Story By Bronte Yarrow.
Imagine having 400 children! They don’t live with you (although sometimes it feels like they do), but you love them and care for them six days a week, 40 weeks a year.
Does such a job exist? It does, and it’s held by Katie Reid, proud owner of the largest dance school in the Northern Illawarra, the Thirroul Dance Academy.
Just about everyone in the area knows someone who dances, has danced, or works at Thirroul Dance Academy. It’s a wonderful community, built and nurtured by Thirroul’s mother of dancing, Katie Reid.
Katie grew up in the small town of Bowen Mountain at the foot of the Blue Mountains and it was here she began her dancing legacy.
Starting out at the local dance school, Katie used to accompany her mum to dance classes. She remembers sitting on a towel up the back of the class and watching the grown-ups doing their thing, before she was old enough to start classes of her own.
At 19, Katie left the Mountains to work with dancer, choreographer and musical theatre director and producer David Atkins. This led to her arrival in Wollongong where she completed a double degree in Communications, Media and Theatre at UOW.
Katie has always loved community projects, including musicals and theatre productions. She’s worked behind the scenes for Opera Australia, Sydney Dance Company and at the Sydney Olympics.
Katie’s career as a dance teacher began at a Wollongong dance school while she was at University. This led to teaching classes at other schools, including TDA, which at that stage, was Dance World. “I had one class a week, then I had two, then I taught all the classes,” she says. “Then I bought the business!” What followed was the extended family that is the Thirroul Dance Academy.
Despite spending countless hours at the studio, Katie does have a life of her own! Married to Derek, she’s mother to young daughter Finlay, who is also a talented dancer, and while she finds juggling home life with the studio difficult, she enjoys making it work.
When asked by a fellow dance teacher if anyone ever told her she’d end up marrying the job, Katie laughs “No! Nobody ever told me! As everything has grown, the commitment has grown,” she says. “I spend a lot of time at work!
Katie’s teaching philosophy is simple. “To breed great kids,” she says. “Not just great dancers! Hopefully all of my students will grow up to be fantastic people who might be able to dance.”
Having said that, Thirroul Dance Academy has produced a number of talented and successful dancers including Roseanna Rusbourne who currently dances in New York and April Maguire who is now classically training in Sydney. Current student Jessica Hewitt works with Austinmer Dance Theatre and several students have been selected for prestigious ballet and dance extension workshops, including stints with the Australian Ballet program.
As the energy required to run the dance studio is extreme, you’d expect Katie’s enthusiasm and joy may have diminished. However for Katie, that’s not the case. She admits she finds it increasing
ly difficult to do the splits year after year, but says it’s not hard finding the energy to keep going. “The kids are such a great source of enthusiasm,” she says. “They make me smile and pull out my fancy face!”