You know I love to dance – right?! Lots of people ask where my passion for dance comes from, so I’ve delved deep into my memory bank to remember where it all started…!
I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to dance – around the house, in the garden and in the playground. I enjoyed tap and ballet in the local church hall with a stern dance teacher called Sandra. ‘Chick Chick Chick Chick Chicken, Lay a little egg for me’ was my first major performance, resplendent in yellow tutu!
Fast forward a few years to my early teens and when my body started to get new curves and bumps, I felt horribly embarrassed in the tight uniform and costumes and didn’t even have the courage to tell my Mum why I wanted to give up dancing. It’s such a shame, and it’s why I’m so passionate about good sports bras now – but it just wasn’t really an open discussion back in the 90s.
I took a gap year in France in 1998 before going to University and, to meet people and make friends, I joined Salsa and Rock n Roll classes which got my love of dance back on track. I joined the Ballroom Society when I went to Surrey University and had weekly classes. It started off as a small club (called ‘DanceSport’ so that we could get sports club funding!) but with a few people who’d done ballroom dancing before, we soon expanded and wanted to enter competitions against other universities.
I was paired up with a novice partner called Luke, who’s parents had taught Line Dancing so he had a good sense of rhythm. We trained hard in Waltz, Quick Step, Cha Cha Cha and Jive and did quite well in the individual and team competitions. Our Surrey team was tiny compared to the Oxford and Cambridge teams. We shared costumes and made our own, which I’m sure they never had to! My favourite costume was my zebra print, I thought it was stunning!
Luke and I progressed to Intermediate in our 2nd year and our jive was being recognised. At the national Inter Varsity Dance Association competition, we progressed through the rounds to the final! So I can say that the pinnacle of my ballroom career is being in the top six for Jive in British universities!
When I graduated, I moved to Oxford for a job in publishing but dancing was never far from my thoughts. I joined Ceroc classes in Oxford, Abingdon and Kidlington, loving this modern jive dance phenomenon.
After nine months, I was asked to become a teacher in 2005, and led classes in Didcot and Oxford Town Hall in the evenings and also seven ‘weekenders’ at Pontins holiday camps. Then I discovered Zumba and was smitten! I swapped my dance shoes for trainers and I booked onto a teaching class straight away.
It wasn’t long before I quit my day job and set up Gemma Pearce Fitness. I taught up to 12 classes a week in those early days and expanded my repertoire with Zumba Gold, Pilates, FitSteps, RockBox and lots of my own specially created fitness classes. Although I missed the sparkles and makeup of my ballroom days, I definitely didn’t miss dancing in heels!
Some of my fabulous customers from the first excitement of Zumba are still with me and lots more have joined. Growing my ‘friendly fitness family’ has been a great joy over the past 18 years! I really can’t imagine doing anything else and I certainly couldn’t manage a ‘real job’ in an office ever again!
I’m proud of what I’ve achieved, especially as a mum and navigating my business through the pandemic. Dance makes me so happy, it makes my heart sing and sharing my passion with others is amazing for my mental and physical health.
Check out all the dance fitness options available at either online or face-to-face classes at www.gemmapearcefitness.co.uk