OVER the past few years there is no doubt of the popularity with teenage girls of competitive street dance because there are now a huge number of participants - and at secondary schools in Pembrokeshire the winner of the schools’ competition have as part of their prize the chance to show off their talents at the Sport Pembrokeshire Awards Evening.

At first there was a hint of arrogance on the part of some participants in the sporting fraternity about whether it should be regarded as a sport or just a gentle leisure activity but you try telling that to Finola Findlay at the FF Dancing School and she’ll soon put you right!

“I’ve played other sports and I can tell you that street dance and freestyle dancing are every bit as competitive, and physical, as other sports - and I’ve had big strong rugby players coming to classes so that they can develop their sense of balance, their general co-ordination and ability to twist and turn.

“There is also an emphasis on self-discipline in the training and I can tell you that most of them have left feeling every bit as tired as they would after a rugby circuit training session!

“Size doesn’t matter because it is so inclusive and although my competitive teams are all female there are now boys involved and we aim to have an all-male team competing and have some of them in mixed teams.

“Indeed, one of my little stars is a young feller with cerebral palsy and we can cater for disability without a problem as an inclusive club.”

Finola hails from a sporting family because her elder brother Ewan has played for over a decade with Hakin United and captained them to heaps of trophies, whilst younger brother Scott turns out for Herbrandston and is proud of the fact that he has a 100% success rate taking penalties for the second team!

Twin sisters Menna and Colette are both qualified PE teachers, with Collette teaching in Exeter whilst Menna is on maternity leave from her work as a 5x60 officer with Sport Pembrokeshire.

All five have always been encouraged to enjoy sport by parents Willie and Roni, who works as a sister on A&E at Withybush Hospital.

“Dad retired from his work and was looking forward to retirement but at the moment spends much of his time helping me to develop my new facility at Snowdrop Lane in Haverfordwest,” said Finola with a chuckle.

“Both have been amazing,” she told us, “and they still provide us all with amazing support.”

Finola’s initial involvement in sport came when she played netball in Milford Comprehensive and up to last season she was still playing for the ‘Fusion’ team as a centre or wing attack - but her commitment to dance meant it had to take a back seat.

She was also a more than useful swimmer as a young lass and like her siblings competed in a host of galas most weekends with Milford Tigers in her favourite butterfly and individual medley races.

Also throw in the fact that she was a Pembrokeshire Champion in artistic gymnastics and is a qualified coach; both of which have helped develop her dancing techniques in a range of classes like ballet, tap, jazz, contemporary, commercial, musical theatre, singing and drama.

“My own introduction to dance came when I was three and attended the Alice Russell School of Dance in Johnston. I loved ballet and carried it on until my late teens, passing all the levels to Grade Eight - and later completed my intermediate and advanced levels when I was studying for a BTec at the Bristol Dance Centre.

“It was hard work because I was so dreadfully homesick that I had to travel home every weekend and when mum took me to the station I howled like a baby - but by the time I continued my studies for a BA Honours degree in Professional Theatre Dance at the London Studio Centre in King’s Cross I was much better.

“I also had to conquer my nerves as we finished our course with practical experience and I had to join the jazz company on a tour of the UK, with our final performances taking place in the West End of London.”

Finola decided to return home to replenish her funds but now, five years later, she has over 250 members of her classes at the FF Dancers and is eagerly anticipating the official opening of her new studio, which will allow her to teach upwards of 400 dancers on the superb sprung floor, helped along by the use of 17 metres of floor to ceiling mirrors, and good changing facilities.

She will also have a carpeted area for very young children’s classes, where parents sit with their tots to do action songs and little dances, something which Finola’s three young nieces already love!

Finola started out last year with just one freestyle team but already has five teams and does the choreography

“My under eights are called ‘Li’l Mixerz’ and we have two teams at under ten level known as ‘Divalicious’, who have already been champions three times in Swansea, plus a relatively new team in ‘Girl Gang’.

“In the under 14 category our team is called ‘Girlbye’ and they came second on debut, whilst the under 16s, known as ‘Fearless’ are regularly amongst the places and should soon be winning competitions!”

Her teams regularly compete at venues like Swansea, Newport, Pontardawe and Llanelli and FF Dancers also have had their fair share of champions in singles and pairs competitions.

One of Finola’s future aims is to bring one of the rounds of the championship to Pembrokeshire, plus the development of street dance for boys.

“Watching great dancers like ‘JLS’ or seeing ‘Billy Elliott’ that has inspired boys but their numbers are growing.”

Youngsters  are guaranteed a warm welcome with Finola Findlay and there is also the challenge for football or rugby teams to give her a call as she has so many dance classes every week this modest, enthusiastic and charming young lady would be more than happy to show off what street dance has to offer anyone else with an open mind!