A guest blog by Christina Woods, Creator/Choreographer
I was three years old when I took my first steps in dancing, taking ballet and Irish at the same time. By the age of seven my teachers advised my Mum that we needed to decide between the two. I’m still not sure why I chose Irish dance, because I thought the ballet tutus were much prettier, but what a wonderful twist of fate it would turn out to be – the choice led me to my family and my career.
Dancing has been a huge part of my life, I spent almost 18 years in competitions before auditioning for Riverdance when I was 20. My audition was successful, and I spent five years touring the world, living the dream! Whilst on tour I met my husband Steve, a sound engineer in our crew. We married a few months after we ‘retired’ from the show and settled in Belfast. Steve and I are one of 65 Riverdance marriages and have three of the 112 ‘Riverdance babies’.
I studied to become a dance teacher whilst on tour and had always planned on opening my own school, the natural progression for many dancers. Soon afterwards, I became pregnant with my son and had a few months off from dance. It was then I realised how much of an impact the dancing had on my physical and mental health. I really craved the rush of endorphins, the freedom of expression and the workout for the brain and the body. I’d had the idea of starting an adult Irish dance fitness class for many years but it wasn’t until becoming a mother, that I knew the timing was right.
ReelRobics was launched in November 2011. The class combines the footwork of traditional Irish dancing with lots of arm movements to get the whole body moving. ReelRobics gives you a fun, cardiovascular workout while also improving your balance and strength. I took the first classes in January 2012 with a full house. Since then, hundreds, if not thousands, of people worldwide have enjoyed the classes. Our classes consist of mostly women, with a vast range of ages and from all walks of life. Most of them have Irish dance in common, but there are a growing number completely new to dance and even group exercise. Many of them have seen Riverdance and thought they’d love to give Irish dancing a try. ‘I felt like I was in Riverdance’, ‘It takes me back to my youth’ are just some of the feedback I regularly hear from dancers.
I had been teaching ReelRobics to adults and dance to children for a few years when I realised I needed to learn more about physical fitness and anatomy. Unfortunately, this was not included in our dance teacher training and I subsequently qualified as a Pilates teacher and children’s fitness instructor. I now feel better equipped as a dance teacher that I have the knowledge and qualifications to support participants and keep them safe. I loved adding Pilates into my teaching schedule. It is the perfect cross training for dance.
Since the creation of ReelRobics, I’ve had emails from people across the world asking for support and ideas to run their own classes. It had always seemed like a huge task, but it was the lockdown in March 2020 that gave me the time and opportunity to develop a training programme. I contacted EMD UK and worked with the fabulous team to gain endorsement for ReelRobics instructors.
This past year has been challenging for us all and indeed many businesses have suffered. I am thankful that working through the programme gave me a sense of achievement and focus (in between the home-schooling!) I’ve been lucky to continue teaching my regular clients and draw in many new international clients on Zoom.
We launched the training programme in September 2020 and now we are seeing new ReelRobics instructors pop up in Ireland and – I can’t believe I’m even saying it – U.A.E. and Australia! The programme covers so many areas that I believe are vital, such as principles of health and fitness and running your own business, including legal requirements and marketing.
I would advise anyone with a passion or an idea in something dance or fitness related to and just go for it. If your dream job doesn’t exist, create it for yourself. The world is growing smaller thanks to technology. Your niche exists somewhere, it may just be on the other side of the world. Now, more than ever, people are looking to find new ways of exercising from home.
The team at EMD UK were incredibly supportive and will advise you every step of the way. We’re living in a time of great change, but with that comes opportunity. We can embrace modern technology, and find our niche, no matter where in the world they are located.
Thank you, Christina, for sharing your story and for your kind comments.
If anyone is interested in finding out how to make their dream a reality, we have four levels of Organisation Membership to give you the level of support you need