Saturday, 23 June 2012

An interview with Hayley Rea

Just to let you all know, I have not neglected this poor blog of mine even thought it may seem like it. I'm not making any excuses but its summer after all and busy is a subtle way of describing it. No, I'm not saying it's been non-stop crazy fun. I wish. Unfortunately the majority of my summer is going to be built up of working in an attempt to make as much money as possible. Of course, being a student, it wont be enough. 

Today's post is an interview with dance teacher, Hayley Rea. Even though it was very stressful towards the end, I managed to hand the work in and don't think it's a bad job. Have a read and let me know what you think. 
Hayley dancing with one of her students

To some, first impressions are most important. In this case, dance teacher and owner of Aim High Dance Academy, Hayley Rea has no trouble. Having nothing but a beaming smile on her face, you instantly feel welcomed in her delightful home in Norbury, South London. Although, it is quite hard to avoid the lovely habit that Rea has of not knowing when to stop talking. This only makes you feel more at ease in her company, and it was as if I’d known her for years. Considering her lack of height, its no wonder Rea has the need to be noticed. That’s not to say she completely ignored me whilst she nattered away, I was politely offered any snacks or a drink as she bounced around the kitchen to make her cup of tea, much needed after a ‘long day’.
As the conversation commenced, it was definitely a fact that Rea deserved that cup of tea. The young woman, now 23, has been building her career since the age of 18 and has wanted nothing more in her life than to be a dance teacher. She states: ‘It’s quite a surprise but teaching dance is all I’ve wanted to do, all teachers want to be dancers but not me!’ Qualifying at the age of 18 in 2007 as a professional street and freestyle dancer, Rea always felt one day she would open her own dance school. Gaining as much experience as she could along the way, she finally felt ‘the time was right’ in 2009 and before she knew it, Rea had her own company, Aim High Dance Academy, in three different branches based in Lambeth, Croydon and Merton.
As she took me on a trip back in time, it’s clear to see what motivated Hayley Rea into doing something challenging and why her passion for teaching will, hopefully, never disappear. When growing up, like every typical teenager, Rea went through a ‘rough patch’, as she describes it and dance was the one thing that kept her going. She elaborates: ‘Dance was always my little pick me up, I realised then how much it meant to me there and then.’ Rea mentions that one of these tough times was when her mum couldn’t afford to pay her dance classes as she grew up so, sneakily Rea had to hide at the back of the class just so she could do what she always dreamed of doing, nothing was stopping her. Embarrassingly enough, she did of course get kicked out of them classes. She laughs: ‘Yes I eventually had to leave the class once they noticed I hadn’t paid but I just wanted to do it so badly.’ Of course Rea has no intention of setting this example for any of her students.
It was with this personal experience that Rea felt determined to create a business for many others growing up with similar situations. Since young people seem to have somewhat questionable ways to express themselves these days, Rea created Aim High Dance Academy as a community project for young people in common deprived areas, all funded by comic relief. ‘At first the dance classes were free but in 2011 we started charging so that we could expand and it actually became even more popular, I think when something’s free people think it’s a bit dodgy,’ she laughs. Rea has reached plenty of young people over the course of her career, as of yet she has nine classes consisting of 108 students. She’s certainly doing something right.
The talented woman doesn’t stop there. Alongside her community project Aim high Dance Academy holds a contract with different primary schools and theatres, part of the payment there keeps the community project going, every little helps as they say. 
As Rea describes a typical day in her shoes, she mentions that she also has an extra job working as a senior supervisor in a school, helping her with her own bills and expenses. This clearly shows that the majority of Rea’s hard work is completely selfless; anyone would agree that her willpower lies purely in the young children that she teaches rather than making all the money in the world. She backs up this personality trait by stating: ‘It would be lovely to take a break from it all one day, going on holiday would be a luxury but I remember the kids and that it’s very rare to love the job you’re in so I am very grateful.’ Her commitment is clearly through the love she has for dance, nothing has ever been handed to Rea, it’s all off her own back and she certainly proves that if you’re willing to work hard for something, you can achieve it. The parents of some of the teenagers also notice the respect they have for her. When their teenagers have a particular problem they turn to the owner of the inspiring school. It wouldn’t hurt to have more women like her around really.
It’s no surprise of course to know that Rea’s work hasn’t been unnoticed. In 2010 she won the Spirit of London award, an achievement through arts. Now an ambassador for the spirit of London award, Rea, being part of a network, is able to carry on inspiring young people in even more ways. As well as this, the inspirational street dancer has also been given the chance to carry the Olympic torch. It did come as a shock that Rea feels some slight disappointment. She confesses: ‘I know I should feel proud and I do, I’m certainly exciting but for the last two years I’ve been trying to get the whole dance academy involved but nothings come up, it all seems a waste of time.’
By no means have her other achievements been a waste of time. Time isn’t going to be wasted in the near future either. Having a desire to support and make a difference is young children’s life; Hayley hopes to raise money for a six-year-old gun victim, Thusha this June. Rea’s emotional side shone through as she tells the story: ‘It’s a real shame because she wanted to be a dancer and now she’s paralysed. So me and another girl are going to dance our way across London and meet in Hyde Park, just to raise a bit of money, showing our support.’ I don’t think the public need much more evidence to prove that this enthusiastic performer doesn't have one bad bone in her body.
As the conversation ended, Rea admits that throughout all her success she couldn’t have done it without her mum, Marion Rea and twin brother, Adam Rea. If it wasn’t for her supportive mum, Rea probably wouldn’t have pushed herself to open her own business until now, for that she’s entirely grateful. This gratitude can also be read in the Croydon Guardian since Hayley nominated her mum for ‘unending support’. ‘Now that me and my brother are close, he helps me out if I need it and I know my mum’s always there to do typical mummy things, washing and ironing the schools t-shirts doesn’t sound like much but it certainly helps.’
For more information on Hayley’s dance school got to

Hayley with mum, Marion and Brother Adam. 

Aim High dance academy