I was twelve when I took my first jazz class at Dance Zone in Old Bridge, New Jersey. Naturally gifted I was not, but ecstatic I was. I wore MC Hammer pants with sequence down the side and rocked a killer side pony dancing my heart out to “Don’t Go” by Yaz. I was hooked.
More than a decade later, I graduated with a B.F.A. in dance and a business communications minor from Marymount Manhattan College. I was a perfectionist, striving for the elusive form of excellence that always seemed just beyond my grasp. My strive for control in the competitive dance industry along with the pressures society placed on the female form, was the perfect cocktail for anorexia, which I battled in my junior year. Unfortunately, this was the first time I didn’t have feelings of being “bigger” or wanting to lose my low belly, lift my butt, or slim my thighs.
After a terrified look from my visiting parents and no period for nearly 9 months - I knew in my gut I needed to take better care of myself. I started putting on weight as I headed into a professional career in dance. I performed and taught worldwide with both Buglisi Dance Theatre and then Parsons Dance for over ten years. Many times I compared my body to other dancers who seems to be able to eat burgers and stay looking like a toothpick. I hid my body in looser fit clothes so I could conceal my figure. The reality was at the onset of my career - I wasn’t my healthiest or happiest. I would eat my feelings one minute and then insist on a juice cleanse the next. I didn’t always feel comfortable strutting around in my underwear (something dancers do a ton of!), but also something I wanted to feel sexy and ok with doing. Most importantly, my dancing wasn’t at its top game.
Then, I made a promise to myself. I wasn’t going to sabotage my 12 year old dream of being a professional dancer - that I was living - because my mind decided to make problems out of my body and keep my talents and performance abilities dimmed. After making that promise, I danced my ass off - quite literally. I focused on the dance and not on how my body looked doing it. I danced heart-first. No matter what. In a hilarious act of what seemed like irony at the time, my body slimmed down with ease for the first time ever.
More over, performing transformed me. I performed in the most taxing of circumstances - dirt tired, on a sprained ankle, with a fever, not knowing my moves, falling on stage multiple times, shaking muscles, pulled muscles, delirious exhaustion. Through those moments, I had a breakthrough. It’s all ok. It always was and always will be. I started focusing on having the most-lived in performance, not the most perfect. I focused my entire being on the feeling of the dance, being in flow with it.
In flow, living your dance, is the sweetest place to ever be. It is presence. I knew if I could be that present, that free, that happy, and feel that supported and safe on stage, inside of a dance - that I could feel that way off-stage in all areas my life - on the streets of NYC, while in disagreement, being bumped on the subway, building a business, or doing laundry. I could find it always. In that space - all was beyond beautiful. And when I stopped in front of a mirror - all my mind could do was smile and for the first time ever my body felt healthy, fit, light, happy, and free.
While having a dance career I simultaneously began a career teaching barre and fitness. I started hearing the women I taught, having judgements about their physiques. I heard their comparisons to others. I saw them looking at themselves in the mirror - not to see if their alignment was proper - but to see if they were ok. If they were thin that day. So they could either parade around happy if they were or wallow in guilt if they weren’t. So yet again, they could silently make that same resolution for the millionth time - “I’m going to go on a diet. I’m going to go to the gym, for real this time. This is the time will be different. This time I’m really serious. This low tummy will gone by the time summer rolls around. Those thighs will be toned. This time, I mean it because - hell, I’m so fed up with myself.”
Then I had to do it. I was on a mission to help others feel free in their bodies so they could be free in their lives. I launched Living-Dance LLC on February 23rd, 2017. Since then I have trained hundreds of women, men, and professional artists using my methods of dance, meditation, and positive performance psychology.
I promise to offer you dance and fitness classes, interactive talks, and inspired performances and then-some for as long as I’m sill here kicking. We - as a collective - have an obligation to shift our culture, elevate our minds, and enliven our bodies so we can lead meaningful lives. We have an obligation to lead by example so the next generation will only know how to love, care, and respect the bodies they have been gifted. You with me?