Dansarena Studios

A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Dansarena Studios's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Dansarena Studios is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles


Highlighting best practice
Karen Mitchell Gage, Former
Owner and Principal, Dansarena
Dansarena Studios, Ayr, Scotland
formerly Cathcart Church
Before Dansarena arrived on the scene in 1984, the venue
in which it’s now situated was a church. Recognising
the possibilities of the building, Founder Karen Mitchell-
Gage decided to bring it back to the community of Ayr,
Scotland, by turning it into a dance centre for all ages and
abilities. Karen felt well-suited to carry out this role, as she is
a fully-qualified dance teacher and an examiner for the Royal
Academy of Dance. The venture has since come to fruition,
which is a topic that Karen expands upon.
The dream
It was a delight to hear that the town council looked favourably on my proposition
to save the old handsome church from falling into the hands of developers. The
initial proposal was to demolish it and then build flats in its stead. We eventually
gained the upper hand, and, upon Dansarena’s opening 32 years ago, my dream
was finally realised.
To help me on this journey, my father, stepmother and two close friends became
directors and shareholders. These four, together with my husband Dennis and
I, formed a limited company. With the newly awarded planning permission, we
created three beautiful dance studios, a coffee shop and office space within the
200-year-old former Cathcart Church of Scotland.
»Founder and Former Principal:
Karen Mitchell-Gage
»School Managers and Current
Owners: Kerry and Steven
»Founded in 1984
»Based in Ayr, Scotland
»Services: Dance tuition
»No. of employees: 8 to 10
»The venue is a converted
Dansarena Studios
In 2014, we were fortunate enough
to be chosen for a grant of 80 per
cent of the £100,000 cost from
the Renaissance Fund to carry out
extensive repairs to the roof. This
work was essential to maintain the
integrity of such a unique building
for many years to come, and we
were most grateful to receive this
Turning an old church into a viable
business enterprise required a great
deal of hard work and a certain
amount of ingenuity. Although the
venue carried high overheads, we
finally managed to establish a large
enough pupil base to enable us to
cover the running costs and pay off
our bank overdraft. I have always
known that quality and scale are
important, and, to this end, we set
about building a team of teachers
who would nurture and inspire each
and every pupil as anindividual.
How we operate now
Children take dance lessons for a
variety of reasons. Some respond
to music spontaneously at home,
and parents recognise the need to
formalise this ability with a proper
dance technique and class discipline.
Others, however, are seriously
interested in making a career from
dance. To utilise fully and expand our
business, we ensured we were able to
meet both of these needs.
In the way of expansion, we also
created satellite schools in the
neighbouring towns of Troon,
Prestwick and Kilmarnock. These
continue to prove effective as “feeder
schools” where pupils are able to
progress to Dansarena when they
outgrow the smaller connections.
One of the main elements of
Dansarena’s activities is the
preparation of pupils for dance
examinations. The school has an
outstanding record of results in both
the Royal Academy of Dance ballet
and the Imperial Society of Teachers
of Dancing tap and modern theatre
examinations. Both RAD and ISTD
certificates are recognised by the
SQA accreditation on the Scottish
Credit and Qualifications Framework.
Successful candidates gain credits
for each examination, and these can
be used for entry into future study
courses, irrespective of whether or not
the subject is dance related.
It is very important that young
dancers are given the opportunity to Nicole Bryden, former
Dansarena pupil,
Winner of RAD Junior
Award, Classical Ballet,
Edinburgh 2009
Turning an old
church into a
viable business
required a great
deal of hard
work and a
certain amount
of ingenuity
Highlighting best practice
perform on stage, and, to this end,
Dansarena and the satellite schools
hold shows at the Gaiety Theatre Ayr
and in the Palace Theatre Kilmarnock,
as well as in Dansarena’s own lovely
little in-house theatre.
The themes of these productions are
carefully chosen to incorporate all
age groups within the school. Pupils
aged three to 18 years old never fail
to enthral proud parents and relatives
as they appear in their sparkling ballet
tutus and dazzling jazz outfits. Senior
students are invited to showcase their
talents by taking principal parts in
the presentations. The proceeds from
these events are donated annually
Dansarena also enters pupils for the
Scottish Junior and Senior Awards Day
held annually at the Dance Base in
Edinburgh. Over the years, our students
have won many of the trophies in the
classical ballet competition category.
I am also a mentor for the Certificate
of Ballet Teaching Studies programme
and have coached many young
student-teachers towards achieving
the full qualification.
Moving forward
Looking to the future, and
appreciating the importance of
securing the succession of the
business, I recently sold Dansarena
to my former school manager, Kerry
Bolland, and her husband, Steven. It
is this energetic and creative couple’s
ambition to develop Dansarena
into a full-time vocational school.
The venue lends itself perfectly
to accommodating the training
required to gain HNC and HND dance
certificates. I will remain a consultant
to the company for the next three
years, and I will also retain ownership
of two of the satelliteschools.
Teaching dance is perhaps not the
most lucrative of professions, but it is
certainly one of the most rewarding
in other ways. Observing pupils
gaining self-confidence and artistic
awareness through dance tuition
is immensely satisfying. I consider
myself very fortunate to have had
the support and encouragement to
enable me to realise my dream.
In breathing life back into this
historical building, we have not only
secured its future but also given it a
meaningful purpose for the whole
community. This, I would humbly
suggest, is a good example of best
practice and raising standards.
Dansarena and
the satellite
schools hold
shows at the
Gaiety Theatre
Ayr and in the
Palace Theatre
Lucy McPhail, former
Dansarena pupil,
Graduated 2018 Royal
Conservatoire, Glasgow


This article was sponsored by Dansarena Studios. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister