Dance inspiration

17:00, Jul 18 2014
Dance teacher Mandy Roberts
DEDICATED TEACHER: Mandy Roberts runs a dance show at the Aurora centre at Burnside.

For 12 years, Mandy Roberts has devoted much of her life to teaching hundreds of Christchurch children to dance and perform confidently on stage.

Dance is Mandy Roberts' life.

She has been doing it since she could walk and has taught the art for almost 25 years.

She says she will probably still be teaching dance when she is clutching a zimmer frame.

"I've always loved performing. I just have a great passion for musical theatre."

The 45-year-old set up Impact Stage and Dance School in 2002, after seeing a need for a combined dance and stage school while doing part-time choreographing work.


After having her two daughters she decided not to go back to her day job in a law office, choosing instead to turn her hobby into a fulltime career.

"I saw a whole lot of young people auditioning with amazing voices but they couldn't dance, or there were these gorgeous dancers who struggled to sing on their own. That's when I thought I need to do something."

She now employs six staff and has about 330 people, from preschoolers to adults, through the school each week.

The school teaches tap, contemporary, jazz, hip-hop and musical theatre.

Roberts, or Miss Mandy as she is known to her students, is at the school six days a week, teaching well into the evening most nights.

She has also started taking classes at schools, which helps to pay Impact's rent, which substantially increased after the earthquakes.

Life is busy, but Roberts said she does it because she loves working with kids and inspiring them to dance.

"I have girls that are 16 or 17 that have been with me since they were four. In 2002 they were preschoolers; now they are young women. It makes me feel really old."

Having a positive culture at the school is something Roberts has worked hard to foster and she has definitely succeeded according to parent Rebekah Inwood, whose sons Lachlan, 13, and Hamish, 7, attend Impact.

Inwood said the culture of mutual support at the school is like something she has never seen before.

"She always manages to get the children to produce amazing results. She gives so much of her own time.

"Well and truly above what a normal teacher would do. She is so selfless," Inwood said.

Roberts said the school is somewhere children can express themselves safely.

"A lot of these kids are quirky and perhaps some of them in their own school environment do not fit the norm, but here they are all the same. We are very accepting here and I wouldn't have it any other way."

However, she does not let the children away with too much.

"I'm quite firm. I've got a bit of a reputation. I often say to them if you want to play, go to Hagley Park. I have a good rapport with the kids, but I just have quite high standards.

"I am very old-fashioned in my values and morals. Definitely teens have changed from when I started 10 years ago because society has shifted the goalposts on what is acceptable and not acceptable. However, I stick to my old-fashioned values even through that is tricky sometimes."

But she said she always receives compliments about her students' good behaviour when they go to events.

A number of her students have gone on to have successful performing arts careers, but most of the students do not see it as a career.

"Lots of my teens want to be doctors or psychologists, but love dancing as a hobby. That's all it ever was to me."

The Press