After losing her dream job as a dance teacher at the start of the pandemic, Michaela Rudling made the leap of setting up her own performing arts school. And now she’s all about igniting the spark in every performer
Eight years ago, Michaela Rudling struggled to get on a bus, let along perform on stage – such was her social anxiety levels. However, with the help and support of the youth workers at OPEN Norwich (in particular, the dance teacher), Michaela overcame her fears and went on to study dance at City College before returning to OPEN and working her way through to becoming OPEN’s dance instructor. In fact, she was one of key people behind OPEN’s annual showcases.
‘My 2020 started like everyone else’s,’ says Micheala, ‘good job, stable income and no cares in the world. Unfortunately, when we went into lockdown, the charity I worked for began to see some troubling times and eventually went into liquidation a couple weeks in. I found myself with 40-plus young performers, aged 4-19, who had nowhere to go and who lost a big part of their lives. As did I.’
Initially she felt lost, but Michaela soon found her feet again. ‘I decided, along with my housemates who also worked at the charity, that I would go for my dream – to start my own performing arts school and carry on where we left off. I opened a school called IGNITE Performing Arts Academy, where we offered affordable classes for all ages and abilities, taking the same ethos of community, passion, diversity and respect.’ Based in Norwich, Ignite delivers singing, dancing and acting for all ages.
Michaela and her team started by running performing arts classes online during lockdown: anything from junior, senior and elite dance classes, to beginners’ ballet. ‘Eventually, in September, I started classes back in person in a community centre near where I live.’ Classes included musical theatre, contemporary dance, street dance, and drama – all at Greenfields Community Centre in Norwich.
‘We have managed to run the same programme as before, with most of the same students and some new faces.’ And she adds: ‘We have continued to offer the same opportunities such as our Christmas music video, a competition team and eventually shows and exams when guidelines allow us too.’
It’s been a pivotal year for so many, including Michaela. ‘If you had said to me a year ago, where do you see yourself in a year’s time? I would not have said opening and running my own performing arts school and working as a teaching assistant in a school.’
Now is the time to look forward: ‘I am so humbled to have so much support and love around me and to have all my students follow me to my new adventure, I’m so excited to see where this journey takes me. Onwards and upwards,’ she says.
‘My hopes for 2021 are to keep growing, learning and building on to what we have. I would love to find my own space for the school and find more amazing performers to ignite the spark in.’