THE future of a popular Northside dance studio has been cast into doubt because it does not qualify for Government funding.
Streets Ahead Dance Studio in Cloghran, which caters for the needs of young dancers, has won a number of international awards in the past.
A group of the studio’s young dancers appeared on reality Sky TV series ‘Got to Dance’ earlier this year
The group of eight youngsters, known as the ‘Lil Hustlers’, battled it out against top dance groups from across the UK and impressed judges with their unique style and quirky personalities.
However, despite their major successes, the Arts Council has refused funding on the grounds that the studio's competitive nature means it is a sport, while the Sports Council insists that dancing is an art.
To make matters worse, the studio has suffered dwindling student numbers because of financial pressures, despite the fees being lowered to €250 a year – with some parents working there on a voluntary basis so their children can attend.
Speaking to the Northside People, Tara Treacy, who founded the studio, said the dancers are absolutely distraught that it could face closure.
“They’re all absolutely devastated. We can’t believe it has come to this as we’ve been fighting so hard to keep it going over the years,” Ms Treacy said.
She added: “We’ve had to pull a number of trips this year that the dancers have been involved in. It’s devastating to see such a waste of natural talent. I’d be worried now that the children’s and young adults’ talents are going to be squandered.
“The people who take part in the dance studio are people who really want to be there because it’s what they really enjoy doing.”
Ms Treacy said the dance groups often participated in a number of competitions both at home and abroad.
She explained that some of the studio’s dance groups are the first in Ireland to be awarded so many medals for their performances on an international level.
“We’re just getting further and further into debt,” she said. “We’ve done so much fundraising but people just don’t have the finances to help us anymore. It’s a sign of how things have gone in Ireland, but it’s devastating.”
Ms Treacy said she has tried to have the studio converted into a non-profit outlet but explained that she has come up against too many regulations as a result.
“Nobody seems to know how I can go about converting it to a not-for-profit studio. I’ve been on to solicitors and other advisors and nobody seems to know. The dancers are very upset, especially those who attend at least five days per week.”
Ms Treacy said one idea she has attempted to put into the public domain is the notion of local businesses supporting dancers.
She said individual businesses could sponsor the children at a cost of an estimated e200 per annum.
“If we close it’s going to amount to a massive waste of talent. We’re in the red and the debt is outstanding. Normally we’d pull through but this time it’s not looking very hopeful.
“We’re not in this for the money. In fact, we’ve never even made a profit. This has always been about promoting natural talent. If enough businesses supported the dancers then the studio would probably survive a bit longer.”
She added that the Minister for Arts and Heritage, Jimmy Deenihan, is to meet with herself and her husband Paul Murphy, who co-owns the studio, next month. The dance studio currently has over 500 dancers and 13 staff members.