A dance instructor from Lotus River is on her feet to ensure her passion and talent is rooted back into her community. Jodie Jackson has been teaching young children in her area for the past six years and says there is nothing better than helping underprivileged children reach their dreams. The local dancer holds over 30 awards earned at Cape Town-based competitions alone. Sun City Battle of the Giants is one of the medals making up her collection from competitions across the country.“Dancing has always been a passion for me. I started dancing at the age of three at CAFDA School of Dance, starting off with ballet. At the age of five I started doing eisteddfods and have never lost that competition in my life. Today, years later, I am sitting with over 70 students at my very own dance studio in Lotus River, who join me for classes twice a week,” says Jackson.The 30-year-old dancer worked in the corporate industry for many years, but was left jobless after her contract ended in 2010. Jackson took the bold decision to open her community-based dance centre in 2011. Her two-day stretch juggling classes in different levels has since grown with exciting lessons in mini ballet, modern, contemporary, acrobatics, hip-hop and adult fitness. The school, under the guidance of Jackson and her two assistant teachers, gives kids a positive place where they can be comfortable and express themselves through the art of dance. “I decided to dance full time in 2011 and opened the Jodie Jackson Dance Centre, working with multiracial students from across Lotus River and surrounding communities. My goal is to provide opportunities for poor children to keep them occupied while knowing that there are alternative options to life on the street,” she explains.Jackson says many of her students are raised by single parents or live in problematic homes. “My students face their own challenges both at school and at home. Sometimes, they don’t show up for classes because of transport or parents getting in a fight and not sending them. Some of them come from homes or lives where family members are drug addicts or there is no guardian to direct them on the right path. I am not only their instructor but I have become a support to them. I am more than a teacher to these kids and I will always be there just to see them happy and raised to a point where they have succeeded in life.”Jackson was named Deep Heat’s September Urban Athlete of the year. The campaign highlights ordinary, active South African individuals with inspirational stories of how they have overcome adversity to achieve their goals in life. She was also recently afforded a trip to Croatia, along with 12 dancers from her school, where they represented the country at the Dance Star World Finals. “This was one of the biggest achievements for me and my students, and was an opportunity that I never thought I would get. Parents raised funds and went through a lot to have their kids go overseas. For me, having the opportunity to see my students compete in this competition, whether they were placed or not, was the biggest achievement for me. This goes for all competitions – just seeing them take that step on stage and shine is everything for me.”She says her parents have played a major role in her dancing career since day one. “It has been a long road and I am thankful that both my parents have been there to support me on this journey. Both my mom and dad always made sure I was prepared and at my best before taking the stage. They would transport me to classes or auditions and wait for six hours until my rehearsal was done. When they didn’t have money they would use their last for a costume for me or entry fee to compete in competitions or desired classes. They have been very supportive and made sure I had the best while growing up,” says an emotional Jackson.Meanwhile, Jackson aims to open another branch and calls on the community to support her in bringing the world of dancing to underprivileged kids in her area. “My real plan is to have an actual performance arts school. I don’t want to open it up in an established community, but in an underprivileged area like this. There is a lot of work involved and funding would be needed. It is going to take time, but I am going to get there. I want to set up a space where these kids can grow. They should know they don’t have to go outside their area of what they know to be able to be somebody. I want them to live safe and to experience and use these skills to uplift them in life. I also want them to be successful and be themselves, not letting anyone tell them they can’t be anything,” she adds. V Jodie Jackson School of Dance is located at Lotus River Primary School, corner of 5th Avenue and Lake Road in Lotus River. For more information, call 064 759 8694.