Breaking Barriers to Dance

Muslim girls participation 1

For some students their religious beliefs and values give meaning to the ways in which they structure and approach their life.  Even though Islam promotes good health, fitness and to engage in physical activity to maintain healthy lifestyles; misinterpretations can lead Muslim women to feel they cannot dance or take part in PE from a fear of discrimination or face negative attitudes (UK Coaching, 2010). If you work in a school with a majority of those with a religious background, then see this guide Improving Participation of Muslim Girls in Physical Education and School Sport.  

Tori went to talk to Emma Wright, PE teacher and dance enthusiast at the school and great example of a non-specialist dance teacher leading dance. Starbank students are representative of the local area which is made up of many cultural and religious backgrounds. Starbank has successfully gained a huge interest within the Muslim female community and this is down to Emma’s hard work, persistence, enthusiasm and openness.

“I am Emma Wright a PE Teacher and Head of Year 7 working at Starbank School. I feel that dance gives people the chance to express themselves and come out of their shell. Not all students are academic, so I think it is vital that we provide additional routes for children to succeed. I currently teach dance once a week as part of an extra-curricular club after school and this year I have also been delivering dance through the curriculum in PE lessons to all year groups.

“When I first tried to get the students involved in dance, the challenges that I found was a lack of confidence and willingness to come out of their comfort zone. I also found challenges with parents where they didn’t understand the positive effect of dance. After speaking to parents and explaining that children are talented and passionate about dance, this has improved and the majority of parents are now on board. It has been very rewarding to watch my students compete in competitions. This just shows that my students can have the same opportunities as others.

“I would like to develop dance in school by offering more opportunities such as a dance show in school to showcase the talent that we have here. I would also like to bring in more dance workshops from people in the industry as students really enjoy inspirational visitors. Eventually I would work towards offering a dance qualification such as a BTEC course or GCSE.

“The advice I would offer would be to motivate students as much as possible to get them involved and never give up. You will find individuals that you least expect have amazing raw talent, they should just the opportunity to show it off!”