Can you explain your relationship with dance growing up?
Dance is a really expensive sport and my mom and I just couldn’t finance it like most of the other families. If I wanted to do dance I had to work really hard for it to have scholarships at my studio. So, I was super relentless with practicing, I’d get set on a particular skill and just keep trying it until I could do it. Any hour of the day that I could practice I would, I was always dancing in the aisles at the grocery store and in our living room. Even young I got into a really competitive mindset about it, I’d think things like “I can’t go to bed until I can do a triple turn” or I’d make myself hold the splits for 5 minutes at a time and if I didn’t hold them perfectly I’d start my time over and do it again. But I loved dance tons, it was kind of my stable place in life. I had a really hard time with my parents getting divorced and a very difficult relationship with my dad and was able to channel anything I was feeling into my dances. It also gave me a sense of control that I couldn’t have anywhere else; I was in complete control of every movement I made and I could be a perfectionist about all of it, or choose to not be perfect at all.
Do you remember your first big performance?
My first big performance gave me this sort of high that I don’t think I’ll ever have again. You have to have a really strong mind/body connection because there’s so much going on in the moment that you can’t think of your individual steps, you just have to trust that your mind will tell your body what to do. It was my first solo as a senior ballerina (a place that you have to work really hard to get to) and it’s a declaration that you’re one of the best and so I felt a lot of pressure, but it was very motivating. Performing doesn’t make me nervous, it’s exciting and I love every second of it. What does make me nervous though is auditioning because you not only have your own standards to meet but the standards of others as well and they’re all looking for something different.
What kind of emotions do you feel/give off when you dance?
It depends on the dance and the story it’s trying to tell. No matter what though dance is cathartic, it let’s me be insanely happy or I can be upset. There’s not a wrong emotion when you’re dancing.
What is your relationship with dance now?
Now, I dance as much as I can still but life has gotten in the way a little. I’m lucky now though because I get to teach it. My teaching philosophies are very different than the philosophies I had as a dancer. When I was a dancer I was very strict about making my movements perfectly concise or graceful, but now I want my students to realize that they don’t have to be critical of themselves. I want my students to feel completely free to express themselves, if they happen to want to train classically I’ll gladly teach them but it’s up to them and not me. I want them to overcome challenges in personal growth instead feeling criticized.
Best things about teaching dance?
Seeing a development of confidence in dancers is amazing. You can have girls come in totally down on themselves and see them leave feeling beautiful. I love seeing my students have the confidence to stand taller and express themselves.
Have you ever injured yourself dancing?
Of course! My feet used to be just absolutely covered in blisters. It’s not unusual to leave a practice with bruises all over. And it certainly takes a toll on your joints, it feels like I need to stretch all the time. And there’s been plenty of ankle sprains along the way.
Do you ever feel like you want to quit dancing?
Yes and no. I always want dance to be a part of my life, but it manifests itself in your thoughts and you constantly feel like you can improve. It starts to come into every part of your life and you’re constantly striving to do things better and then you think you just need a break and you realize that the best break is expressing your emotions in dance.