Sophie Tapley is no stranger to the stage, and now this experienced performer is taking on a whole new role as she becomes the leading lady of her very own babyballet® dance school.
Opening the latest babyballet® branch of its kind in the East of Crawley, Sophie is excited to be joining the 84-strong, franchise network that consists of mainly ex-professional dancers.
After growing up in a little-known part of North Wales called Holywell, Sophie discovered her love of dance at the tender age of 3! But, of course at that time, there was no babyballet® dance schools for little ones and so Sophie took traditional dance lessons in ballet, tap and modern until she was 18 years old.
Selected as a Junior Royal Ballet Associate, teenage Sophie was a young dancer with lots of promise. After being invited to be a British Ballet Organisation (BBO) scholar, she went on to study at the prestigious Laine Theatre Arts in Epsom. The talented dancer took her first job performing on a cruise ship and travelling the world on the high seas, before Epsom called her back. Homesickness got the better of her and she returned home to work in pantomime, appearing annually in some of the best regional pantomime shows in Kettering, Rickmansworth and King’s Lynn. All this under her belt and Sophie is still only 26 years old!
“I’d never really thought about being a teacher. I’d always been on the performance side of dance. That was until I saw an advert to be a babyballet® teacher. I started teaching one day a week and completely fell in love with the babyballet® concept. That was it. I was hooked!”
“The little ones absolutely love it. It is important to have that one on one with the children, I make sure that each child gets that individual attention. The parents can see that from the class, and they love this aspect of babyballet. I really enjoy the songs they’ve brought to it as well. It’s not like anything else I’ve ever taught before. I think it’s really special.”
After teaching at an established franchise for several years, becoming a franchisee and running her own babyballet® dance school was a natural progression for Sophie, but she wasn’t completely sure about it at first.
“I messaged babyballet® about the possibility of running my own school. I thought this was the next step to move forward in my career as I had received so many lovely compliments from parents of the children I was already teaching. This gave me the confidence to think that I could run my own school and hopefully succeed in something that I love doing and I’m passionate about. The babyballet® franchise team were so helpful and gave me all the information I needed. I went for an area with no other babyballet® franchises in operation. Although I’m based in Epsom, my babyballet® school is in Crawley which is only half an hour drive away. I chose it because it’s quite a big area with no other babyballet® teachers, this gives me the opportunity to expand in the future. At present I am the only teacher at my dance school, but I would really love to employ other quality teachers as my babyballet franchise grows. I really want to look to the future and hope this is the start of a long relationship with babyballet.”
Founded in Halifax, West Yorkshire in 2005, babyballet® was set up by mum-of-four, Claire O’Connor, who spotted a gap in the market for non-competitive dance classes that not only accepted the best but encourage children to find joy in dance. Going from strength to strength, the babyballet® programme is now enjoyed by over 25,000 families globally, covering the UK, Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore.
Franchisees attend a week-long training programme at their Head Office in order to then facilitate their franchise.
“Everyone at Head Office was so friendly and supportive – I just loved them! I feel like I can pick up the ‘phone to the babyballet® team about anything. They are all so passionate about babyballet and that motivates me even more. Claire was there during visit too which was great. She was just so welcoming and supportive and made me feel like one of the team from the beginning!
Like many young people learning dance, for Sophie it was all about exams and competitions, but she can see by teaching the babyballet® programme that children need the balance and to just be able to enjoy it. There’s no competition and so learning and having fun at the same time is what it’s all about.
Her new classes in the newest babyballet® dance school in the East of Crawley, are for boys and girls from six months to six years and Sophie has an introductory offer of £15 for a three-week introductory trial. After a month, the babyballet® school has already welcomed lots of new pupils and Sophie hopes to expand her business over the next few years and employ more teachers.
Aside from her babyballet® classes, you may also spot Sophie at sports events as she is part of the Mana Cheerleaders based in London. With appearances at Twickenham and Wembley for International Rugby and the O2 for the huge football event Star Sixes, there’s never a dull moment for Sophie!