A Shrewsbury dance teacher is launching a new dance school dedicated to bringing the joy of dance to children and young adults with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Opal-Jade Trevor has opened Identity School of Dance, in Shrewsbury, specifically with young people with special needs in mind. The dance school is inspired by her experiences as a Performing Arts and Sports teacher at specialist Derwen College, in Gobowen, near Oswestry.

The seed was sown when 25-year-old Opal started an evening dance class for students with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) at Derwen College last January. She formed street dance crew DDC (Derwen Dance Crew), who went on to perform at a street dance competition in March, just before lockdown. The results were phenomenal with DCC winning a first place as well as individual successes in solo competitions.

“Our students had the time of their lives and won awards in mainstream as well as SEND categories. The reaction from audience and judges was overwhelming,” says Opal.

“Everyone was blown away by what these students had achieved. We received standing ovations, there were even tears! Judges described the performance as beautiful, moving and a demonstration of the diversity of dance.”

Opal, who has been teaching dance since 2015, realised there was a need for more dance opportunities for people with SEND.

“I have taught in all sectors of education primary, secondary and FE, but hand on my heart SEND is something so special. I just cannot describe it. When you see the students’ faces after a performance then it’s all worth it. I say to anyone, come and watch our shows, dance performances and you will see how much it means to them. That’s something so special and their smiles and happy tears will remain with me forever.

“I think it is so important for any individual to progress and follow their dreams no matter what their ability, age, race or gender. The dance industry is so diverse so everyone deserves to follow their passion and dreams. Yet there is just nothing out there for SEND.”

The Covid-19 pandemic allowed Opal some time to take a step back from her busy life. She decided to take her career to the next step and create ‘Identity’ school of dance specifically for children and young adults with special educational needs and disabilities. Her knowledge of teaching in the SEND sector, and training in Makaton sign language, made her the ideal candidate to share her passion for dance.

Identity will offer weekly dance classes for children and young adults from four years to 18 plus, at Shrewsbury’s Elite Dance Studios at Sundorne Youth Centre, Sundorne Road. Opal aims to start with a focus on street dance, progressing into other styles such as contemporary, lyrical and commercial.

Students will learn choreography, develop their performance skills and social skills. The number one rule, Opal says, is to have fun!

Opal’s own love of dance started at a young age. She says she knew that she wanted to be a dance teacher from the age of 13. She studied performing arts at college, then university, before taking a break from education to embark on a job as character and parade dancer at Disneyland Paris.

Once she returned from Disney she decided to pursue her teaching career further. She completed her PGCE at Staffordshire University, qualifying as a performing arts and sports teacher.

Opal continues teaching full time at Derwen, running Identity at evenings and weekends. She hopes that Identity will inspire a love of dance in a new generation of youngsters with learning difficulties and disabilities.

“It took me ages to come up with the name Identity, but it has a special meaning to me. I feel our identity is who makes each one of us unique in this world and we all deserve a chance in life to fulfil our dreams and talents.”

  • Identity is running a free taster day on Sunday 13th September at Elite dance studios, Sundorne Youth Centre, Shrewsbury SY1 4RG. Booking is required.
  • Classes will follow Covid-19 safety guidelines All staff are DBS checked, are trained within Makaton, and have experience working within education and SEN. Email isod@outlook.com with any queries, telephone Opal on 07805530887, or follow @ identityschoolofdance on Facebook.