Two Tricks For Turning Boring Tasks Into Gold

You know those tasks that sit on your to-do list, gathering dust and neglect time after time? Yeah, we all have them and most likely we all wish some fairy godmother would come and do them for us. It might be your banking or taxes, inputting data into your computer, writing thank you notes… the list goes on.

Today I’m sharing two tricks for turning those boring tasks you hate into pure gold. Because unless you can outsource those tasks, they’ll still need to get done, and as that famous quote goes, ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’. So why not try something new this 2019 and get the results you really want!

turn boring tasks into gold
  1. Make a Ritual Around It

Rituals can be so helpful and powerful in setting us up for success and establishing new habits. Think about it- before performances we always have rehearsals to get ready, before center work we always do barre work. These are rituals, and they help get our minds, bodies and spirits aligned.

So if you absolutely cringe at the thought of paying your bills every month, turn it into a ritual you can enjoy. Light a candle, make your favorite snack, put on a favorite soundtrack, and get to it. You’ll experience less resistance if you surround yourself with things you love and start associating that task with other pleasurable things.

I used to hate anything to do with finances and checking my bank account, but I’ve now made a ritual around it; I get myself a cup of tea or coffee, light a candle, use my pretty pens and paper to take notes and put on some uplifting but relaxing music. I make it as easy as possible for myself to enjoy the process. I also use a lot of the next suggestion…

2. Try Using Mantras

You might be living under a rock if you haven’t heard about mantras. And while you might still think of them as being ‘woo’, they can be super powerful in re-wiring our thinking and making those unpleasant tasks more enjoyable.

Maybe your resistance to responding to emails comes from feeling like you’re bad at technology. So if you reframe that belief, and tell yourself ‘learning technology comes easily to me’, you start breaking down that negative barrier your brain has put up and replacing that belief with a positive (and more effective) one.

Both of these tricks are all about making light of things that can feel heavy.

Will you be using either of these tactics this month? Let me know if you are, and make sure you check out the Different Drummer Dance online shop for more resources on organization and affirmations.

Join The Dance Studio BodyPosi Challenge!

The hope and inspiration of a new year is still swirling around, and I’m not ashamed at all to be harnessing that motivation into my latest project, the Dance Studio BodyPosi Challenge!

If you follow me at all on Instagram (which you should, because I post really fun/helpful stuff), you probably will have seen me talking a lot about this challenge, and I’m super excited to be stepping out on this adventure with over 50 dance teachers and studios from around the US!

The goal of this challenge is to give teachers tools and resources to bring body positivity (aka bodyposi) into their dance classrooms. Everyday, from Monday - Friday of next week I’ll be leading teachers in moving mantras, affirmations, conversations, and writing prompts to help get their students on track to loving themselves, their bodies, and their abilities a bit more, because when we teach dance with the mindset that our bodies are our friends and teammates rather than something to be trained into submission, we raise happier and healthier dancers - mind, body, and spirit.

There’s only one more day to sign up! So if you’re into the idea of bringing a bit more love and respect into your studio, I hope you’ll join us!

Of if you have questions you can e-mail me, and by all means, if you have a friend (or 2 or 3) who you think would be into joining our challenge, hit share below and let’s spread the body positivity love!

The Dancer Teacher's 2019 Manifesto

Happy New Year!!

Like many of you, I’ve spent the last few weeks not only enjoy the holiday, but gearing up for a new year; clearing out the old and making room for the new. One of my practices for gearing up for a new year involves journaling and goal setting, and while I was doing these things, I had the idea to make a manifesto for myself - specifically for my teaching.

I started playing around with words - affirmations, positive statements, kick in the butt reminders, and then got to thinking, ‘well, if I need/want this, I wonder if other dance teachers do?’ So I asked around, and sure enough, you dance educators out there hollered back that you were into a manifesto too!

So here it is my fellow dance friends! Here’s a snippet of my 2019 Dance Teacher Manifesto. It reminds me of all the things I want for myself and my students and my teaching practice in the coming year, and I hope it gives you some inspiration and motivation as well!

To download the full manifesto, just pop your email below and I’ll send it your way. Print it out and put it next to your desk, teaching table, speaker or nightstand, and get ready to rock 2019 with me!

Backstage With Erin Pride of Dance Boss

I’ve been so blessed this year to meet so many amazing dance educators doing amazing things. As 2018 comes to a close and I get all dewey eyed reminiscing, as well as excited about the future and the quickly approaching New Year, I’m grateful to have some kick ass ladies in my circle. Erin Pride is one of those ladies. Erin and I connected earlier this year when I was on her podcast, Dance Boss (which you can listen to here). She’s a refreshing beacon of light for us dance educators, and the perfect way to finish off the Backstage Blog interview for 2018!

KC: What's your earliest memory of dance?

EP: A dress rehearsal when I was like 4 or 5, and I was with my mom...All the kids on stage  were scared and I was there like look at me...Always a ham...

KC: What's your background with dance? 

EP: I went to a performing arts High School, received my BFA in dance from Montclair State University, my Masters in Dance Education from NYU, and danced for Pilobolus Creative Services. 

KC: Was it love at first plie?

EP: Yes, I have always loved dance since I can remember. 

KC: How did you get into teaching?

EP: I kind of stumbled into teaching, my parents said get a job and the Dance Director Position at the high school I graduated from was available.  I gave it a try and fell in love. 

A student of Erin’s

A student of Erin’s

KC:What's your favorite thing about it?

EP: Creating work is defiantly my favorite part, and teaching composition. 

KC: Who are your dance heroes, and why?

EP: Defiantly the pioneers Loie Fuller, Ruth St. Denis, Isadora Duncan... I appreciate them for paving the way for modern dancers. 

KC: Tell us about your podcast, Dance Boss. 

EP: The Dance Boss Podcast, is for my fellow dancers educators, and dream catchers…Each week I  share insights, and inspiration on systemizing your dance classroom and improving student growth, I also share interviews with dance entrepreneurs who are crushing it with out of the box way to support the dance community.

KC: What's one of your goals in working with other dance educators? 

EP: Defiantly to empower them, to give them the tools to plan and systemize their classrooms/studio so they can have more time to actually enjoy their life. 

KC: What's one of your favorite funny or heart warming stories about dance?

EP: OMG my parents came with me and stood on line with me during my season 1 of SYTYCD call back... I was terrified, and cried when I didn't get the gig, but there they were supporting me, and encouraging me.  I love them so much and this memory is a testament to how supportive they have been throughout my entire journey. 

KC: Are there any cliches or preconceptions about dance you try to correct in your teaching?

EP: That curriculum is a one size fits all kind of tool.  People buy curriculum, it sits on their hard drive or it does not speak to their students needs and their values.  Curriculum must be tailored to fit the teachers/ studio owners vision/values, and the student demographic. And after it is created staff needs be trained and held accountable to deliver it. That is why I coach clients to help them create classroom structures and systems based on their students needs and their values. 

KC: Is there one thing you think the dance community needs more of, less of, or to get better at?

EP: Mentors - dance educators need mentors...Everyone can not receive their BFA, MED, or MFA, so I believe mentorship would help give those  teachers tools to run effective classrooms.

KC: What's next for you and your businesses? Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?

EP: Yes, I am launching a 1 on 1 coaching service to help dance educators create lesson plans, assessments, benchmarks for their entire dance season, and I am also launching a professional development series for dance studio owners - helping them train their staff on their values, and curriculum implementation.

And now, just for funsies…

KC: Burritos or tacos?

EP: Tacos 

KC: Legwarmers or ballet skirts?

EP: Legwarmers 

KC: Disco balls or rainbows?

EP: Rainbows

KC: Center Stage or Flashdance?

EP: Flashdance 

KC: One word to describe yourself?

EP: Outgoing

Speaking of outgoing, you should definitely go out (see what I did there) and check out Erin’s website and podcast, then make sure and holla at us on Instagram (tag @diffdrumdance and @erinpride). Have a great week!

December Book Report: Plum by Sean Hays + Scott Icenogle

There’s no shortage of adorable and beautiful holiday books this time of year. I always love meandering the kid’s section at bookstores, and it’s especially fun around the holidays, but there’s always a couple that seem extra special. Plum, by Sean Hays (of Will and Grace fame), and Scott Icenogle, with gorgeously fun illustrations by Robin Thompson, is one of those books.

Plum is a little girl who lives at an orphanage, and, as all likely heroines, has felt a bit of an outcast. But when a big storm arrives and threatens to ruin Christmas, Plum takes things into her own hands to save the holiday. Her pluck and kindness are rewarded by a mysterious magician, and Plum is transported to the Kingdom of Sweets, where she continues to help save the day, and find the family she’s always wanted.

This is a super sweet twist on the classic Nutcracker tale, it’s charming and heart-warming; perfect for any young dancer who can’t get enough of Sugar Plum Fairies, Clara, and the Mouse King!

What are your favorite reads this time of year? Share below, or forward this recommendation on to a friend who you know would enjoy it! Happy Reading!

Winter Wonderland BrainDance!

Happy December! ‘Tis the season for all things winter: snowflakes, snowmen, hotchocolate… the list of wonders goes on and on! This is also an especially fun time of year to explore winter themes with your dance classes and young movers, which is where this month’s BrainDance comes in! Make sure you stay tuned for next week’s blog as well, where I’ll be reviewing my favorite holiday pick in kid’s lit! Happy Dancing!

Backstage with Leslie Scott of Youth Protection Advocates in Dance

You know when you meet a powerhouse for the first time, and she leaves you like ‘WOAH’? Yeah, that’s pretty much been my feeling every time I get to interact with Leslie Scott, who’s today’s interview! Leslie is the Founder of YPAD (Youth Protection Advocates in Dance), as well as a dancer and highly sought after teacher, with her contagious positive energy and inspirational messages.

I’m currently taking the YPAD online certification, and am so impressed with it, (and she’s generously given readers a SPECIAL OFFER at the end of the blog!) I can’t wait to share all of Leslie’s wisdom with you all! Let’s dive in!

KC: What's your earliest memory of dance?

LS: My sisters and I would put on shows in our living room. We loved creating and performing! I also was very drawn to the Bboy scene growing in my hometown when I was in elementary school and junior high and loved the street dance culture. I was influenced by Beat Street, Flashdance and Footloose. As a young child I would try to emulate MJ and perform in talent shows. I sewed sequins on my own glove and would try to moonwalk to classes while wearing a thriller style jacket with tons of MJ buttons on a regular basis. I still have that jacket. I was obviously devastated when Wade Robson came out with his testimony of abuse so it’s hard at times to give credit to MJ being such a driving force in my young dance life but he was for many of us. I will never be as devastated as Wade. Regardless, Hip-Hop culture, popping, locking, breaking and social dances like the Cabbage Patch, Roger Rabbit, RoboCop and moonwalk heavily influenced me as a kid. :)

KC: What's your background with dance?

LS: I grew up a street dancer and would choreograph my own dances as a young child. I was the only freshmen who made the varsity dance team in High School and I would choreograph many routines. I did not grow up a studio kid. From there I went on to create the Arizona State University Hip-Hop Coalition (ASU HHC) that is still viable today. My goal in college was using dance as a vehicle to shed light on social justice issues and also unite dancers of all different levels, backgrounds, cultures, differences, etc. When I moved to Hollywood my goals became very self-serving and I lost my way. Thankfully I have found my roots again.

KC: Was it love at first plie?

LS: Many are shocked to hear my answer is no. ;) I did not take to studio classes as a child or teen. I loved to hang out with the Bboy crew at my school and create my own “funky” dances for the high school team and try to emulate choreography from music videos in my bedroom. Plies were not for me at the time. ;)

KC: How did you get into teaching?

LS: A dance teacher who was at my high school to choreograph Guys and Dolls for our musical that year saw me free styling. She also taught at the local YMCA and saw me take her fitness classes and felt I had natural rhythm and movement quality. She asked if I would audition for the tap section of Guys and Dolls if she brought me a pair of tap shoes. I ended up auditioning and I made it. She wanted to start hip-hop style dance classes for kids and adults at the YMCA and at 17 gave me the honor of teaching them.

KC: What’s your favorite thing about teaching?

LS: For me, teaching dance is a vehicle to build self-esteem, community, unity and make the world a better home. I love the joy, sense of freedom and self-love it can bring. I love being able to share a message through movement. The benefits dance can bring to Holistic Wellness are well researched and powerful. When dance is used in its pure form it has the the potential to be therapeutic medicine to soothe ailments of the mind, body and Soul. When used in harmful ways it can have the opposite impact. That is why I’m passionate about preserving its goodness.

KC: Who are your dance heroes, and why?

LS: My dance heroes and heroines are those that may not fit into the cultural ideal of what a dancer looks like, dances like, etc. but who do it and enjoys it in spite of societal stereotypes that may appear as obstacles. My heroes and heroines are all the people that dance free of internet affirmation, names that we do not know, teachers that do not seek the limelight, but are Dance Doctors, using dance as medicine to heal the brokenness of individual hearts and our collective world. I think everyone was born a dancer but when society starts assigning certain attributes as being a “good dancer” (praise) versus “bad dancer” (embarrassment and shame) then inclusiveness and participation is lost.

In many cultures and regions around the world throughout history, dance has, and continues to be a powerful presence for community building, worship, celebration and more. It’s heroic to me to affirm access to dance should not be related to how “good” you are at it. If it brings your Spirit to life, you are good at it!


Past that, I admire Debbie Allen. She has consistently used her platform to make the world a better home and create access to the arts for those who otherwise may not have had it. I also admire Wade Robson. He is courageous, insightful, strong and unique.

KC: What’s one of your favorite funny or heart warming stories about teaching dance?

LS: This is such a hard question. After 29 years of teaching there are so many! I have to say they have come with students of all ages, colleagues as well as parents. I still chuckle every time I bend down to tie my shoe in class and the students do it as well. ;) As far as heart warming, a memorable story is from a young man who was struggling with depression and anxiety wrote me a long letter that before starting to train with me he was considering suicide and my class was therapeutic for him. I will never forget that. Every time I teach I am acutely aware I do not know what my student’s burdens may be but I know they have them. That experience really moves me to keep an open heart and set my intention to always create a safe and inclusiveness space for each person.

My second experience was choreographing a Christmas recital at a small orphanage in Anahuac, MX called Casa de la Esperanza. I didn't speak Spanish and they did not speak English but it was a Divine experience. When they performed and the town came to watch I remember tears streaming down my face and thinking "This feels more satisfying than any professional job I have ever been on." That experience solidified my purpose to start a dance related non-profit that also includes an outreach division. I have been back to that same orphanage 6 times and led dance camps with other dance teachers.

KC: Are there any cliches or preconceptions about dance you try to correct in your teaching?

LS: That in order to make a living as a Dancer you have to be “viral”. That in order to make a living as a dancer you have to self-sexualized or endure objectification. That dance has an ideal body shape. Instead I advocate that dance is for everyBODY. No matter the shape, ethnicity, ability, height, gender, sexual orientation or any other differences that may be used to divide us as humans, everyone deserves equal access to the arts. That in order to be successful one must follow the trends regardless of safety or quality.

I believe in the “And/And” scenario because I am living it. I no longer self-sexualize, I no longer allow my agent or clients or colleagues to objectify me, I no longer compete on social media, I no longer put what my body looks like over how it feels and I am turning away job offers because I’m so busy. You can advocate and protect youth and yourself AND be successful and make a living.

KC: Tell us about YPAD. What is it, how did it begin, and where is it at now?

LS: YPAD (Youth Protection Advocates in Dance) is a non-profit organization dedicated to building empowered dance communities and keeping youth happy, healthy and safe in all dance environments. We are a division of EDIFY Movement. EDIFY Movement is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization originally founded in Los Angeles and fueled by the passion and commitment of doctors, therapist, specialists and educators for youth and adults in athletic and artistic activities.

Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (YPAD) was born as a response and solution to various negative trends on social media and in person that commodify and exploit youth and adults in performing arts. We believe the resources and training that YPAD has developed to educate on emotional physical and sexual health can be adapted for gymnastics. Because of this we recently launched Youth Protection Advocates in Gymnastics (YPAG). Dance and gymnastics are a powerful source of self-expression, community building and Holistic wellness. YPAD/YPAG unites communities to nurture that belief though education and advocacy.

YPAD’s focus is on providing dance studios, conventions, competitions, instructors, dance professionals, parents, community members and dancers with the support, education, tools and resources they need to make healthy choices in the dance environment and the world. We have self-esteem seminars for ages 7-17 and adults, parent seminars, social media fasts, our certification and many more services and resources. We began in 2011 and after launching Certification in 2017 we now have over 500 Certified Educators across Canada, New Zealand and Australia and over 50 YPAD Certified Studios. Our next step is developing Certification for the gymnastics community and to continuing our commitment to the dance community by encouraging healthy and safe practices for youth and adults through evidence based research.


YPAD's education and certification clarifies and affirms that age appropriate practices with youth in dance are no longer vague or “just” your opinion.

YPAD Certification is backed by specialists, facts and evidence based research on the emotional, physical and sexual safety of youth in ALL dance environments including competitions, conventions and social media! We firmly believe that education leads to self-regulation. Individuals and Organizations can become fully YPAD Certified and complete the requirement to proudly earn our Certified Seal to market health and safety to their communities or they are welcome to audit the training. We may not have a Governing Body but we DO have YPAD!

We also developed the YPAD Consultant Group (https://www.ypad4change.org/consult/). This service was created for anyone needing one on one, private consultation in the broad areas of emotional, physical and sexual safety. YPAD offers one free consultation for educators, studio owners, parents and youth (with parental permission) with our specialists in the fields of nutrition, sports medicine, physical therapy, special needs, sensory sensitivities, LGBTQI+, eating disorders, body image issues, anxiety, depression, self-harm, mental illness, bullying online or in person, sexualization, objectification, internet safety, trauma, grief, conflict management, suicidal ideation, abuse (physical, sexual and verbal), perfectionism and more. If something is weighing heavy on your heart and you need a trusted specialist to listen and assist you in finding resolutions and peace, please reach out to our team.

KC: How can people become involved in YPAD?

LS: We are powered by awesome volunteers! If anyone has a speciality or credential in the topics we cover and wants to serve on our YPAD Consultant Group or Advisory Panel please reach out. If our mission has meaning to you and you would like to volunteer or become a YPAD Ambassador we would love to hear from you. You can learn about certification at ypad4change.org/certification and if you would like to volunteer and become part of our team you can email info@ypad4change.org.

KC: What’s next for you and your business? Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?

LS: I was honored to be the Keynote Speaker at Curtain Call Costume's showcase at the end of October in Baltimore. Curtain Call is the world's only YPAD Certified Costume Company and their support has been incredible. They are sponsoring our booths at all the UDMA's this season as well. They not only have creative and appropriate designs they are awesome humans.

Also launching at the end off October is the only YPAD Certified Competition guiDANCE Experience (https://www.guidanceexperience.com)! What they have achieved to earn the YPAD Certified Seal is truly impressive! We hope everyone will check out their tour dates and read about their commitment to reclaiming a fun, healthy and safe competition environment!

I was invited to speak in November about YPAD and appropriate practices with children in Kingston, Jamaica at the Wan Move Diaspora Dance Experience. However, my 3 year has been on 101 airplane rides on behalf of YPAD and as awesome as this opportunity is I may send another YPAD delegate OR my fellow YPAD/YPAG Director Joseph Zanovitch who is also my husband will go as a very late Honeymoon. ;)

Aside from those immediate projects we are deep in the trenches every day working on cases from bullying to eating disorders to sex-abuse, cultivating relationships with like minded organizations, facilitating citifications, spreading our education and developing YPAG Certification.

We are endlessly thankful to Misty Lown, the Founder of More Than Just Great Dancing (MTJGD) for being our First Visionary Sponsor and to our amazing team of Advisory Panel Members, YPAD Certified community, sponsors, volunteers and all who help shine light on this needed mission!

For anyone reading this...we would like to offer you 25% off our online YPAD Certification course. You can visit ypad4change.org/certification to review the modules and requirements and use the code DDD2018. This is valid until December 31st, 2108 and is valid up to 6 months after purchase. Thank you to Katrena for this platform and the important work you are doing to advocate for body positive environments!

KC: Thank you so much for your generous offer! And now... just for funsies...

Burritos or tacos?

LS: Tacos

KC: Legwarmers or ballet skirts?

LS: Legwarmers

KC: Disco balls or rainbows?

LS: Disco balls

KC: Center Stage or Flashdance?

LS: Flashdance

KC: One word to describe yourself?

LS: Empathic

A BIG thank you to Leslie for sharing her time and wisdom! I hope all of you will check her work out and consider the YPAD Certification - it’s such a vital and important resource for teachers in our modern world! You can also share these wise words with teachers, parents and friends who you think would dig this interview!

Backstage with Annett Bone of The DancePreneuring Studio Podcast

Whenever I find a new dance podcast, I literally do a little happy dance. And I especially love the podcast The DancePreneuring Studio by today’s guest Annett Bone because it combines awesome, real-life advice for dance professionals, along with juuuuuust the right amount of woo, which we all know I’m a fan of. ;) I was lucky enough to be a guest on Annett’s podcast awhile back (you can tune into that episode here), and today I’m super thrilled to share her interview with you! Let’s get to it!

KC: What's your earliest memory of dance?

AB: My earliest memory is doing Tahitian and Hula at the age of 8 when I lived in Texas.

KC: What's your background with dance? Was it love at first plie?

AB: I started with Tahitian and Hula at 8, and took my first ballet and jazz classes at age 14 on Guam. And it was most definitely love at first plie! I was so excited taking my first classes.  I left Guam after high school at age 18 and went to study dance at the University of California in Irvine and got my B.A. in Dance, with an emphasis in Teaching.

KC: Who are your dance heroes, and why?

AB: My dance heroes are not necessarily those you would know or see in the limelight. It is the dancer, choreographer,  or educator that is passionate, intentional , with an amazing work ethic.  It is the person that goes beyond the movement, and allows himself or herself to be immersive in whatever process they’re involved in with dance. It is the person that doesn’t give up.  It is the person that looks beyond notoriety and the superficial stuff, whatever that means to them.

KC: You came back to dance after a long break; can you tell us about that journey and your experiences coming back to the dance community?

AB: I quit dance after getting my B.A. in college because my self-image was distorted and bottom line, I let fear get the best of me.  After 20+ years of not dancing, experiencing depression, self-doubt, and massive weight gain to name a few things, I returned to dance because I missed it so much. I didn’t want to have any more regrets of not at least having dance in m life to some degree.  This choice has resulted in many unexpected serendipities, one being that I am stronger and can do more physically in my 40’s than I did in my 20’s,  The mindset shifts and constant learning has been priceless.

KC: You have an awesome podcast called The Dancepreneuring Studio. Can you tell us what inspired you to start the podcast?

AB: Thank you for the kind affirmation on the podcast, I really appreciate that! Since returning to dance, my thought process is geared toward what I can do to constantly push myself outside of my comfort zone. I was inspired by the fact that podcasting would be outside my comfort zone because I didn’t have any experience with it, I hated the sound of my voice, and I thought, “Hmmmm, let me see if I can put dance on a platform that isn’t visual.” I also wanted to do my part in highlighting dance and the amazing people involved in dance, through podcasting.

KC: What's one piece of advice you'd give your younger dancer self?

AB: One piece of advice I would give my younger dancer self is that one audition, job,  or project doesn’t dictate your value as a dancer and more importantly your value as a creative, human being.

KC: Are there any cliches or preconceptions about dance you try to correct in your work with your podcast?

AB: I love these questions Katrena! Cliches and preconceptions that I try to bring more awareness to are that impact is not always about vanity metrics in social media, don’t judge dance or movement ability by body type, and one of my favorite sayings, “State of mind, not date of birth,’ meaning age only being a number because I’ve seen people in dance and other things killing it in their 50’s, 60’s and beyond.

KC: What about the dance community is currently exciting you the most?

AB: In the dance community currently, I am excited about the availability of different approaches to dance and movement as a whole. And I love that it is being made accessible to as many people as possible, regardless of physical ability, body type, background, etc.

And now… just for funsies…

KC: Burritos or tacos? 

AB: Both depending on ingredients. LOL

KC: Legwarmers or ballet skirts? 

AB: Legwarmers

KC: Disco balls or rainbows? 

AB: Disco balls

KC: Center Stage or Flashdance? 

AB: Flashdance

KC: One word to describe yourself? 

AB: Passionate

Thank you SO much Annett, for sharing your wisdom with us! I know you all will probably want to get some more of Annett in your life, so make sure you check out her website here, dig in to all her amazing podcast episodes wherever you get your podcasts by searching The DancePreneuring Studio and you can find her on Instagram and Twitter as well.

Stay tuned next week for yet another amazing Backstage Blog interview, and make sure you share this interview with someone you think would love it. Have a great week!

Backstage with Tricia Gomez of Rhythm Works Integrative Dance

I’m always fascinated and super inspired when I meet other dance educators and artists who are doing AMAZING things - their spirits and backgrounds and all they’ve achieved just give me all the warm and fuzzies, and I know after reading this week’s interview with Tricia Gomez of Rhythm Works Integrative Dance and Owner of Dance In A Box, you’ll be feeling the love as well. Let’s get to it! Read on!

KC: What's your earliest memory of dance?
TG:I remember being dressed up for my first class. I had ballet shoes on. I was 2 years old! My dance teacher, Miss Debbie Root Moore, lived next door to me and I was so excited! I also remember taking my recital pictures in an adorable white and pink satin ballet outfit. It had an umbrella that went along with it. I thought I was so special!

KC: What's your background with dance? Was it love at first plie?
TG: I don't remember ever NOT dancing. It's been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. In fact, I recently did DNA testing and discovered that there are "dancer gene mutations" and I happen to have both of them!  So I guess you can say dance is literally in my DNA! I can remember my mom constantly asking me to stand still, or stop leaping over the different colored tiles in the grocery store. I think I saw the opportunity to dance in everything. Now I use it as therapy and train others to do so as well!

KC: How did you get into teaching? What's your favorite thing about it?
TG:I was the captain of my high school dance team, so I consider that my first dip into teaching. When I graduated from high school, our local teacher had decided to close up shop, so I jumped in and filled the void while I when to college. I was just so thrilled to be making money from dancing! The littles stole my heart. Their innocence, their honesty, and their awe really took dance, for me, to a different level. 

KC: Who are your dance heroes, and why?
TG: I was pretty sheltered growing up and my dance teachers never really taught us about the great dance pioneers. I pretty much relied on commercial media to get who's who of the dance world. I was in awe of Paula Abdul. I wanted to be just like her so badly as a kiddo. In fact, 2 years after graduating from high school, I closed my dance studio, dropped out of college (I was a Chemical Engineer major...haha), and fly out to Los Angeles to audition for the Laker Girls (because Paula was one). I actually made the team so I moved out to LA permanently and I've been dancing professionally ever since! I got to meet her one day when she came into our dressing room before one of the games. I wanted to cry! These days, I really admire dance teachers who really know how to TEACH, not just choreograph. I call them "Teaching Artists" because the process of teaching becomes the art. They observe each student individually and do whatever is necessary to get the student to understand what's needed of them. That takes true creativity and that's where the real relationships are found. That's what's most important!

KC: Tell us about the Rhythm Works program. What is it, and how did it begin?
TG: Rhythm Works Integrative Dance is a continuing education certification for teachers who would like to confidently and effectively work with students who have learning differences and other special needs. It applies dance and rhythm to evidence-based practices from the fields of occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and ABA therapy. Dance is magical and when we apply specific movement that correlates to foundations skills needed to achieve developmental goals, we see students reaching their goals faster! It takes dance to a whole new level. It's not just about expressing or understanding emotion, it literally rewires the brain! 

To make a long story short, after a near-death experience, I understood that there was something that I needed to do, my purpose wasn't complete. After I recovered, I set out on a journey to figure out what that purpose was. Through a not-so-coincidental chain of events, I found myself surrounded by a board of advisors that helped me dismantle my existing Hip Hop Made Easy program and rebuild it with purpose in mind. That's where Rhythm Works Integrative Dance was born. It ended up being so much more than I ever imagined. To see how it has changed and opened the eyes of the teachers who have come through the program really blows me away, but to hear the stories (and see some of them firsthand) of the students who have benefitted from the program means the world to me. The program was intended to open doors for students with special needs, but what is happening is that teachers are understanding how to better teach ALL of their students!

I now say "Performing is for my ego, teaching is for my heart, but Rhythm Works is for my soul." It really effects me at a much more intense level than anything I've ever done. Without a doubt, this is why I was left here on Earth. This is my purpose!

KC: Why do you think inclusion is important in the dance community?
TG: People who have special needs, especially those with moderate to severe challenges, have very little opportunity to participate in extracurricular activities. It's not because there a lack of desire on the part of the leaders of those actives, but there is a fear. I hear it all the time..."I don't want to hurt anyone...I don't want to offend anyone...I'm worried about the liability." But with a little bit of knowledge and a great toolbox of strategies, that fear goes away and these leaders see their potential to make a difference. As I mentioned before, dance is magical and science is showing that the brain connects in different ways when we dance. This absolutely benefits students with cognitive, physical and social challenges. Dance is cool. Dance is fun. We can connect through dance. We can speak through dance. This should be available for everyone.

KC: Can you tell us more about your creation, Dance In A Box?
TG: Dance In a Box is actually the parent company that houses a variety of teaching tools. This started with Hip Hop In a Box. HHIB contains 100 flashcards with "dance steps" on them. The dance steps were derived from higher level movement, but stripped down to be simple enough for a 3 year old to perform. Teachers can pull out the steps they'd like to use and then link them together and fit them to the music. The complexity comes in the way the steps are patterned and paced (which is what is included in The Hip Hop Made Easy Teaching Guide). The beauty of the cards is that ANY style of hip hop can be applied to the steps. We leave that up to the teacher! In its most basic form, the cards are used to help teachers understand developmentally appropriate movement, break it down in terms a young child can understand, and provide a cohesive framework across their hip hop program. In addition to Hip Hop In a Box, we now have 1-2-3 Dance, which is an additional 50 dance steps, the Coloring Book, Visual Aids Kids. Look for more tools coming in the next year!!!

KC: What's one of your favorite funny or heart warming stories about teaching dance?
TG: One of the funniest moments of my teaching career came early on. I was 17 and teaching a hip hop class to 3-5 year olds (this was in 1993). One of the 3 year olds blurted out "Miss Tricia, your butt's jiggling!" My response was "Well, when you're my age, your butt's going to jiggle too!" 

One of the most heartwarming stories happened recently when one of our Rhythm Works students finally jumped for the first time (we had been working on it for a while in class). He was so excited and the mom was screaming with excitement! For the following weeks she sent us videos of him jumping everywhere! I never gave much thought to how important a skill like jumping is to the daily function of a child. It's everything.

We also had a situation where a mother of one of our home-bound Rhythm Works students sent a message to the teacher saying "Thank you for changing my son from simple existing to living." Dance did that...and his phenomenal RWID instructor!

KC: Are there any cliches or preconceptions about dance you try to correct in your teaching?
TG: These days, the biggest preconception we work to correct is the parent's idea of "possible." So often, they want to give up in the beginning. Transitions to new activities are usually difficult. Their idea of "participation" may be too high and to be honest, they have hear "this isn't the right place for your child" way too many times. It's very important that we let the parents know what to expect and that WE WILL NOT GIVE UP! We will figure it out. It may take a week. It may take a year, and that's OK. You can literally see the parent start to relax and breathe once they know we're in it to win it. :)

KC: What's next for you and your businesses? Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?
TG: haha...there's always something on the horizon! My mind doesn't stop! We'll be launching our continuing education membership, Inspire-Create-Educate (ICE), later this year! It will focus in on topics that teacher and therapists encounter that they'd like to dive deeper into. I like to say "you don't know what you don't know," but once you know it, you wonder how you ever made it this far without that knowledge! I'm also working on a few genre-specific add-ons for our RWID certified instructors. That is a HUGE project so I don't have a release date on that yet. I'm also consulting with a couple of other teaching artists who are looking to launch their own projects.

And now... just for funsies...

KC: Burritos or tacos?

TG: Tacos...only because I'm gluten free and burritos typically use flour tortillas! 

KC: Legwarmers or ballet skirts?

TG: Ballet Skirts...I'm getting hot flashes at this point in my life and just the thought of leg warmers makes me sweat...haha!

KC: Disco balls or rainbows?

TG: Rainbows all day. One of my favorite Maya Angelou speeches is "Rainbows in the Cloud." It encourages you to look for the rainbows in the clouds of your life. We all have difficult situations, but there's always a lesson or someone special that is the rainbow. She says to look for the rainbows in your clouds so you can be prepared to be a rainbow in someone else's cloud. She was a special human. 

KC: Center Stage or Flashdance?

TG: Flashdance...I'm pretty sure I had the audition choreography mastered. I'd do it in my living room when no one was looking.

KC: One word to describe yourself?

TG: Manifestor - I'd like to think that it's my superpower. I'm pretty good at finding a way to make things happen, even if they seem impossible.

YAY! Totally warm and fuzzy, right? Thank you so much, Tricia, for sharing your insights and wisdom! Now I hope you’ll do us both a favor and share this article with a friend (or 5) who you think would love to read it.

Your Friend In Dance - Katrena

Backstage with William Waldinger of The Joffrey Ballet School & Broadway Dance Center

Friends, we've got a first over here this week on the Backstage Blog! I make an effort to interview a wide variety of dancers and educators in the dance community who all have different passions and perspectives, and most often, these amazing individuals are women... but today that changes! William Waldinger is a Master Teacher who can be found passing on his knowledge to dancers at The Joffrey Ballet School and Broadway Dance Center. I'm thrilled to have gotten to know him better during this interview and am super jazzed (haha, see what I did there?) to share this interview with you!

KC: What's your earliest memory of dance?

WW: My earliest memory of dance is that of seeing The Nutcracker  for the first time on television. I remember where we were living, and we moved from that apartment in early December when I was six years old, so was was probably five at the time. I remember watching it on a tiny black and white portable set with rabbit ears. I was completely transfixed and I knew at that moment that THIS was what I wanted to do. When I got into the first grade, I remember being brought to the school library. There was a book there called The a Royal Book of BalletI checked that book out of the library and spent the week pouring over its gorgeous illustrations. I couldn't yet read well enough to actually read the book, but it was my only link to this mysterious world to which I was aching to belong.

KC: What's your background with dance? Was it love at first plie?

WW: I wasn't actually able to start my training until I was an adult and had the ability to arrange for and pay for my own classes. I had danced a little in school plays, but there was no actual training. My very first class was at Luigi's Jazz Centre when I was just shy of 26 years old. It was so much MORE than "love at first plié"; I was finally HOME.

KC: How did you get into teaching? What's your favorite thing about it?

WW: My first experience teaching was at a small studio in Brooklyn, NY. I was just starting my serious performing career and I heard through a dear friend that this little studio was looking for a ballet teacher. I figured it would be a good way to earn some extra money. As it turned out, I really enjoyed it. I taught there for one year, but then my performing schedule became too busy for me to continue. Many years later (probably about 15), a teacher at Steps on Broadway asked me to sub for him. It had never occurred to me to start teaching again. As it happened, that subbing opportunity didn't pan out. But it put the bug in my head to start teaching again...so all these years later I contacted the owner of that little school in Brooklyn and asked for a job. Within three months I was back teaching there. Although I didn't get the chance to sub that class at Steps, I did go and take that class. The teacher who was subbing ultimately recommended me to teach at CAP21 Musical Theater Conservatory in Manhattan. One thing lead to another and I landed at CORA Dance, The Manhattan Ballet School, NY Film Academy, Broadway Dance Center and the Joffrey Ballet School. 

My favorite thing about teaching is being part of a chain of educators. What we do as dancers is so intimate and personal; our bodies are our instruments, our muscles contain our memories and we keep our art in a very deep place-on the inside. There is only one way to teach dance...and to really TEACH dance it must be personally passed down, in the studio, from teacher to student. Maestro Cecchetti taught Madame Nijinska who taught Luigi who taught me. Madame Vaganova taught Madame Darvash who taught me. Now my students get to be part of this chain as I take these teachings, filter them through my experience, and pass them down to my students...to the next generation of dancers.

KC: Who are your dance heroes, and why?

WW: There are so many dancers and choreographers whose work I greatly admire: Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Gwen Verdon, Edward Villella, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolf Nureyev, Cynthia Gregory, Margot Fonteyn, Suzanne Farrell, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, Bob Fosse, Martha Graham...and there are many more. But you specifically asked about HEROS. I have one; and that would be Luigi. 

Luigi was paralyzed in a car accident in his early twenties. His doctors told him that he would never walk again and that there was nothing that could be done. He rehabilitated his broken body using exercises that he, himself created and then went on to a brilliant dancing career. Upon retiring from performing he turned these rehabilitative exercises into "The Luigi Jazz Technique", a training method that forever changed the way dancers were trained. It was this man; my teacher, my mentor and my HERO who was singularly responsible for my career and my life in dance.

KC: You write wonderful articles over on your blog, Classical Ballet and All That Jazz. One of my favorites is your blog, Dancing With Different Bodies. Do you think the dance community is getting better at accepting bodies in different shapes, ages and stages?

WW: I think that things are changing in some corners of the dance world, and not in others. I am happy to be part of the Joffrey Ballet School in NYC, where body type is not a consideration when students are auditioning for the preprofessional trainee program. There are still many programs that select their students based on body proportion, flexibility, hip rotation, etc.. The ballet world has an esthetic, an expectation of what a Ballet Dancer looks like. Some extraordinary dancers are breaking that mold...but not many. In other genres of dance (especially in modern, hip-hop and commercial dance) there is a much wider range of what is considered an "acceptable" body. Choreographers like Bill T. Jones have celebrated diverse bodies in assembling their companies and I applaud them. The "uniformity" across the company comes not from a similar body type but from a similar training, movement style and quality.

KC: That's such an important distinction to make about 'uniformity'. What's one piece of advice you'd give your younger dancer self?

WW: "DON'T EVER STOP" . And "BE CAREFUL HOW YOU DEFINE SUCCESS". If I may, I would to link an article here on the definition of success.

KC: What's one of your favorite funny or heart warming stories about teaching dance?

WW: This story does not directly involve me, but is more about one of my employers, mentors, role models and dear friends. I am very proud to have taught at this beautiful teacher's school and I must keep the name of this school anonymous (for reasons which you will soon see). This truly remarkable woman owns a beautiful, small, recreational studio. On the rare occasion that she identifies a truly talented student, she always has a conference with the parents. She explains that if this child wants a career in dance, that they must move the child to a serious pre-professional program; that a neighborhood recreational studio (even though the teaching may be excellent) does not have the resources to make a professional dancer. On one such occasion she met with a parent and suggested that the child audition for the summer intensive at one of the big famous ballet schools in NYC. A few weeks later, this studio owner received a phone call from the parent. The child was accepted into the summer intensive! Unfortunately, there was no way for this family to pay for the tuition, so the child will be returning to this lovely recreational studio for the summer. This studio owner, who could barely make her rent and payroll, wrote the tuition check for this student to attend that intensive. Not only did she send a student away (the most talented student she ever had), she PAID THE TUITION HERSELF. The following school year, this big famous school in NYC put this talented student on full scholarship and this student is now in a very famous internationally respected company. This is what it means to be a teacher. This is what it means to make a dancer.

KC: Are there any cliches or preconceptions about dance you try to correct in your teaching?

WW: Yes. I always try to make it clear that in MY OPINION, high extensions, heart stopping jumps  and dizzying pirouettes do not add up to "dancing". And that carefully sculpted epaulment, head positions, eye positions and finger positions do not add up to artistry and expression. Dancing, artistry and expression come from a very deep place, on the inside. And it is up to us as teachers to find that in our students and cultivate it from the very first tendu and the very first plié.

KC: What about the dance community is currently exciting you the most?

WW: I can't believe I'm about to say this, because I'm a huge technophobe, but I'm excited about the Internet. I definitely think that Internet sensations are a problem. I definitely think that hiring dancers based on how many Instagram and YouTube followers is an even bigger problem. But the Internet has allowed me to connect with teachers and schools all over the world and has opened doors for me that I never knew existed. Without the internet my guest teaching opportunities would be severely limited. Without the internet this interview would have never happened.  I just hope that I can, at my age, keep up with the technology because in many ways I feel like my career is just getting started. 

KC: And now... just for funsies...

Burritos or tacos?

WW: BURRITOS...for sure

KC: Disco balls or rainbows?

WW: DISCO BALLS, I was very happy in the '70's

KC: Center Stage or Flashdance?

WW: FLASHDANCE "What a feeling"

KC: One word to describe yourself?

WW: RELENTLESS

Thank you SO MUCH, William, for sharing your insights and experiences with me! I'll just be over here, on the other side of my computer, doing my best Jennifer Beals dance to 'What a Feeling' :)