Updated: Aug 28
Mardi Daniell is the mother of three children under 8, a dance teacher, and runs her own dance studio, which keeps her incredibly busy. She’s always thinking about other people, especially her own children and those she teaches.
Like many dance studio owners and dance teachers, Mardi had managed to secure her dream job teaching dance, but she had lost the opportunity to enjoy dance for herself. And as much as she loves her work and gets enormous satisfaction from it, she longed for the chance to be able to just dance and not think about anything else.
She had been aware of Dragonfly Dance (then Move Through Life) for a while, and wanted to dance with us, but because she spent so many nights away from her girls teaching her own students, she felt too guilty to take another night to do a dance class for herself. And then she discovered our daytime dance classes, and started coming along to an intermediate level morning ballet class on Mondays.
Now Mardi loves starting her week off every Monday with morning ballet, which gives her a great workout, calms her mind (which is always thinking of a thousand things she needs to do), helps her maintain her own technique and dance skills, and stimulates her creativity for when she goes home to plan her own classes for the week.
Now, Mardi sees Mondays as her ‘ballet day’, and an important part of her week.
Does Mardi’s story sound anything like yours? Keep reading for her full story so you can decide if a morning ballet class with Dragonfly Dance would suit you too.
Mardi Daniell is the Principal of Stepz Dance Academy, located in the southern suburbs of Adelaide. She spends much of her time teaching kids to dance, and bringing up her own three daughters, 6 year old twins Evie and Alice, and 8 year old Livi.
Even though she’s busy, every Monday morning, Mardi takes an hour for herself to go to a morning ballet class at Dragonfly Dance. And when her daughters are on holidays or sick, she brings them along too, and they join some of the other children that accompany other dancers in the class from time to time. During school holidays, when she’s not teaching, she’ll often come to a jazz class on Wednesday nights as well.
Choosing to make a life in dance
Mardi started her studio in 2000, and her vision was to create a fun and high quality dance studio.
“When I started my studio, I wanted it to be the sort of school I wanted to go to as a kid. So I wanted it to be fun and low pressure, but still teach good technique and have a high standard” she said.”
She admits that running the studio and bringing up her children makes life pretty busy, but she’s working in her dream job.
“There’s always more to do, and I’m never finished, but it’s flexible so if I want to take a ballet class or do something with the girls I can. Coffee is the number one thing that gets me through” she laughs. “And probably writing everything down, multi-tasking and doing a million things at once.”
“I actually love going and teaching because so many of the kids have been there so long, so it’s just lovely. I love seeing them so happy and excited every week. For a lot of them it is their favourite thing they do. It might be their only thing. If we hold any extra events, the parents are like ‘of course she’s coming. Where else would she want to be?’ That’s very rewarding, and we have high retention which is great.”
Before she started Stepz, Mardi trained as an Occupational Therapist (OT)
“I completed the four year course, but never worked as an OT. I got to the end and had this moment where I realised I didn’t want to do this. I was 20 and so out of my comfort zone with what I was expected to do at such a young age. I drove home from my final placement at Whyalla and realised it wasn’t my thing. I thought I’ll audition for Centre of Performing Arts. Luckily enough I got accepted and loved the next three years dancing full time.”
“I was teaching all through that time anyway. Then I did Bachelor of Education majoring in dance and drama. Then did a lot of relief teaching, a few contracts. I was teaching at another studio for a while and then wanted to do my own thing. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with Livi that I stopped doing relief teaching. I’d always planned to go back, but I probably won’t. Running my studio is more than a full time job and it would be hard to go back after having the freedom.”
Dancing for herself again
Mardi had been thinking about doing a dance class for herself for ages. Then she finally took the plunge and came along for a class. Now her week doesn’t feel right if she doesn’t make her Monday morning ballet class.
“I really wanted to do something for myself. And I didn’t want to be the person running it” she explained. “You spend so long worrying about everyone else, it’s just nice to be there and dancing or myself.”
Being able to attend a morning ballet class made it all possible for Mardi.
“I had heard about Dragonfly Dance, and thought it was great because you can still perform and dance at a high level. But with the twins being really little I’d feel way too guilty taking another night away, because I was back teaching pretty quickly after they were born.”
Mardi’s favourite dance style is jazz, and she didn’t think about doing ballet initially, but then once she started, she fell back in love with it.
“I started with up with contemporary when I first came to Dragonfly Dance. I didn’t think about doing ballet then. Contemporary has never been my favourite style. It’s always been jazz. And then contemporary got cancelled, and the morning ballet class is held on a Monday, which was perfect so I decided to try ballet and have never looked back.”
Morning ballet class to start the day with a workout
“It’s been the best thing ever because I love Jo’s ballet class. It brings back memories from when I was a kid. An added bonus I hadn’t thought about is that it’s such a good workout. That’s another reason I never want to miss a class because I don’t want to go to the gym. It’s an extra bonus. Monday morning is perfect because you get your week started on a positive note. And then of course the people are so lovely, and we always have a bit of a laugh together.”
“I feel more dancey and feel good that I’m actually still keeping up my skills even though I don’t teach ballet. The technique makes you feel great. You still feel like a dancer instead of just a teacher.”
“It certainly gets me going because on Mondays I go home and choreograph and work out my classes so I’m warmed up and ready to go, so that’s good. And I love that Jo is so good with descriptions and technical information. It’s helpful and I like thinking about the technical side of doing a certain step or sequence.”
“If I didn’t come back to ballet, I probably would have ended up going to the gym. I used to love the gym when I was in my 20s, stuff like Step which is highly choreographed. I can’t do that anymore because if my knees. Ballet doesn’t cause a problem for my knees. I feel like it’s very gentle really but I get a good workout. I definitely leave with my heart rate up but I don’t feel like I’m jarring anything.”
Morning ballet class focuses the mind
The Monday morning ballet class is intermediate, and Mardi says it’s the perfect level for her because it’s not too hard, but not too easy.
“I love still being challenged, getting pushed, and getting a great workout at the same time. I feel like I’ve always got a million things in my head and when I come to ballet I just think about ballet for an hour. If I wasn’t at ballet I’d just be on the computer tackling my never ending ‘to do’ list. So I get off the computer and I don’t think about what I have to do during that hour. Sometimes you don’t feel like going but once you’re there it’s always fun.”
“So I love the challenge, the workout, and the friendly people. It just makes me feel good. I don’t want to miss a week because it’s part of my week. Monday is ballet day.”
“And I love that it’s all adults. It’s not judgemental at all. Everyone is friendly and just doing their own thing, not worried about what you are doing. I think it’s the perfect mix of being fun, but also being challenging. If it was too easy I’d be bored. It’s challenging but it’s not too stressful or strict.”
“I suppose I was a bit nervous before my first class, but once I came to that first lesson I thought ‘yes this is perfect’. I was happy to find something that is the right level. Because you don’t really know what level it’s going to be or the style. I’m not really into the full-on contemporary stuff. So I think it was just exciting that I’d finally found something I enjoyed. Finally I’m doing something for myself that was the right amount of challenge.”
“My memory isn’t great but I feel the ballet classes are helping, because I have to switch my mind on. You can’t just vague out. Practicing in the kitchen helps me remember the sequences from week to week and has become a bit of a habit. I can often be found doing port de bras, releves and even fouette exercises in the kitchen while I wait for the kettle or microwave! Multitasking at it’s best.”
If you want to dance, you can find the time
Like most other working mothers, Mardi’s schedule is pretty full. But she has discovered that it is
possible to find the time, and that it’s important to do so.
“Lots of dance teachers or working mothers probably want to do something like this but think they don’t have the time, but I’d say take the time for yourself. Everyone is so busy and so overwhelmed, but it’s so worth it, and you can make time. Just get out and give it a go.”
by Jo McDonald, published 2018