing and Latin, aimed at adult beginners who may not feel comfortable in mainstream dance classes due to their gender expression, sexuality, body shape, or physical abilities.

A gender-neutral dance studio means that students who may not fall into the traditional ‘male or female’ binary can also feel comfortable attending classes without worrying that there will not be suitable changing space or bathrooms, or that they’re going to be addressed or expected to dress or behave in ways that make them uncomfortable. This translates to the content of classes, too. For example, though it is traditionally only a female movement form, at Irreverent Dance any ballet students who want to learn to dance en pointe are encouraged to do so, and leading and following roles in partner dance are based on preference, never gender.

Since 2012, Irreverent Dance has worked to provide a safe, supportive and fun space for London’s LGBTQ and allied community to move and socialise together. More than 80% of students said their confidence had noticeably improved after attending Irreverent Dance classes, and over half said their overall fitness had improved. Having taught regular courses to over 500 students over the past three years, Irreverent Dance can now create a space that truly meets its ideals of accessibility, safety, and gender-neutrality, as well as a reliable home for regular classes.

Amanda Leon-Joyce, founder and principal teacher, said “Irreverent Dance is a happy accident. I never anticipated that the informal class I began running for friends in 2012 would become so popular or so necessary. It’s been an extraordinary journey of exploration and learning, and the reaction of our students when we learned together that over 850 people had contributed to funding a new home for them was simply beyond words. The journey only began once we had secured the money, however, and months of hard work and dedication have gone into realising that promise. There are times I wondered if it was even possible, and during those moments I think many of the core team and I were only able to carry on by imagining how it would feel to tell the community that we’d made it. After such a long and emotional journey I cannot wait to welcome them, and all future students to IDHQ. On a personal level, this feels like a victory for diversity in dance and I could not be more proud to be a part of it.”

Jay Stewart of Gendered Intelligence said “It is absolutely awesome to see Irreverent Dance go from strength to strength and to achieve so much. Getting a space of their own that is LGBT-friendly will do so much good for our community. We need our own spaces. In a time when services and spaces are shrinking it is even more remarkable what has been achieved here.

“We all have a right to dance, to let our hair down, to lose ourselves in music and movement, to learn skills – regardless of what we look like, regardless of how we do our gender. Thank you to all the team for your passion and your efforts.

“This space can work to improve the lives of young trans people too. Sometimes trans youth can lack confidence and feel physically awkward because the world around us consistently reinforces the gender binary. This will be a safe haven for them too.”

Alyx, a student, said “Irreverent Dance is one of the only places I have found that is genuinely a safe space. It is diverse and welcoming, and everyone is supportive – this means so much to me as a trans person.”

Prospective students can book online through the Irreverent Dance website.