We were thrilled to learn that our very own Teaching Qualifications alumna and Registered Teacher, Anya Zhavoronkova has been awarded One Dance UK’s Rising Star Award.
One Dance UK’s newly-launched Teaching Awards recognise high-quality dance education and dance opportunities for children and young people across the UK.
After completing her bbodance Teaching Qualifications in 2016, Anya set up Skylark School of Dance in Bromley, Kent. Within a year, what started as a few mats in a civic hall is now a bustling dance school with over 70 students. This week we met Anya to find out more about her teaching practice, inspiration, and goals.
bbodance: Have you always loved dancing?
Anya: As far back as I can remember, I’ve always loved dancing. But most of all I loved getting other people to dance. I was known in my neighbourhood as the “precocious choreographer” — my hobby was rallying people together for impromptu dance routines!
What was it like growing up in Russia?
I was born in Moscow but spent a lot of my youth in Russia’s old capital, Vladimir, and in the countryside. I draw so much of my inspiration from my motherland, the culture, nature and its people. I know Russian politics is always in the news, but, if you look below the surface, there is so much more.
What inspires you to teach?
It might be easier to begin with who inspires me… my son. Before my son came along, my professional dance career was cut short due to health issues. I took on a completely different career in jewellery and fashion. So, I started to build up all these doubts about returning to teaching.
The arrival of my son was like an epiphany. I was signing his birth certificate and I had to list my occupation. I just had to write ‘ballet professional.’ You know — it’s a document he will carry with him forever!
So I had to face my fears. A month later I enrolled on the bbodance teacher training course. Shortly after I took up a job with the prestigious Natalia Kremen Ballet School, and then within a year I had opened my own school.
In addition, the joy and benefits dance has brought to my life; the art, the fun, the life-long friendships. Of course, I want to offer that to others. I used to think being on stage was the pinnacle, but this is easily the best job in the world.
What one piece of advice would you give your students?
It’s so easy to get discouraged when you’re young, I see it a lot with young male students especially, so don’t let the views of others deter you. Do what motivates and inspires you. Find positive influences where you can.
In what way has the bbodance Teaching Qualifications course supported your teaching practice?
When I first enrolled I wasn’t sure what to expect — learning to teach is so different to learning to dance. What I really loved was that bbodance doesn’t prescribe just one style of teaching. The training is all about developing a teaching style that works for you and your students. It’s a well-rounded course that covers business development, marketing and the changes in our cultural landscape. It really helped me develop how I teach, so I can adapt my approach to the unexpected.
Do you have any teaching role models?
Many Russian teachers, but one, in particular, is Miss Irina Eghorova. Irina was my very first teacher and someone who “started” all of this for me. Another very special teacher is Judy Breen, with whom I took classes for some time. Judy was my mentor while I studied with bbodance. Now, I am a guest teacher at her school in Sussex — I owe her a lot.
What are your future plans and goals?
Hmm, in Russia we say it’s bad luck to talk about future plans. However, what I can say is that my plans are true to what we’ve discussed. I will keep refining my teaching style and the capabilities of my amazing teaching team. A lot of it will be through CPD. I want to unlock the potential of every child, so I think my journey will never end.
Thank you for this interview!
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(Photo courtesy of Anya Zhavoronkova)