Muslim kids are noticeably absent in ballet, and yet with the first headscarf-wearing ballerina coming to light, isn’t it about time we get the proper representation that we deserve? Lucky for us, two 20-something Muslim women agree, and decided to open a ballet school where they dance to poetry instead of music.
24-year-old Maisie Alexandra Byers, a dancer trained at The Royal Academy of Dance, and 28-year-old Dr. Sajedah Shubib, a graduate in psychology, opened up the first ever ballet school geared towards Muslim kids in London, and named their labor of love the “Grace and Poise Academy.”
But why is this such a big deal? Well, music is a hotly contested topic amongst Muslims. Although a lot of Muslims do listen to music, there are certain instruments that are said to be prohibited, so what Maisie and Sajedah opted to do is to create an environment to learn ballet which does not include music, in order to give everyone an opportunity to learn ballet, no matter what their religious convictions are.
“…We are a school that aims to make ballet accessible to Muslims, however we are of course open to all. We do have some non-Muslim students that came to us because they love our unique approach using poetry.”
Also open to non-Muslim kids, the Grace and Poise Academy welcomes students from all backgrounds, offering up a special discounted rate of £6 for children who are home-schooled, and £8 for all other students.
In a sit-down with Metro, Maisie Byers and Dr. Shubib said, “We’re passionate about child development…We believe that this unique approach to ballet helps the child’s physical, emotional, social and cognitive development.”
They continued, “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. We are a school that aims to make ballet accessible to Muslims, however we are of course open to all. We do have some non-Muslim students that came to us because they love our unique approach using poetry.”
One thing is for sure. Muslim kids keen on the moving poetry that is ballet now have a safe haven where they can learn this beautiful form of dance in an environment where they don’t feel like they have to compromise their religious beliefs.
Edited by Manal Moazzam.