Thousands of dancers have jived and spun on its dance floors and its students have become trusted teachers.
Now, after 20 years, the momentum at Pulse Dance Academy is showing no signs of stopping.
What began as a part-time hobby for co-founder Rachael Arnold, 41, it has gone on to become a dancing hub for children and adults across Fareham and Gosport. Its reputation has spread well beyond the county borders as the dance school’s teams have won around 250 trophies in the past 12 months alone. As Pulse marks two decades of dancing, Rachael says that the school has come to be ‘another family’ for its large group of dancers.
‘When I look at all the dancers that have come through my doors over the years, it really hits me,’ she says. ‘It certainly does not feel like 20 years as some of my other dancing instructors first came to me as children and now they are out there teaching the next generation. It makes me feel so proud.’
Pulse’s beginnings were in 1997 as Dance Connection, when then-office manager Rachael started teaching dance classes part-time with Debbie Evans.
Rachael would carry out her 9-5 job before getting on the dance floor in the evenings. She says: ‘It was just a part-time hobby then, I would hold classes during the week and on weekends.’
For 12 years, Dance Connection thrived as more and more dancers passed through Rachael’s doors until the point that she decided it was time to go full-time. In 2010, it was rebranded to Pulse.
‘I remember thinking one night and saying to my husband Jay that I could not do both any more and that it was time to just go for it and do it full-time. He told me to just do it.
‘It had always been my dream to go full-time, so it just seemed like the natural transition. Now, it is almost like a 90-hour week, which of course is quite tough. It kind of slapped me in the face to think I had made it to 20 years. I was like “wow” has it really been that long?
‘It leaves you looking at the doors and thinking about all the thousands that must have come to me. That really is an amazing feeling.’
For years, Rachael had been travelling across the area to take the dance classes. But now that the school has its own studio in Gosport’s Heritage Business Park, its identity has become even more pronounced for young dancers across the borough.
‘We have more than 150 children at Pulse in addition to 60 adults,’ Rachael says.
‘Despite genres like street dancing blending more and more into the mainstream and featuring on television talent shows, we are still seeing the same number of people keen to learn these dancing styles. It was a massive boost to get our own studio as it provides a stronger structure to our lesson format and has allowed us to become a real hub for dancers across the area. We know that there are a variety of different dance schools in the area, but it certainly feels like we have created our own hub here in Gosport.
‘A lot of our dancers come from Fareham and Gosport and that builds a real local community here at Pulse.’
As Dance Connection, the genres taught began with ballroom, Latin and freestyle. But over the past 20 years, the landscape of dancing has changed and Pulse now teaches classes in cheerleading, jump rope skipping and musical theatre among many others.
There is a wide age range at Pulse since adult classes were introduced in 2009, with some students starting as young as three and 72 being the eldest.
Besides Rachael as the only full-time staff member, there are between four and five others who help run the classes.
Of all the things that make Pulse different from other dance schools, Rachael says that it all comes down to the ‘family feeling’ that the school provides.
She recalls an incident when a young girl turned up at her first session not too long ago.
‘We are all about having a great camaraderie with one another here at Pulse and I was struck by an example of this only recently.
‘We had a young girl starting for the first time and of course, she was understandably nervous.
‘But everyone there just made her so relaxed. All the other dancers, no matter if they were five or 16, came up to her and made her feel so welcome. It showed me that we are just a big family here. We are all about working together to build our confidence and our skills as one. For me, it is just so fulfilling to see that the environment that we have harnessed has bred this kind of culture. I am proud of every single one of my dancers.’
Pulse is preparing for its grand finale, in the form of its yearly summer show at Ferneham Hall on Sunday, June 25.
The performance, which will feature a mind-boggling 42 different routines, has required a lot of teaching and hard work from all of Pulse’s dancers.
Rachael explains: ‘Every summer we put together a big show at Ferneham Hall which is basically a combination of everything that we have been working on since December.
‘We try and get every dancer involved and a lot of them will feature in a number of different routines. It’s a big show and we just hope the crowd enjoy it.’
Sounds good, right? But if you’re wanting tickets for next month’s grand finale, then you’re out of luck.
‘It sold out pretty quickly!’ says Rachael. ‘I think it is a marker of the popularity of the school and our support that we managed to sell out Ferneham Hall so quickly.’
Pulse has clearly become quite an emotional attachment for Rachael over the years and she says a big thank you to all the dancers who have been a part of the school over the past two decades.
She says: ‘I would like to thank all of our dancers, including ex-students that have visited and supported our dance academy and helped us become the success that we are today.
‘Not forgetting my teachers who are always there to support me and the parents of course, who allow us to work with their children so that we can dance every day together with smiles on our faces. I could not do it without any of these special people in our lives, so thank you to everybody for allowing me to live and carry out my dream job.’