How To Create Harmony In Dance Training: Backstage Blog with Julie Nguyen
The more I do Backstage Blogs, the more I find myself saying things like “I found the coolest new friend on Instagram today!” with intense glee. And while there’s still a part of me that finds it odd to find “friends” on social media, a larger part of me knows what a great tool it can be for truly finding soul sisters, new friends, and tribe members.
When I found Julie Nguyen via Instagram, I immediately knew this was one special lady who had a unique voice that jived with me, and who was also doing some amazing things through dance. Julie is the owner of Energetic Movement Collective, dedicated to movement and life coaching for dancers, studio owners and teachers. Keep reading for Julie’s wisdom on dance, community, and creating a movement centered life and business you love!
What's your earliest memory of dance?
The first time I fell in love with dance was when I saw the movie “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” featuring Sarah Jessica Parker in 1985! I was 6 years old at the time and I remembered instantly becoming “hooked.” My heart buzzed and a deep curiosity for dance began to emerge. This was my earliest memory of dance because it was the first time dance moved me.
What's your background with dance?
I have been a dancer since the age of 3. This evolved into my journey as a choreographer, master teacher and studio owner of a highly competitive school for 17 years. I have been featured on the cover of Dance Teacher Magazine (May 2015), featured in Dance Spirit Magazine and I currently teach in China spearheading their dance and teacher training curriculums. I am also a certified Life Coach for Dancers, Studio Owners, and Dance Moms.
Was it love at first plie?
I think it was love at first movement. There was just something intriguing about the process of dance for me; It was everything from getting ready for dance class, putting on my dance shoes and taking that first step into the classroom. I have always felt a deep connection to movement and music; I felt completely at home, safe and free, within those studio walls.
How did you get into dance?
My mom put me in dance, taking a ballet/tap combo class, at the age of 3 years old. Shortly after she passed away, dance became my safe place. Attending dance class was a time during the week when I didn't have to face reality; I could just feel happy. It was also consistent. With my family life changing and healing from the loss of my mom, dance was something I could rely on. It gave me a purpose and eventually became the tool that I would use to help others feel safe, worthy and loved.
What's your favorite thing about it?
As a dancer, I love that dance has been this ever-evolving teacher in my life constantly pulling me into deeper internal explorations, always revealing different aspects of myself. Dance has provided a path for me to meet so many diverse and beautiful people from all over the world. Dance has taught me how to listen to my body, my heart, and myself. It has been my guide on how to use my internal compass, carving a path to my greater intuition and truths. Dance is my way to be and feel completely free; I am able to express myself by moving through whatever it is that I want to let go of, celebrate, connect with, detach from. To me, dance is a way for me to be fully in my body while grounding me to the world and aligning me with my passion and purpose.
I also see dance as a Universal Love Language. When I teach dance in other countries, it’s easy to forget that the dancers and I do not speak the same language. We are able to magically communicate, connect, and understand each other through movement and the energy of the spirit.
Who are your dance heroes, and why?
My dance hero is Ruth St. Denis (January 20, 1879 – July 21, 1968).
The book "Wisdom Comes Dancing" is a compilation of her talks, poetry, and essays in which she describes her philosophy on dance and movement as a deep spiritual practice.
I believe that most of us are tethered to dance for reasons that we at times may not be able to fully explain, but when you read the words of Ruth St. Denis, your heart understands the reason why you dance. It is our way to connect to ourselves and to the Divine.
Tell us about your business, Energetic Movement Collective.
The Energetic Movement Collective is a Life and Movement Coaching Site for Dancers, Studio Owners, and Dance Moms. As a previous studio owner turned Life Coach, I understand the three major foundational components that a studio is built upon; the dance studio owners/teachers, the dancers, and the dance parents. In order for the entire system to work successfully in creating sustainability, harmony, balance, and creativity, all three parts need to be nurtured equally.
The Energetic Movement Collective offers Life and Movement Coaching Programs that are targeted towards the needs of each one of these areas.
1. Dancers will gain tips and tools on how to create and achieve their dreams and goals, while also bringing awareness to their thoughts and belief systems that may be holding them back from reaching their fullest potential. Dancers will increase their self-worth, self-esteem, and self-love, which will reflect positively in their dance training and performance, on and off the stage.
2. Studio Owners and Teachers will gain insight on how to create a healthy work/life balance, how to create strong and harmonious boundaries which support self-love and self-care, while also opening space for dreams and desires to come to fruition.
3. Dance Moms (parents) need time to relax; to get heart-centered, to feel balanced, seen, heard and appreciated. My favorite events are the Self Care for the Dance Mom Retreats. I love being surrounded by powerful women who are looking to connect back into themselves, strengthening their community and seeking insight on how to fully support their dancer. These events are truly magical and create an opportunity for the dance parent to feel the magic that happens within the dance studio, which is what we as teachers and dancer experience every day.
What's one of your favorite funny or heart-warming stories about dance/teaching/working with clients?
Hmmm….This is a hard one. My heart carries 24 years worth of memories and heart-warming stories; I don't think I can narrow it down to just one!
I will say, that my experience teaching in China for the first time was a game changer; In fact, every time I return home from a teaching trip, I am different. It truly changes my heart. The entire experience has allowed me to live dance in a whole new way; every day my heart feels like it could explode with Love and Gratitude. The culture holds teachers to the highest level of respect, which is refreshing to experience. While the workdays are long, we never get tired because we all are so happy to be moving and having fun with one another. The energetic exchange of love is equal and as a teacher, it is an honor to share the space with dancers who eagerly want to learn dance as much as I want to teach and create it.
Additionally, I love that I can now say that I have students all over the world; my dance family grew that much larger.
Are there any clichés or preconceptions about dance you try to correct in your work?
Yes! This is why I started my life coaching practice. I believe our limiting belief systems run deep and long. Here are a few that I am working on debunking...
1. "Dance is a hobby and you can not make any money doing it."
Ikigai, which is a Japanese concept that means "reason for being" encourages one to build a profession from passion and purpose. Isn't that the dream? ...To have a career that you love?
If we align with the "struggling" artist mindset, we will become a struggling artist, but if we align with an abundance mindset, we will manifest abundance.
2. "If you own a studio, you will be doing what you love, but won't make any money doing so. And if you do, you are now just greedy and in it for just the money."
I believe that there are many belief systems that we as teachers and studio owners have adapted over the years that hold us back from reaching our fullest potential. I personally can recognize my own beliefs around money and self-worth, which created a martyr mentality, always willing to sacrifice myself and family for the demands of my clients.
3. "Dancers need to train year round"
I am a firm believer in harmonious training versus rigorous training. I believe that we as artists, creators, and movers in the world, need to satisfy and experience other aspects of ourselves. Every sport, except dance, has an off season, but dancers are programmed to feel like they will not reach their goals or fear “falling behind” if they take a day off or opt out of that additional ballet camp. The truth is our bodies need time to rest and rejuvenate, especially if you are in the highly competitive dance season. Self-care is an essential educational piece to training dancers that is often neglected.
4. "Dance Moms are crazy”
I used to agree with this statement until I became a Dance Mom! I currently joke because I am now the dance mom that I would want to kick out of my studio. I never read the newsletters, I am late for events, I show up without tights (and the list goes on.) What I have come to realize is that Dance Moms are actually amazing women who just need some time to breathe!!! Dance Moms are often last on their own priority list and just need a little TLC.
KC: Is there one thing you think the dance community needs more of, less of, or to get better at?
JN: YES!!! I think we, as women need to learn how to support one another better. I believe that we are the majority in this dance space, yet I feel that it is the men that are truly making the money in this arena. I could be wrong, but from my experience, most conventions, competitions, dance teacher events; are all managed by men. I believe that we, as women, can begin to reframe our position in the dance world, truly stepping into our power as entrepreneurs and experts in the field, but first, we must learn how to authentically support one another. This shift will take time, but I think the first step is committing to doing the internal work and steps towards personal empowerment and self-improvement. Dance teachers need to give themselves the same amount of LOVE that they give to their students. Self Care, Self Love and Support are key for sustaining long-term studio success.
KC: What's next for you and your business? Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?
JN: I LOVE this question as it encourages self-evolution and change! I took the jump into the unknown 2 years ago in my quest for something more. I have spent the past few years traveling the world and experiencing life, family, motherhood and of course dance in a whole new way; I am able to gain inspiration and insight while simultaneously unraveling belief systems that were no longer serving me. I am looking forward to continuing on this path with a passion for helping others live, or shall I say choreograph, the life of their dreams.
And now, just for funsies…
KC: Burritos or tacos?
JN: Breakfast Burritos all day!
KC: Legwarmers or ballet skirts?
JN: Legwarmers, even outside of the classroom =)
KC: Disco balls or rainbows?
JN: How about rainbow disco balls!!? Life should be a party. When we are having fun we are able to manifest magic into our lives with more ease. And the rainbow keeps it magical!
KC: Center Stage or Flashdance?
JN: Flashdance of course! And I think everyone should have their own Flashdance party in their living room at least once a day!
KC: One word to describe yourself?
SO. MUCH. GOOD. STUFF! Thank you Julie, for sharing your words and wisdom with us! Now, Julie and I would love to hear from YOU! Do you think the dance community needs to get better at supporting one another, and if so, how can we do that?
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