Empowering women through dance − why I created Neptune Girls

Carly-Ann Purcell is the founder and director of Neptune Girls, a body positive dance class aiming to use creativity to empower women.

Neptune Girls dance group

I’ve always tried to follow what lights me up; dance, psychology, facilitating positive change in the world.

When I’m ‘following my bliss’ I am working towards being the best version of myself and that’s when I have the most to offer the world.

A passion for dance

Growing up in a low-income single-parent family, dance opportunities for me were not prevalent.

Before I was able to fund my own training as an adult you could say my training was imitating Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake videos.

Read more: How I became a professional dancer – and even worked on Strictly

It wasn’t until I moved from Bracknell to Portsmouth to study a degree in psychology that I was able to fund my own dance lessons.

From 2002 I began travelling to London as much as I could to take classes. I went to Pineapple Dance Studios and Husky Dance Studios.

One of the highlights of my training to date was spending three months in Los Angeles at Debbie Reynolds Dance Studios. I was dancing pretty much every day.

Combining fitness and dance

Around the same time, I also qualified as an exercise to music instructor and gym instructor.

I taught every fitness class going at Portsmouth University Sports Centre.

My classes inevitably became more and more dance-orientated. Although I’m not sure all the gym punters were a fan of Britney and Liberty X style aerobics/spinning.

Fortunately, I was given the opportunity to start teaching street dance in local schools. From here one thing led to another.

I was offered a job at Portsmouth University Sports Centre as a dance development officer (2006-2014). This post really gave me a platform to develop as a dance teacher and learn an array of transferable skills.

In 2007 I founded Most Wanted Street Dance School (we are now celebrating our tenth year this year).

Not having the opportunity to dance when I was younger made running my school so much more rewarding.

I’ve been able to offer lessons and opportunities to children from similar backgrounds to me. This has been extremely fulfilling. Seeing them grow, develop and follow their dreams is just amazing.

One of the things that lights me up most is creating positive opportunities that facilitate positive growth. This is where I choose to drive my focus.

Feeling grateful

My career hasn’t been a conventional one. But now when I look at how my career is unfolding, I am nothing but grateful.

I didn’t have the dance opportunities I would have liked as a child but I didn’t let that stop me. I really hope that might inspire someone else to just follow their dreams regardless of perceived limitations.

We tell ourselves we aren’t ready to do A, B, or C. But, you learn, grow and evolve by stepping out of your comfort zones.

You might never feel ready but that is just a feeling, a perceived limitation.

I’ve nothing against formal training/education (I’m starting a Masters in Positive Psychology this September) I think it’s excellent. But we aren’t all lucky enough to have every opportunity and we shouldn’t let this stop us from following our bliss.

Neptune Girls

I had my first experience of heels and commercial dance in LA during 2010 and was literally hooked.

Neptune Girls first came about in early 2011 but it was sporadic and never had a real identity until its official launch in July 2016.

Having dealt with my own self-esteem issues, anxiety and depression at points in my life I really wanted to create an environment and community that would empower people, build confidence and lift them up.

This time I wanted Neptune Girls to be more than just a dance class.

I wanted dance to be the tool and area of common interest that would build a community of wonderful, inspiring, supportive women (and men, shout out to King Alain!) that would enhance each other’s lives.

Classes take place in Portsmouth and Southampton. You can follow Neptune Girls over on Instagram and Facebook.

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