Balliamo Dance Academy: Let’s Dance
Dancer Leila Stewart on training with the top coaches, her dance career, and how to get involved, whatever your age or abilities
What inspired you to found Balliamo Dance Academy?
After travelling the world learning from top coaches, it felt so special to me to come back to my home town to open the studio. I wanted to share such a niche art to the people of Surrey and share the knowledge and experience I have gained from the years previous. Latin and Ballroom is such a beautiful dance style, it’s a joy to teach and a joy to see how much pleasure it gives to people. Not only that but I wanted to give children the same opportunities I was given as a child as it will teach them so much.
Where does your love for dance come from?
Neither of my parents danced, so I’m not actually sure where it came from! I started at the tender age of four with many different styles of dance – ballet, tap etc – but I fell in love with Latin and Ballroom straight away, I was hooked. I loved the different speeds, the different styles between Latin and Ballroom and loved the feeling of it going right when I ﬁnally managed to dance around the ﬂoor with my sister who was my partner at the time! I loved it that much I ended up moving to Italy to dance with the Italian champion at the age of 18, that’s when I started taking it really seriously and started to compete for England.
What kinds of levels do you cater for at Balliamo Dance Academy?
We teach students who have never taken a step before, and regularly hear ‘two left feet’ expression, and experienced competitors who represent their country. Our youngest student is 18 months (baby ballroom) and our eldest is 91.
What are your qualiﬁcations?
I am a qualiﬁed professional Latin and Ballroom Dance Teacher with the IDTA and ABD, I am also a certiﬁed championship adjudicator and lecturer.
Why should more adults take up dance?
More adults should dance for various reasons: ﬁtness, learning a new skill, ﬁnding their conﬁdence again, and it’s a fun activity to do with a partner, friends or even alone! For me, you don’t realise how much you’re working your body when you’re dancing, as opposed to running on a treadmill for half an hour watching time tick by. A one hour dance class works all areas of the body, whilst having fun! Not forgetting it activates a part of the brain that prevents Alzheimer’s. What styles of dance to you offer? We offer Latin, Ballroom, Argentine Tango, Salsa and Sequence Dancing
Is there a social aspect to dance?
Most deﬁnitely yes, we run monthly social events which gives students the opportunity to practice what they have learned in a fun social environment. Many of our students have formed friendship groups and it’s so lovely to see, especially in the children.
How do your students grow as dancers?
Seeing students progress from learning to take one foot in front of the other, to competing on the famous Blackpool Dance Festival ﬂoor, is something that will never stop surprising me. It gives me such pleasure to see the conﬁdence grow, the skill in coordination, muscle strength and so much more.
What’s the most popular dance you teach?
Our most popular dances are probably the Waltz for its elegance, the Tango for its style, the Jive because its upbeat and fun, and the Cha Cha Cha because it’s deﬁnitely a show stopper at events!
What is the biggest achievement of your dance career?
It’s hard to pick one! I would have to say winning the Latin American British National Championships at the famous Blackpool Winter Gardens was deﬁnitely the highlight. However, performing every night for six months on stage with Strictly Come Dancing’s Pasha Kovalev was deﬁnitely close to that! The thrill of a stage performance is very different to the competitive scene, so both experiences were very special to me for their own reasons.
What’s in the pipeline for Balliamo Dance Academy?
Along with our nine children’s classes a week and ﬁve adults’ Latin and Ballroom classes, we have Argentine Tango classes starting in September, Tea Dances for Sequence, Ballroom and Latin dancing. We also have a program class starting – this are for solo dancers that wish to dance with a professional dancer, in either social dances, exams or even competitions!
Balliamo Dance Academy
48 High Street, Epsom, Surrey, KT19 8AG