Interview: Ballet dancer bullied for cleft palate founds Hackney dance school

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
“Dance helped me to overcome being bullied as I was able to block out the negativity.”

A professional ballet dancer who was bullied at school due to his cleft palate has set up a new dance school in Hackney Wick.

Connor Tayor says he was too self-conscious to express himself verbally before finding dance, but the sport has changed his life.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The 26-year-old now hopes to inspire a whole new generation of dancers at his Adore Dance school in Hackney, east London.

Connor, who grew up in a small mining village in Doncaster, South Yorkshire in a family of 10 children, says he was incredibly shy when he was younger.

Connor Taylor started dancing when he was 10Connor Taylor started dancing when he was 10
Connor Taylor started dancing when he was 10

He was born with a cleft palate - a gap or split in the upper lip, which can also affect the roof of the mouth.

The most common facial birth difference in the UK, it affects around 1 in 700 babies.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The NHS says the gap is there because “parts of the baby’s face did not join together properly during development in the womb”.

For Connor, his cleft palate gave his speech a nasal quality and he even he had trouble speaking.

“In school I used to get picked on for how I spoke and I never told my parents what was going on,” he told LondonWorld.

“I didn’t even tell my friends, I just got on with it.

“I did have down days, it’s not nice to have a comment when you can’t help the way you talk.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

However, happily discovering dance helped young Connor build his confidence.

“I originally wanted to go into acting, but I was self conscious about how I spoke so I decided to get into dance,” he said.

“My mum was quite worried about the stereotypes of male dancers but I wanted to go for it.

“I started out at a local school in Doncaster with just jazz and tap.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“I then started to sneak into the ballet classes and when she saw me dance she wanted me to pursue it.”

Connor leading children’s dance lessonsConnor leading children’s dance lessons
Connor leading children’s dance lessons

Finding his love for movement helped him blossom, and Connor said: “Dance helped me to overcome being bullied as I was able to just focus and block out the negativity.”

“It sounds cheesy but it helped me to find my own voice.”

The young performer soon discovered he had a talent, and at the age of 10 he started training at the Northern Ballet Academy, travelling from Doncaster to Leeds by train.

By the time he was 16 he had been accepted into the prestigious Central Ballet School and moved down to London.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Following his training he went on to tour with Alberta Ballet, Canada and perform at world famous venues including Sadlers Wells and the Royal Opera House.

However it was during lockdown that Connor and his husband Joe Watson, 29, decided to set up their own dance school.

Joe, who is a sales and marketing manager, was raised by a dance teacher mother.

The pair opened their Adore Dance studio in Hackney Wick in May 2021, which now welcomes 200 students per week.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Connor teaches both adult and children’s classes in ballet, jazz, tap and commercial dance.

“I enjoyed performing but teaching has always been my passion and what I wanted to end up doing,” he said.

“In my classes I try to encourage my students to be able to express themselves in a safe space.”

Adore Dance is based at Pirate Studios on Rotherby Road and offers adult classes from Monday to Thursday and kids classes on Thursdays and Saturdays.

Related topics:

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.