How performing arts can help children to thrive

From building self-confidence to making friends for life, stage school offers so much more than dance, singing and drama lessons – as SoGlos discovers from the principal at Stagecoach Gloucester, Kate Ridley-Holloway.

By Annabel Lammas  |  Published
Stagecoach Gloucester delivers skills for the stage – and for life – through its fun dance, singing and drama lessons for children aged four to 18.
Stagecoach Gloucester delivers skills for the stage – and for life – through its fun dance, singing and drama lessons for children aged four to 18.

Performing arts classes can help children to build confidence in themselves, work compassionately as part of a team and embrace new opportunities as they learn skills for life.

As Stagecoach Gloucester welcomes students back for its autumn term of dance, singing and drama classes, SoGlos talks to principal, Kate Ridley-Holloway, to find out more about the benefits of a performing arts education.

About the expert – Kate Ridley-Holloway, principal at Stagecoach Gloucester

With a love for the dramatic arts, Kate Ridley-Holloway is an experienced performer and teacher with years of experience working in Stagecoach schools across the south west. Moving to Gloucestershire in 2021, she brings expert knowledge and a whole heap of passion to her role as principal at Stagecoach Gloucester.

Stagecoach Gloucester offers weekend classes in dance, singing and drama for children aged four to 18. With no experience required, anyone is welcome to come along for a two-week trial and join in the fun.

Tell us a bit more about Stagecoach Gloucester. What sort of classes do you offer?

We offer fun, confidence-building classes for children aged four to 18, where students learn skills for the stage – and for life.

We teach dance, singing and drama with dedicated, professional teachers that are all incredibly knowledgeable about their subject and enthusiastic about working with our students to create some magic!

Our classes are very much focused on teamwork, trust and support from both teachers and fellow students. We inspire and encourage self-confidence in a non-competitive space, where students celebrate one another’s successes and encourage each other to be the best they can be.

In short, we teach dance, singing and drama – but in reality, Stagecoach is so much more than that!

Why do you think it’s important for children to try drama, singing or dancing?

As a whole, the performing arts provides a huge set of skills that students can ‘tuck away’ in their tool belt for later life.

Whether it’s having the confidence to stand up in class and read a poem they are proud to have written, or simply speak up when they have an idea to share, Stagecoach – and all arts classes – create a safe space where no idea is a bad one and having the courage to try is hugely congratulated! Failure is seen as progress before reaching a goal.

Performing arts classes also teach valuable skills like trust and teamwork, and that every person has the right to be heard without judgement. This not only helps to boost confidence in students, but encourages children to listen to each other and embrace an open mindset.

By working together and contributing towards an end goal, students can take ownership of what they have created as a team, which inspires dedication, commitment and responsibility, too.

I also truly believe that every performance presents the opportunity to learn something new. From standing in front of a huge audience at a large theatre to taking part in an event at a local fair, each performance teaches adaptability – we want to ‘make it work’, no matter the challenge! And as long as our Stagecoach team works together, we can always put on the most fabulous of performances.

Parents might assume that stage school is more suitable for extroverted kids than children who are more reserved – is this true?

Absolutely not! Stagecoach is a safe space to be heard – whether your voice booms from centre stage or is whispered with the raising of a shy hand.

Everyone is heard at Stagecoach, and everyone listens. Meaning we create one of the most supportive and encouraging environments to learn and flourish. I’m extremely proud of the ethos we have here.

It comes by the bucketload from our amazing team, but it’s also down to the students themselves, who really want to see one another succeed. Stagecoach isn’t a competition of who can be the loudest or the best – it’s a stage for everyone to create magic together. And every student is equal; everyone brings something different, new and exciting to the team.

Do children need to be able to sing, dance or act to qualify for a place at Stagecoach Gloucester?

No, absolutely not. We encourage any child that has a love of performing – even if it’s secretly in their bedroom where they think no-one can hear! – to come along and join in. As long as students come with the energy and enthusiasm to embrace and dive into our classes, the doors are open and we can’t wait to welcome you and introduce you to our Stagecoach team!

As a performing arts school, what makes Stagecoach Gloucester stand out?

At Stagecoach Gloucester, we pride ourselves on having the most awesome of teachers. Our team have all performed themselves – many even started out as Stagecoach students! – and they have all experienced or been through the journey that we ask our Stagecoachers to come on.

Our teachers can really put themselves in the students’ shoes. So, this, paired with the fantastic level of qualifications they have in teaching, means they have the perfect combination of skills to bring the best out of our students.

For students wanting more, we offer lots of extra opportunities to perform and gain qualifications. We offer exams in acting through LAMDA (London Academy of Dramatic Arts) and musical theatre singing exams via Rock School London. These are taught by our dedicated exam team and each student can have sessions to perfect their work in a one-to-one setting.

And, for those who just want to perform, we offer as many opportunities as possible for our students to get on stage – either for our own productions, at other events locally or at larger scale theatres alongside other Stagecoach schools.

We are also Ofsted registered and independently inspected to ensure we are running the best school possible.

What kind of valuable life skills can children learn at Stagecoach Gloucester?

Goodness, where do I start? Just by being in a supportive and encouraging environment, before we have even begun learning how to dance, sing and act, we are learning invaluable life skills. The students learn to listen; to speak up if they have ideas, safe in the knowledge that they will be enthusiastically supported and welcomed by the rest of the group.

Stagecoachers learn to trust and work as a team, realising early on that to make something work, it requires the whole team to put in the effort and commit. Not one person can do it on their own.

In dance, we encourage the use of free movement with choreography that the students can put a little piece of their personality into. The steps are taught, and the techniques are learnt, but the students add in the performance element that brings the piece to life.

This ability to express can only be achieved if each and every student feels supported with huge amounts of praise when they finally let go and allow themselves to immerse in the work. I really believe that this ability to add a bit of themselves into anything they go on to do will make them proud of whatever they achieve in life.

In later life, what kind of jobs can a performing arts education lead to?

Quite simply, and to quote a musical theatre reference (I just had to sneak one in somewhere!): ‘You can be anything you wanna be, you can go anywhere you wanna see, a little hard work and you can do it, faith will get you through it, so many possibilities!’

We provide the same set of skills to every student we meet. But every child embarks on their own journey, which can literally take them anywhere; safe in the knowledge that their Stagecoach tool belt of life skills will always be with them.

And for those students that have a career in the arts firmly set in their sights, we can also assist with helping them into the industry. Whether this is providing performance experience, work experience, gaining qualifications or putting students in touch with the right agent, should they want to go down that route, we’ll be there to help and support students in whatever way we can.

Once a year, we provide the opportunity to get updated headshots with a professional photographer. And for our older students, we even have workshops on CV writing and how to find the right further education or representation for the type of work they want to go into.

What’s the best part of your job as principal of Stagecoach Gloucester?

Just everything! I am extremely lucky that I absolutely adore what I do and, going back to what I said earlier, I really believe that I put a little bit of myself into everything we do at Stagecoach Gloucester.

I become invested in the children’s journeys and I totally share in their successes and achievements – I guess we are all on this ride together at Stagecoach! I wouldn’t do anything else and utterly enjoy every moment of my time with these wonderful young people.

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