Emily Perkins 20 years at Steppes

POSTED BY: steppes

March 1996 was one I will never forget.

It was when I graduated from my Bachelor of Education in Visual Arts at Melbourne University and became the proprietor of Steppes only two days later.


Steppes March 2016

Front of Steppes School of Dance March 2016


I was 24years old with no money, not much experience, living at home and about to become a business owner with a loan to pay off. Although I had been teaching at Steppes for 18 months beforehand I suddenly went from being a University student to an adult overnight.

20 years might not sound that long ago but so much has changed in that time.

Emily reading to student
Emily reading to student

My office was my bedroom in my parents’ home. I had a phone attached to a wall with an answering machine for my new enquiries to leave messages. If I wanted to write a newsletter I would go to my neighbours’ or auntie’s to type it up on their computer. Then I would spend hours at the Sandringham newsagents watching the machine print copies. My flyers and brochures were folded by hand, put in envelopes, stamps were licked and stuck on by hand and then a huge mail drop would go out together via Australian Post.

I didn’t have a mobile phone, there was no such thing as email, Facebook or Instagram and a Fax was something you would have to go and pay for. There were no Officeworks for stationary and my local agent was the place I spent my Saturday afternoons working. We didn’t even have a decent coffee shop to work from.

I taught from 3 church halls in those days and would need to set up and pack up before and after each class.


Emily with students in Hall
Emily with students in hall

I took a ghetto blaster to classes with a box of cassettes and hoped they were all ready to play in the correct spot not at the end of the tape. A large suitcase carried my props of scarves and tambourines for my preschool classes. My old Peugeot 504 carried my hoops and limbo stick which got me from home to the church halls.

I had hand written class rolls, collected cheques for term fees and had to go into the bank to bank them so they would clear before writing cheques to pay bills.

Costumes were not easily accessible and my own mother, family and friends were stuck sewing at concert time. When it came to selling tickets there was no online ticket system and all were individually handled and dealt out. Music was also harder to come by, if I chose a ballet and needed music I’d often need to pre order months in advance and make a trip to the city to purchase. No iTunes, no sound hound or cutting songs, editing was a huge task and usually left a clunky noise at the end of the cut. Photos were taken with cameras and printed at the chemist, parents could help back stage without a background check and no one could video from a phone.


Emily with students in costumes                       Emily with Miss Stacey

Emily with students in costumes                                  Emily with Miss Stacey


Looking back on all these changes I feel grateful for all the conveniences technology has given us but I’m also grateful that I’ve lived at a time where I can appreciate these changes and what they have given us. Our children will never understand a life without mobile phones or internet, as life is so instant these days.


Emily Perkins March 1996
Emily Perkins, March 1996

This photo of me above was taken on a camera the day I bought Steppes and then put in a photo album weeks after being printed. I can now share this with you 20 years on with the press of a button just as I can write this and not need to send in an envelope.

Thank you to everyone who has witnessed and been there for my journey.

There have been tough days but most of all it’s been 20 years of fun, working in a job I love surrounded by tule.

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