Five minutes with: Tyra talks about life’s challenges

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Teenager Tyra Roberts is a dance teacher who has, just recently, become a published author.

She grew up in the Sprotbrough area of Doncaster, after her family moved up from the south just prior to her arrival.

Always a keen dancer, she left school at 16 and initially followed a business career route with an apprenticeship in a Doncaster primary school.

It was during a chance meeting, while she was working in Toll Bar at a later date, that led to her later joining a company that allowed her to work and expand her talents on varied dance projects within a range of schools.

When she heard about Shattering the Glass Box, a book idea instigated by her friend Ben Fletcher, she was keen to get involved.

Shattering the Glass Box is an anthology of young female voices, sharing perspectives on sexual assault, gender discrimination and issues that affect girls and women everywhere.

“I’ve had some health and confidence issues of my own that I’ve managed to conquer over time,” Tyra, 19, explained. “I wanted to put the case for dance as very much an inclusive sport or hobby, so my contribution to the book is for males too.”

All too often, she said, sexism can affect people’s life choices, and their outlook:

“It’s an every day thing in the dance world, but not just in dance, it’s everywhere,” she said, her voice becoming animated.

“I would go karting when younger as my dad was in to that, along with motorbikes. It was around the time when Lewis Hamilton won Formula One, and I remember at a careers day I attended at school we all had to give goals that we would like to aspire to....

“I said I’d like to be the first woman Formula One driver and everyone just collapsed about laughing, then all the sexist comments started. I was made to feel really stupid and remember it vividly.

“I’ve always noticed daft sexism. For instance, do you remember a certain chocolate bar that was associated with truck drivers and just for men? I asked my mum why a chocolate bar should be seen as only for men, and she didn’t have an answer.....it’s a small example but it’s always stuck in my mind.”

When I started out in dance I seemed to be steered by everyone towards ballet and pop but was strongly attracted to street dance and hip hop. I was told that that style wasn’t for girls and not to do it. It seemed so restrictive and knocked me back quite a bit. A friend eventually helped to raise my confidence, and joining a female troupe.

“I got to dance with Diversity on many occasions as I worked with a member of the group I had known for years. I got to do a workshop at their studio in 2014 and have performed all over with them since.

“Dance is expressive and the younger me struggled with talking about how I felt....it’s so important to express your feelings. The next generation need to realise they can do whatever they want to do without being judged by others.

“If they face problems they need to speak out about it. There is always someone you can talk to, someone you can trust.

“I’m very pleased with the reception of the book, there are so many positive messages there. Issues need to be tackled early on, as young people can get the wrong impressions and images and this can affect their lives.

“I want them to know they have inner strength and can be independent and self reliant, and trust in your own ability.”

Tyra said she has struggled with anxiety: “My aunt I was very close to was diagnosed with cancer and that had a big effect on me. She was like another mum and passed away in March last year.

I didn’t know how to handle the situation or my emotions, but through coping I grew stronger. When a friend of mine lost her grandad recently I was able to help her deal with that because of what I had been through.”

Sexuality is tackled too within the book. “One girl used it as a vehicle, to come out as a lesbian and it gave her the opportunity to do that - she hadn’t known how to. It was a stepping stone for her,” explained Tyra.

“Young people need to have a voice, males and females, and to think deeply about what they are doing and how they want to live their lives.

“Those of us in the book were strangers but have become friends now and we keep in touch. I would love to do more writing but will see how this takes off. it’s been great so far, everyone has been really encouraging.

“I hope to do more dancing and fitness and help others to develop confidence and realise their potential. I taught one child who would not speak or make eye contact. By his third dance session he was transforming in to a bright and bubbly youngster and that was so rewarding to see.”