Faima Bakar as “This ballet school is for Muslim kids and it uses poetry instead of music” for Metro
Grace & Poise Academy is the ‘world’s first’ ballet school bringing the dance to the Muslim community (Picture: Guy Corbishley / Alamy Live News)
Two women in their 20s noticed that the ballet world was woefully lacking minority dancers, particularly Muslims.
So Royal Academy of Dance trained Maisie Alexandra Byers, 24, and Dr. Sajedah Shubib who has a degree in psychology, 28, decided to open what they’re calling the first ballet school for Muslim kids.
Grace and Poise Academy in London opened up earlier this year with hopes of turning Muslim girls into little ballerinas.
The school offers a unique poetry syllabus instead of music to be more inclusive as some followers of the Islamic faith don’t listen to music.
While many Muslims do listen to music, some believe that certain instruments are not permissible while others who listen say it’s the nature of some music that should be avoided (i.e obscene lyrics).
And so the academy decided to avoid it altogether and provide a more mindful experience.
There’s also a Homeschooling Programme which allows those who are homeschooled to attend classes for a cheaper price of £6. For the rest of the evening class attendees, it’s £8.
At the moment they haven’t had any performances yet but future shows will feature female-only audiences.
‘We’re passionate about child development,’ explains Maisie and Sajedah to Metro.co.uk ‘We believe that this unique approach to ballet helps the child’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive development.
‘Until now ballet has been inaccessible to many Muslims and Grace and Poise aims to cater to the Community.
‘It also aims to provide a space to celebrate Islamic Identity and support the harmonious connection between mind body and soul.’
Only a few months into their venture, the pair are delighted to see the reaction of the Muslim community.
Some of their students include four-year-old Marym, Halimah aged four and Evi aged five. They dance to original poetry created by Haneen Shubib.
The syllabus is being developed by Maisie and Sajedah to enhance the learning process so ballet training is in harmony with the child’s developmental stages.
‘We hope to provide opportunities for ballet to exist in different contexts,’ adds Maisie and Sajedah.
‘To encourage more diversity, inclusivity, and accessibility and for ballet to help strengthen the development of children that have not previously had the opportunity to explore this art form.’
Recently Black and Asian dancers have finally got pointe shoes in their skin colour as most flats are in lighter tones. Prior to this, they’d have to spend time colouring them to in match their skin.
Grace & Poise aren’t using the shoes at the minute but hope to as their students progress.
‘Currently as all of our students are beginner and pointe work requires years of precise training we don’t have any children on pointe yet.
‘However, for the future it seems imperative that options are made available for students.’
It is still early days for the company but they’re hopeful it can get bigger and better.
‘The reaction has been incredible, we are surrounded by the most supportive and loving communities who have aided us along the way,’ they continued.
‘Everyone is thrilled to have this opportunity and we have had many emotional conversations with mums telling us about the impact our classes have already had on their little ones and how they wish they had this opportunity as little girls themselves!’