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Dancing Teacher Bree Smith talks to us about teaching Creative Courage for Life

December 24, 2021
Dancing Teacher Bree Smith talks to us about teaching Creative Courage for Life
About Bree
Hello, my name is Bree Smith. I am a freelance teacher, choreographer, performer, and mentor. I have been working with Stagecoach for almost nine years, teaching all disciplines but primarily dance. I graduated from ArtsEd with a BA hons in Musical Theatre, I also have an Associate in Street Dance and I’m currently awaiting results from the ADPA (Associate Diploma in Performing Arts Teaching) course. Since graduating, I have performed in numerous West End, touring and regional productions. During a performing contract, I also teach and create. I have such a passion for teaching and choreography. I teach from ages two to 18 at Stagecoach. I also teach Performance Studies, Jazz dance and Commercial dance in further education at a university and drama school. I enjoy watching the students explore and be creative using their imagination and a different side of their brain than some traditional, educational settings allow. In this blog, I will be talking about what Stagecoach has to offer students and a bit about my journey as a teacher with Stagecoach so far.

What the Students Learn
There are so many skills that students attending Stagecoach will learn in their classes. Many who attend stay until 18 years of age when they go off to performing arts colleges, universities, or jobs. Across all 600+ Stagecoach schools in the country, there is a set Educational Framework that all teachers use as a guide to keep the consistency and standard of teaching high across the board. Some examples of what is in the Educational Framework for students in Stage 2 (9-12 years) learning dance are: 
  • Controlling body alignment to support balance.
  • Responding to and showing awareness of changes in dance style and tempo.
  • Showing a wider understanding of dance terminology.
  • Working collaboratively in a group to create choreography for performance.

The Educational Framework sets a standard and target for each student to achieve for each discipline. This is shown stage by stage. Early stages (ages 3-5), Stage 1 (ages 6-8), Stage 2 (ages 9-12), Stage 3 (ages 13-15) and Further Stages (ages 16-18). Stagecoach also allows so much creativity for the teachers and assistants. Each class holds up to a maximum of 25 students and there will always be an assistant in the room to help. The general structure of the students’ hour of dance is as follows: Physical warm-up comprising cardio, stretch, corner-work and technical exercises. As a dance teacher, it is very important to engage the students and gather focus during the warm-up. My way of doing this is by playing up-tempo, relatable songs the students know and love. I often allow one or two students to pick the following week’s warm-up songs as a reward for great classwork.
After warming up, I teach a routine which the students then demonstrate to their peers. I end the session with a cool-down. The students learn a range of dance styles. I specialise in Jazz, Street Dance and Musical Theatre. However, within the dance class, I will teach a few ballet exercises, contemporary floor work, tap rhythms and other styles. We want the students to be versatile and well-rounded performers.

Opportunities to Perform
Stagecoach offers a range of performing opportunities from in-house all the way to London’s world-famous West End Stage and Disneyland in Paris! I believe it is so important to give students these opportunities to showcase what they have been learning in class to an audience. Many new skills are developed during live performances which differ from classwork, such as theatre etiquette, microphone technique, costume, stage awareness and many more. Each year, different Stagecoach schools are selected to perform at The Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End. This is always an amazing day for the students. Sometimes it will be the students’ very first time on a stage. Just seeing the joy and amazement on their faces is wonderful and heart-warming for me as their teacher. Further performing opportunities include Christmas and summer fairs, Christmas light switch-on, an end-of-year, full-scale musical production and performing at Disneyland. Stagecoach is such a well-known and reputable performing arts school that local councils often enquire about our students performing for local events and charity gigs, and professional pantomimes.
Mental and Physical Wellbeing
The students’ mental and physical well being is of utmost priority to Stagecoach teachers. I am First Aid-trained in Mental Health and Vocal Health. All the courses I have taken have given me skills to handle situations appropriately and to nurture and mentor the students’ wellbeing. As a professional in this industry, I never want to stop learning. I am always taking a new course or attending seminars, webinars and classes to broaden my knowledge and understanding. 
At the beginning of each class when I take the register, I do a little check-in with the students and ask them to tell me something positive about their week and to share a joke if they want to. This whole process takes 5-10 minutes of the class but is so vital. By doing this I can quickly assess their wellbeing. 
Uniform and correct footwear are also very important at stagecoach. Students all wear the same uniform to show solidarity. We also encourage them to wear jazz shoes or trainers - depending on what style of dance is being taught - to support their feet. The Stagecoach uniform is warm, fashionable and allows for full-body movement. It can be purchased at any Stagecoach school or online.

Life skills 
Stagecoach not only prepares students for a life and career in the performing arts but also teaches important life skills. Students learn how to communicate with other people, how to analyse, how to speak confidently in front of a crowd, leadership skills and much more. I love teaching dance at Stagecoach Chingford and Stagecoach Walthamstow. The students are hungry to learn and absorb the knowledge and techniques I teach them. I also learn from my students as well. Their imagination and creativity never cease to amaze me. I believe dance can be used as an expression of emotion and a way to tell a story and affect the people watching you.
If you or someone you know wants to join Stagecoach and experience all this joy, then please sign up for a two-week trial to see if it’s the place for you. Stagecoach is open to ANYONE aged 3-18 years. It is a very inclusive company. If finance is a problem, most Stagecoach schools offer childcare vouchers; some even offer full scholarships. Stagecoach Walthamstow and Stagecoach Chingford both run after school on Fridays and on Saturday morning and afternoon. I hope you can find a Stagecoach near you as it is the perfect way to build confidence, make friends and learn new skills. We help our students to find their Creative Courage For Life.

Bree Smith has been treading the boards since the tender age of 10 and is proud to have performed at venues such as; Royal Albert Hall, London Palladium and Prince of Wales theatre in a variety of professional roles. Bree’s passion is Dance and Musical theatre - both teaching and performing. Bree has a wealth of experience in teaching at various Drama Schools, Stage Schools, Dance Academy’s, and Workshops, bringing the most relevant industry techniques with her to all classes. Bree graduated from Arts Educational with a BA Hons in Musical Theatre and has an Associate Degree in Street Dance teaching.
Stage Credits: Currently appearing as Aunt Em and Glinda in The Wiz (Hope Mill Theatre); Flower in Tomorrow May Be My Last (Union Theatre); Ensemble in Evita (Regents Park Open Air Theatre); Grandma in Dick Whittington (Theatre Royal Stratford East); 1st Cover Anita in West Side Story (Royal Exchange Theatre); African Villager in The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre); Henrietta in Scrooge the Musical (Leicester Curve Theatre); Ensemble in Wonderland (UK Tour); Ensemble for The Olivier Awards. 
Other Credits: Tinker Bell in Tinker Bell the Musical Workshop (Bridewell Theatre); Dancer for ITV National Television Awards 2020; Eugenius workshop (The Palladium); Friday Night Is Music Night (BBC Radio 2). 
Teaching Experience: Stagecoach Performing Arts (Early stages - Further Stages), LMA (Theatre Performance on the Musical Theatre Degree and Commercial Dance on the B-Tech Course), ICTheatre Brighton (Jazz Styles on the Performing Arts Degree), ArtsEd (Dance Project choreographer) BOFTA (Street Dance) and various other institutes and academies over the past 10 years.
Qualifications/ Training:
BA Hons - Musical Theatre
Associate Street Dance Teacher
Mental Health First Aider
Vocal Health First Aider
Paediatric First Aider