FirstSteps School of Dance has over 60 adult students dancing with us every week, each one with a story to tell. Welcome to SpotLight on a Student, where we meet one of our adult students, find out a bit about them and why they choose to dance.

Claire Parkin – Author (and dancer)

  • Could you tell us a bit about what you do outside of dancing? (job, line of work, family role)

In my previous life (pre children – I have a twin son and daughter) I was a writer and sub-editor for women’s magazines. I went freelance after the children were born, but work started to dry up about five years ago. At around the same time, I hit the dreaded 50 milestone, and realized it was time to fulfil my lifelong ambition – to write a novel – because I knew if I didn’t even try, I’d always regret it.

To cut a very long story short (involving sweat, tears, tens of thousands of words, and what felt like just as many rejections), I bagged my dream agent and a two-book deal with Pan Macmillan.

My first novel – The Final Hours of Muriel Hinchcliffe MBE – is due out in March this year. I am thrilled and terrified in equal measure.

  • How long have you been dancing with us?

For three years. I started during Lockdown – I’d keep my daughter company during Zoom lessons, sneakily dancing off-camera in another part of the room. I mentioned this to Kit, and how much I was enjoying it, and she suggested I try one of the adult classes. I did, loved it, and she and Espe have been stuck with me ever since.

Claire Parkin with daughter in ballet class together.
Claire with her daughter
  • What inspired you to start dancing?

See above – though I’d been thinking about going back to it for years. I’d attended ballet classes from the age of four until I was eighteen, and always regretted giving it up. I was never any good, though I desperately wanted to be a dancer when I was in my early teens. I’d avidly watch episodes of The Hot Shoe Show – my heroine was Cherry Gillespie. Now there’s a blast from the past.

  • What do you get out of dancing?

So much! The ability to socialize with other adults after a day sitting alone in front of my PC. The dancers in my class (Wednesday adult) are the loveliest people – supportive and just great fun.

It’s also brilliant for de-stressing. I’m prone to ruminating over stuff, but I have to switch off and concentrate on Miss Espe’s brilliant but baffling (for an oldie like me) choreography, because if I’m not focusing on her 100%, it can get a bit messy. I find ballet very mindful in that respect. I’ve never fancied yoga – too quiet and introspective – but ballet is more expansive and expressive. And everyone’s so positive. Nobody judges if I’m heading off in the wrong direction on the wrong foot in what increasingly feels like the wrong body.

  • Lastly, what is your favorite ballet step and why?

The humble but calming and centering plie. For as long as I can still bend my knees and get up without falling over, I’m doing okay.