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Irish dancer opens dance school in Bexley

PUBLISHED: 09:15 02 October 2018 | UPDATED: 09:39 02 October 2018

Rachel performing at her last British Opens as a competitive dancer. Picture: Rachel Gibbins

Rachel performing at her last British Opens as a competitive dancer. Picture: Rachel Gibbins

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An Irish dancer from Dartford has turned to her passion into teaching and opened a dance school in Bexley.

The figure team for Scoil Rince Celtus in Germany where Rachel both taught at and danced at). Picture: Rachel GibbinsThe figure team for Scoil Rince Celtus in Germany where Rachel both taught at and danced at). Picture: Rachel Gibbins

Having won seven World Champion titles in the ceili, figure and show choreography disciplines, and getting silver in the solo category, Rachel Gibbins also won the European Championships as well as two British Open titles, three German Open titles and two Irish Open titles in solos.

She is now looking forward to teaching the next generation of champions.

“I have been dancing since I was seven years old, when a friend of mine who had an Irish family was going along and took me for moral support,” she said.

“I gave up for my teen years and took it up again as an adult at the age of 20 after a ten year break, when I moved to Germany for my university studies and saw a class advertised.”

When asked what her greatest achievement has been, Rachel said: “That is a really difficult question to answer, as dance has brought me so many opportunities. In solos, my greatest achievement was winning the European Championships in Dusseldorf, Germany in 2013 and placing second at the World Championships just days later.”

Talking about her decision to start teaching dance, Rachel said: “I remember my former teacher asking me at class in Germany why I wanted to dance – just to keep fit, have fun and meet people, to compete, or to learn to be a teacher.

“I answered the former, but a month later I was dancing in a competition and within a year I was teaching weekend workshops and a small children’s class in Neuss, Germany, and soon after I began preparing for my teachers’ exams.

“I had to retire from competition four years ago, as I became ill with ME/CFS seven years ago and after trying to push through and stay competition-fit for a couple of years - which was very difficult - I decided it was time to hang up my wig and dress and focus on teaching instead.

Rachel loves the way that teaching means she can still be involved with dancing.

“Since I started teaching, I can honestly say that there’s not much that beats seeing a class of beginners get their first steps to music, particularly the moment where it clicks and suddenly they get it after working away at a step or a move for a while.”

Rachel also trained as an adjudicator and examiner, having since become examinations coordinator for the World Irish Dance Association.

She would advise anyone thinking about trying out her classes to give it go, even inexperienced people.

She said: “Everyone needs to start somewhere and every open champion was a beginner once.

“Classes are aimed at all abilities – irrespective of whether you have danced before, danced other styles or never danced before.

“Luckily for complete beginners, class sizes are small initially until we get established, so we can make sure they get enough instruction and attention when they are starting out – as with all dance styles, practice makes perfect.

“Mixed ability groups can also be good for new starters – so they can learn by watching the more advanced dancers as well as by practicing their own steps.

“It doesn’t matter whether you want to learn to compete, to learn to teach or just learn to get fit and have fun – once class sizes warrant it, we will split classes by ability, age and focus.

“The youngest I have taught is two and the oldest I have taught is 74 – you are never too old or too young to start learning!

“Studies have shown the benefits of dance to be fantastic - from memory skills to self-confidence to cross-training for other activities.

“The first class is free, so come along and give it a try!”

Rachel runs the classes at Novio Magnus Scout Hall, Bourne Road in Crayford.

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