Teacher reveals what UK's 1st ballet school for Muslims is like
16th June 2021

Dance teacher who opened UK’s first ballet school for Muslim girls reveals classes have no music, no male teachers and modest clothing to stay in line with Islamic teachings

  • Grace & Poise Academy is thought to be the UK’s first Muslim ballet class
  • The female-only classes encourage modest clothing and use poetry not music 
  • Parent of one of the students says she’s pleased the class has found a way to make the dance accessible to students who follow the Islamic faith 
  • There are no male teachers in the class, which teaches girls over the age of six 

A dance teacher who’s opened what’s thought to be the first ballet class for Muslim children in the UK uses poetry instead of music to help students learn the dance while respecting Islamic learning. 

Maisie Byers, who runs the Grace and Poise Academy in London, says she hopes to make the dance ‘more accessible’ to people who follow the Muslim faith and has adapted classes to allow young Muslim girls to be able to participate.  

Students are encouraged to wear modest clothing with the traditional leotard not allowed. 

The girls, aged six and above, in the class move to poetry instead of music and are working towards the same ballet accreditation as conventional classes. 

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Children inside the UK’s first Muslim ballet school, which was set up in 2019 by teacher Maisie Byers

The mother of one of the girls who’s taking part in the all-female classes, which first began in 2019 as a way to boost confidence in Muslim girls, said she wanted to enrol her daughter in a class but hadn’t done so previously because of the ‘Islamic perspective of things’.

The parent told the BBC, who filmed a class, she was ‘so happy to hear that it’s tailored for Muslim children’ and admitted that as a young girl she had ‘always felt on the outside, like you don’t fit in almost’ because she hadn’t been able to learn the dance.

The Grace & Poise website says the school feels ‘passionately about contributing to Islamic Arts and honouring the significance of Poetry within Islamic heritage’. 

There are no male teachers in the class, which teaches girls over the age of six and poetry is used to help communicate the dance

The female-only classes encourage modest clothing and use poetry not music. One parent said that she had felt ‘always felt on the outside, like you don’t fit in almost’ because of not being able to join a ballet class when she was younger

One of the school’s founders, Dr Sajedah Shubib, said the classes allowed a Muslim girls-only space and encouraged confidence in students

Campaigners have previously said that activities that encourage confidence amongst young Muslim women – but are still in line with their faith – should be more easily available in the Islamic community. 

One of the school’s founders, Dr Sajedah Shubib, told Sky News earlier this year: ‘There is a gap in our community, we find that Muslim children tend to sometimes fall short when it comes to university applications.

‘I’ve seen that quite consistently when I’ve worked Muslim youth – there isn’t much for them and they don’t get involved as much so this is really really important. 

‘For various reasons Muslim girls in particular want to be able to have a Muslim girls-only space for modesty purposes. Through Grace & Poise we are offering that platform for girls so that they can take part in something as beautiful as ballet.’

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