Bamber Bridge's JSK Dance: the school changing lives, forging friendships, and getting people moving for the love of it

Chances are, if Jo Susan Keay isn’t working at her day-job with the civil service, she’s probably either dancing, teaching dance, or thinking about dance. To put it bluntly, one would be hard-pressed to find someone more passionate about dance than Jo.

By Jack Marshall, Reporter
Thursday, 16th September 2021, 4:55 am
JSK Dance founder Jo Keay
JSK Dance founder Jo Keay

"I started dancing when I was three and I always harboured dreams of being professional,” she says. “But I’m only 5’2” and, back in the day, they wanted tall girls, so I went off to uni and then had my children.

“But I always kept that passion for competing because I loved the focus, the drive, and the adrenaline it gave me. Later in life, I wanted to get back into it but I felt like the door was shut because I was older,” she adds. “But I linked up with a team called Headliners, who provide professional dancers for events and compete globally.

"It was like a dance rebirth for me and I loved it. People started asking me to teach lessons but I had a job and I was a mum. I had no spare time. I also never really wanted to be a dance teacher because I never thought I’d be any good at it!” says Jo, 50, with a laugh. “Then, three years ago, I’d reached the highest level of competing and the travelling was taking me away from home a bit much.

JSK Dance students with Jo

“But I still wanted dance in my life, so I decided to just go for it and founded JSK Dance. It was a leap of faith and a huge challenge, but I’m always one for taking opportunities.”

A place where dancers could come together as a community to partake in everything from street, hip-hop, and cheer-dance to breakdance, contemporary Latin, and stage dancing, JSK Dance caters for movers and shakers from the age of four all the way up to adult participants.

Jo proudly says that, at JSK Dance, friendships are formed and memories are created, with the school being a place where fun, fitness, and a welcoming social scene thrives. Leading by example, Jo takes part in all her classes, revelling in seeing her students growing in confidence - something she calls the most rewarding thing in life after being a mother.

“You can always find a reason not to do something, but nothing ventured, nothing gained,” says Jo on starting the school, which holds classes on Tuesdays at Lancaster Way Community Centre in Buckshaw Village and on Thursdays at Euxton Community College.

JSK Dance students

“Through word-of-mouth, I had 17 students the first week, so I was over the moon. I’ve invested a lot of time, passion, and drive into it since then, and we’ve got 70+ students now,” she adds, having offered students free dance classes over Zoom during the various lockdowns of the past 18 months or so.

“It’s a lot of work and it’s relentless, but I’m so happy and I love the teaching. I genuinely get so much from it.”

A former British tap-dance and modern dance champion, Jo herself won eight world championship titles with Headliners and has built something special at JSK Dance. Before Covid, the group enjoyed nights out together and held parties for the children, encapsulating their ethos: make dance accessible and fun regardless of people’s age, shape, size, gender, or ability.

“When you see students enjoying themselves, developing their skills, or building their confidence, it’s so rewarding,” says Jo, with in-person classes having resumed since May. “I can’t believe I never wanted to do this!

“If I could do it for free, I would, because it’s a real passion project, which is why keeping it going during lockdown was so important.”

Initially fearing that the pandemic would mean the previous two years of ‘blood, sweat, and tears’ were all for nothing, Jo says she was determined not to let that be the case and is now looking forward with a degree of optimism once again.

“It’s been brilliant to be back in person,” she says. “It warms my heart. I’m so lucky and grateful.”