There are few people who can light up the room and put a smile on the face of every adult and child they come in contact with.
Alison Bailey is this kind of person and true to this statement, her smile, graceful step and perfect posture ensures that she is living each day true to her spirit and abilities.
She is the owner and founder of Dare to Dance, a local dance school in Holder within the Molonglo valley. Every Saturday I get Lindy dressed for her Jazz lessons where she meets with other girls from her school and I joke with the other mums about how much I hate myself for dragging myself there every weekend.
“I feel like this is an exercise in self-hatred” I said last week to another mum and she laughed and said “I hear ya.”
The truth is, despite how much I hate lugging my daughter and myself around for what seems like an almost entire weekend jam-packed with her all activities – I truly love that Alison has instilled a passion for dance in my child like every other boy or girl in her classes. Seeing the excitement of each child as they spin, twirl, plie is pure joy and really helps the woes of the world disappear, if only for 45 minutes.
In addition to running a successful dance studio that is bursting at the seams – Alison is really just a lovely down to earth woman who values the importance of family. Alison has gone through the ringer herself through many (expensive) failed cycles of IVF, survived a broken marriage and then met her husband Brad and had miracle baby Lexi after a few years of trying with some health obstacles requiring treatment along the way.
In 2016, Alison’s older brother Tim (yes he shares the same name as weatherman Tim Bailey) received a diagnosis of a Burkitt’s Lymphoma (a rare type of lymphoma that only occurs in 1% of adult lymphomas) and required an urgent life-saving stem cell transplant.
Alison is the youngest and only daughter of four children and luckily was a match for Tim.
The transplant was a success and Tim underwent chemo and radiation therapy before going into remission, only to be hit again with the same cancer not long after. Tim spent six months at the Canberra Hospital, alongside him was older brother Jeff who put his family and business on hold to be by Tim’s side 24/7 as both his emotional support and his decision maker. In 2017, Tim’s cancer returned and he spent around eight months at Westmead hospital in Sydney. Brother Jeff and close friends continued to support Tim 24/7.
Alison and her family, especially her little daughter Lexi remained a strong family unit and supported Tim through his journey. In 2017 at Dare to Dance’s annual concert there was a special dance dedicated to Lymphoma awareness and I cannot watch it without shedding quite a few tears! Get the tissues handy. Watch the video here
Last week was Dare to Dance’s 12th annual concert (Ballet Delights & The Witches of Oz) and for the first time it was held at the Q (Theatre) in Queanbeyan. I have to admit at first I was sceptical that it would be a mind-blowing performance like the other mums said. I was used to going to concerts at the local school or community centre but this performance was professional, seamless and just a delight! It was modern, there was great seating and even a bar!
I would also like to give a shout out to Ollie, at only 10 years old, he demonstrated immense talent and a fierceness that would rival any adult dancer. That kid was born to dance and stole the show!
I was exhausted after two days so I can only imagine how tired Alison, the dancers (some training 10 hours per week) and all the amazing mums and dads who volunteered on both the rehearsal and performance were.
It was hand on my heart the best dance concert I had ever been to, and to see all the young kids, adolescents and even mums dance filled my heart with so much joy. I even got teary when I saw Alison and the mums do a jazz routine because I could see how much work, passion and love went into their performance.
Nothing is as exciting though as seeing your child light up on stage and perform, and that experience was priceless – I thank Alison for instilling a love of dance in my child – a love that I hope carries her through life.
So to best get to know Alison, I asked her a few questions!
When did you get into dancing?
My parents enrolled me in to dance when I was 3. When I was little I suffered from central sleep apnea, (from 3 months of age to about 7 years) and until I was 7, slept in a cot hooked up to machines in my parent’s room. Any time I fell asleep I would stop breathing, some nights my parents would need to revive me. Needless to say my parents needed a half hour break each week and dance seemed like the perfect option after they had three boys. It was the one activity I did and didn’t cry doing so that was a win for everyone! As a mum myself, I have no idea how my parents managed and coped. Hats off to them both.
What was it about dancing that made you so passionate about it?
I personally just loved the creativity, the music and the dedication involved. There was definitely a social aspect as well as Dance was my second family. As I got older and started spending more and more of my time at dance I really started to realize what I wanted to do when I grew up.
What do you enjoy most about running your own business?
There are definitely pros and cons to running your own business. When I became a qualified Ballet teacher I just wanted to teach. I didn’t necessarily want my own studio, however full time hours couldn’t really be offered and I was tired of working a full-time job 7am-3pm and then teaching 4pm-9pm. There was no way I could maintain that, healthily. So opening my own school was really the only way I could make it work. It’s very scary having everything fall on you. I was only 21 at the time and was super naive and strangely confident. Like ‘what could go wrong?’ Kind of attitude. Which was strange as I was never an overly confident kid. But somehow I did it.
Alison was also a finalist in Canberra’s 2014 Telstra Business Woman of the Year Awards.
What advice would you tell aspiring dancers?
Don’t give up, no matter your size or shape. If you love it just do it.
I struggled with my weight a bit growing up as I was diagnosed with endometriosis and adenomyosis at 11. I had my first laparoscopy to remove it at 11 and it continued to grow back. Hormonal weight was awful and I was never going to be as skinny as some of the other girls.
Over the past 22 years I’ve had nine removal surgeries, trialled I think every medication, put up with massive amounts of pain, and had fertility problems.
What advice would you tell your younger self?
Don’t be so shy! Get out there meet people, do workshops and meet more likeminded people. Don’t let lack of confidence or anxiety hold you back.
If you were not a dancer, what would you be?
I honestly have no idea. I wouldn’t be me. Although after watching the Movie Twister as a kid I wanted to chase tornados. So maybe a tornado chaser?! 🤣
Do you believe a healthy body image is important when pursuing dancing as a hobby or career?
Yes I do as we influence impressionable children. However healthy can mean lots of different things. I think a positive attitude is more important. I don’t feel comfortable in my skin currently as I’m sporting injuries which affect my day to day living and have contributed to decreased levels of movement. This has changed the way I look and feel massively. But all I can do is take baby steps to get back on top.
What gets you out of bed every day?
My four year old. She literally jumps on me….. But apart from her it’s work! It’s knowing what I need to get through to try and please everyone as best as I can.
What do you wish for your daughter Lexi?
Lexi is fiercely independent and strong willed. I want her to do whatever makes her happy. When I ask her the question of ‘where will you work when you’re older’ she always says ‘the ballet house where you work Mummy’. That makes me feel proud. But I know she’ll change her mind a thousand times.
How will you be spending Christmas?
I generally host both my family Christmas and my partners family Christmas at our house. We do a roast dinner and have a day filled with playing and mingling.
After Christmas the studio needs some TLC so I’ll be straight in to that. Before you know it it’s term 1!
Get on your dancing shoes!
Talking to the other mums at Dare to Dance one of the things that they said to me that stood out was “we love sending our kids to Alison, this is our third concert and we will continue her classes as our children get older. Alison promotes a healthy body (and mind) image to her students and she has become instrumental in their development.”
If you are considering what activity to do with your child, I cannot recommend Dare to Dance highly enough. I hope your child catches the dance bug and enrols in one of Alison’s classes. If you are considering a fun, social activity where you can get fit at the same time, consider one of Dare to Dance’s adult classes that are run on the weekends and weeknights.
Go to https://www.daretodancecanberra.com.au/ to find out more, or call Alison on 0407 138 325. Term 1 starts Monday 3rd February when school goes back, and discounts are available for siblings and more than one class.