Just Chatting with Stacy Steppaz McKnight

 

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So tell me more about Steppaz! I hear about it from everyone else but you. Start by telling me all about the second new branch.

We have just been sponsored by Edmonton Green Centre! We’ve been turning on the Christmas lights for them for the past two years and they were thinking of a group to sponsor for three months and they chose us. They have given us space where we can have classes in, which they pay for and they’ve kitted us out with t-shirts and jackets and [promotional] stuff – banners, flyers for us to promote the centre and to help get our name out there. We‘re in the centre itself, in the market bit, a dance studio called art zone.

Will you still be using Bernie Grants Art Centre?

Yep, here (BGA) on a Friday and at Edmonton on a Thursday with Street – also here (BGA) on Wednesday for contemporary.

You’re growing so exciting! I think what’s particularly nice is that I hear about it from other people who have seen your shows and they love it and I know you’re not doing much in terms of marketing so the word is obviously getting around.

We’re on Instagram, Facebook all of that but it’s mainly word of mouth – families, friends, people from their schools and stuff.

So what age group would you have in a class typically? 

No, we have 3-5yr olds, then 6-8, then 9-11 and then 12+. Parents are like, err so when are you starting adult classes?!

They want to get involved! 

Yep! They want to do dancing and fitness and so I have to start thinking about that next.

Good for you. I think people do want it. My friend’s a dancer and she’s always talking about wanting to get together with other dancers in the area. To learn new things, freestyle, push each other and stay fit together – just comradery – and she doesn’t get that locally so it is something that people would like and I can see why parents would ask you about it. So how many teachers do you have?

We have a contemporary teacher – Marlon, a street dancer – Ryan and the one in Edmonton is called Jerrell.

How old are they?

Jerrell is 18, Ryan is 20 and Marlon is 31

When I was 13, I joined a theatre company called Haringey Shed and I was there when it first started and I only left last year. I was there for 14years – classes, then volunteering with the children’s theatre and then outreach in schools, while I was at college and then I went into the office with admin stuff, then I moved onto directing shows.

You got the chance to do everything!

I did and what I learnt is what helped me with Steppaz. Things like working with the parents, doing the membership stuff and activities – it has really helped me.

What did you do at school? Was this a natural route for you?

I have always loved performing arts. When I finished school I did drama and did a BTEC Performing Arts course at Chicken Shed. After that I was just working with Haringey Shed, doing youth work. Teaching in Hackney and Haringey schools, mentoring in Haringey schools – I am a youth worker now teaching in Edmonton. I used to be there four nights a week but now it’s just three. I’m at Craig Park Youth Centre and now there’s also another in Southgate, Allan Pullinger – I’m there on Mondays.

That’s great and busy! I bet it helps to be about and to give something practical to get on with as well, by signposting them and saying look ‘If you want to dance, come with me…’

Literally, all of them [a youth class] came down on Friday. They were all like ‘we have to go down and support Stacey!’ Some of them have volunteered at our shows and supervised the children and helped to run stuff. That’s what I’m about. I was given that opportunity when I was a youth to look up to someone and say I can go that. It’s helped me now to have my hand in everything. I love party planning, I have 15 godchildren so baby showers and all of that I do and love [it].

I love that you’ve worked your way up, you’ve worked out who you are, what you do and how to do it and local people are benefiting from that and it’s just great. Funding should be given to people like you who are on the ground and in the community and you already know these kids and work with them, using your own project.

Funding wise, I am not very good with the paperwork. Marlon who I trained at Chicken Shed, is helping me and we sat down last week to do our first [application] together. Dee Searle [Green Party candidate] came to watch the show and loved it and has said she will put me in contact with people she knows who may be able to help me. That’s the main thing at the moment. I do something like 20 people’s jobs. I do need staff but then I would need to be able to pay them. Steppaz has been going for nearly two years and I have not gotten a single penny. As long as the staff are paid, the venue is paid and the kids are enjoying themselves that’s it – I’m happy.

When kids come along to the classes, how much are they paying?

£3 per session.

And that goes into paying the teachers and venue?

That’s right and it really is so cheap compared to lots of the dance groups out there.

Usually, prices for these things are £5 minimum, right? 

Yes, a lot of the students [who] have been to other dance venues have then come to Steppaz and they say that usually other venues concentrate on a core group and they don’t mind if others come but they concentrate on a core group and I’m not about that. If everyone’s there, I’ll treat everyone the same. They always say, ‘I love Steppaz because everyone has a part.’

So the future. Hopefully Funding? Stay here at Bernie Grant’s?

Yes. I mean even the shows have to be paid for, the theatre, the person recording the show but then you don’t want to charge too much or make the tickets too expensive for the parents who have their kids in the show. So it is hard but we’re getting there.

Well, the second home at Edmonton sounds really exciting.

They have a lot of events coming up and they want us to be involved it everything!

Sounds great! More exposure, more challenges for the kids?

Yes. We want to be able to sustain ourselves and grow. To keep going. A lot of things have started and ended and that’s one thing that is not going to happen. I really want it to continue. The community is involved, some of the parents who are with us in the area have had problems with each other and this pulls them into the waiting area together and that’s good. It brings them together.

So it’s helping with other community issues not just dance.

Yes: parents, community, Tottenham

Usual grumblings?

Yes, and celebrating our children growing, having fun, gaining skills.

When is the next show?

The big fundraiser, second anniversary on July 5th at Craig Park Youth Centre. It’ll be a fun day, with face painting, bouncing castles – a local festival really.

#ComeOutTotty

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