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!

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 ( 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 and if you would like to volunteer and become part of our team you can email

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 (! 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 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 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 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?


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' :) 

Backstage With Rachel Stewart & Mary P. Gorder of All That Dance & Love Your Body Week

SUUUUUUPER excited to bring you all this month's Backstage With blog because it gave me all the feels and I know it will for you too! I got to interview Rachel Stewart and Mary P Gorder, of All That Dance in Seattle. These two, along with Maygan Wurzer, the Founder and Director of All That Dance, established Love Your Body Week - a unique (and ah-mazing) celebration for dancers at their studio of all that their bodies can do. When I found out about Love Your Body Week (LYBW), I literally did a happy dance in my chair, and immediately emailed Mary to get the scoop on their awesome teaching philosophy. Let's dive on in!

KC: What's your earliest memory of dance?

RS: As a young child, I’d wear my mom’s pointe shoes and pretend to be a famous ballet dancer.  I’d wear several petticoats for a tutu, and used a table in the garage as my stage.

MG: My memories are similar to Rachel’s - my mom is not a dancer but a musician, so there was always music in our house. I was constantly moving, and constantly bossing around neighbor kids and making them perform in my “shows”. I think the earliest dance I remember watching was the ballet sequence at the end of “An American in Paris”, when they are dancing inside of famous paintings.  It was absolutely magical for me.

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

RS: I started ballet class when I was in grade school. I remember standing at the barre, practicing pliés and tendus with an old ballet record for accompaniment. Honestly, I hated it, and didn’t dance again for several years, when I discovered jazz dance.  I loved jazz dance, it was such a big deal in the 80s. I started tap and eventually fell deeply in love with ballet.

MG: I told my parents again and again that I wanted to be a ballet teacher when I grew up, but I refused to actually go to class for years.  I was the kid that cried the whole time and refused to participate! Every year we would try again though, and eventually I found the courage.

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

RS: I love working with kids and teens, so teaching became a way to share my love of dance.

MG: I started teaching in college.  I took the job just as a way to make a little money in a way that fit into my class schedule, but quickly fell in love with it and haven’t done anything else for work since.  Dance has always been a passion for me, but in a way I think my heart is more connected to teaching than it ever was to my own training or to performing. Watching kids grow is absolutely my favorite thing about it.  There are millions of tiny ways that happens day to day - the little one that finally figures out how to skip with both legs, the teen that finds that extra bit of bravery to try something new.  Being able to work with the same dancers overtime and watch them develop their artistic voice and identity is what drives me as a teacher.

KC: Who are your dance heroes, and why?

RS: My dance hero is Akira Armstrong of Pretty Big Movement. She is such a talented dancer and choreographer.

MG: Too many to list!  I have had so many incredible teachers over the years that have nurtured and inspired me, and I work alongside so many exceptional dance educators.  They are all my heroes. In terms of famous performers, Michaela DePrince is a huge inspiration. Her story is unreal, and she is truly captivating onstage. I love the messages of self love and persistence she is so intentional about sharing. I also very much admire Hope Boykin as a dancer and choreographer, and as an advocate for and positive example of self acceptance and self care.Ashley Bouder is also speaking up right now about feminism in dance and in ballet specifically, a conversation that needs more attention and more voices.

KC: Tell us about Love Your Body Week at your studio, All That Dance. What is it, and how did it begin?

RS: I started LYBW in 2005 when I was teaching at All That Dance (ATD). I was volunteering with the National Eating Disorders Association at the time. I’d spend hours answering the crisis line, speaking to people who were losing their lives to eating disorders. Then I’d teach dance class and hear 5 year-olds saying they were fat. I knew the dance world needed to change, but I wasn’t sure how to change it. I modeled LYBW after National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and honestly, I had no idea what I was doing. It’s taken 12 years and a lot of collaboration to figure it out.

MG: The program has grown so much over the years!  Rachel started LYBW in 2005, and then Emily German worked with her for several years on it.  I came on staff 10 years ago, and was lucky enough to start collaborating on it too. Rachel and I now work together to oversee it.  Last year a version of our curriculum was adopted by the National Honor Society for Dance Arts (NHSDA), a program of the National Dance Education Organization.  Rachel and I create and organize body positive activities for each class at ATD to participate in, and our NHSDA students (juniors and seniors in our highest levels) do much of the leading and facilitating in classrooms.  Teen leadership is one of my very favorite facets of our program - it allows for a whole different level of engagement and empowerment for those dancers. Each activity culminates in the drawing or writing of some sort of positive message to post on the mirror, so by the end of the week our mirrors are completely covered up with messages of self love.  

KC: Why do you think body positivity and inclusion is important in the dance community?

RS: Dance is about creativity, expression, and communication. I’m tired of the people in power in the dance world telling dancers how to look. Dance is our birthright, and is a core part of the human experience. Dance shouldn’t be a tool to oppress and marginalize people.

MG: I can only imagine how many brilliant, talented dancers have been dissuaded from pursuing the art form because they were made to feel as though they didn’t have the right look or the right body to do it.  Theirs are movement voices that the world won’t see or experience because of this narrow body ideal. Every body has a story to tell, and everyone deserves the opportunity to be seen and heard.  I feel very fortunate that I chose to continue dancing, in spite of some tough experiences in my own training.  I am thankful that this art is still such an important part of my life, and it’s my hope that teaching inclusively and teaching from a body positive perspective can help encourage others to trust that they are capable, and that they are valuable and worthy as dancers and artists.

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

RS: I had a 5 year old student who would come early to class every week and tie all of the scarves to her leotard. She would then choreograph beautiful routines as “rainbow bird.”  I adored her certainty, her expression, and her creativity. To this day, the thought of “rainbow bird” makes me smile.

MG: Just this week a teen told me in pointe class that she is so grateful for her experiences at ATD because her teachers never give her corrections about how something looks, but rather about how it should feel or function.  That is absolutely one of my favorite things I have heard from a student, because it speaks to the body positive culture that our whole faculty works so hard to create.

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

RS: I’m not currently teaching dance, but when I teach, I try to use dance to empower students to be their authentic selves.

MG: There is so much dance in the media now, and so much of it is all about tricks.  I strive to foster real artistry and human connection.

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

RS: We are presenting LYBW at two conferences this fall. I want to continue to grow the program and share it with others. We celebrate LYBW at our studio in November, it is my favorite week of the year.

MG: Conference presentations are definitely the next big exciting project for us. Dance Educators Association of Washington in September, National Dance Education Organization in October. I am also very much looking forward to continue working with NHSDA as they take on their second year celebrating LYBW with us.

KC: How do you describe what you do for a living to people you're just meeting?

RS: Well, I’m a mental health therapist, so when I tell people what I do for a living, they often get quiet and look uncomfortable.

MG: I say that I’m a full-time dance teacher, and that I love what I do.

And now... just for funsies...

KC: Burritos or tacos?

RS: Both! On the same plate!

MG: Rachel I respect your answer.  I say either, or both, as long as it comes with guacamole.  

KC: Legwarmers or ballet skirts?

RS: Both! Legwarmers and ballet skirts are a match made in heaven. 

MG: Legwarmers.  Well, legwarmer.  I usually just wear one on the right.

KC: Disco balls or rainbows?

RS: Rainbow disco balls! (That must be a thing)

MG:Too hard to choose. Both have their own intrinsic value.  I need time outside and I love the magic of a rainbow, but I can’t say no to anything that sparkles.  

KC: Center Stage or Flashdance?

RS: Definitely Flashdance. I’m a child of the 80s. I still listen to What a Feeling when I need to get pumped up.

MG: Well I came of age in the early 2000s, so  I have to choose Center Stage. I may or may not have stayed up all night at a sleepover learning Cooper’s ballet from the end with a dance friend...I may or may not still know most of it...

KC: One word to describe yourself?

RS: Well, I can’t decide which word to pick, so maybe indecisive.

MG: Tenderhearted

Thank you SO MUCH Rachel and Mary for sharing your insights and time with me! I'm so inspired by your work and feel wonderful having found more body positivity + ballet/dance peeps! Make sure you check out All That Dance here, and the NHSDA page here

Now I want to hear from YOU! What will you be doing to encourage body love and positivity at your dance studio? Get in touch and let me know below!!

Backstage With Olivia Mode-Cater of Dance Ed Tips

The more I do these Backstage blogs, the more I realize how often I troll the Internet... but, my trolling works, because I find the most amazing people, doing the most amazing things!

Enter Olivia Mode-Cater, who is the Mastermind behind Dance Ed Tips, an organization that's dedicated to helping dance teachers hone their craft, forging connections, and providing tools and resources that make teachers the best they can be.

I was thrilled when Olivia agreed to this interview, because her tips are amazing, her vibes super cool, and I know she's doing some amazing things. Read on, and be sure and check out all Olivia's work here!

KC: What's your earliest memory of dance?

OMC: I come from a family of movers. My mom is a dancer and has always taught dance at local studios.  My paternal grandmother Nicole Mode owned her own yoga studio for over 20 years. She opened the yoga studio the year I was born so I basically grew up there.  My mom would also take me with her when she would go teach and I would sit on the side and watch. So, I’ve always been in and around movement or dance. It’s always been part of my daily life.  

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

OMC: I’ve been taking dance classes ever since I can remember. As I got older I began to take more and more and began training in various styles. This led me to studying dance in college at Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University.  Dance was definitely love at first plié. Even now, whenever I don’t dance for a while, I always really miss it. It’s a big part of my life.

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

OMC: When I was a teenager Debbie Coury, the owner of Yvette’s Dance Studio where I grew up dancing, invited me to be a teaching assistant.  As I grew older and more confident she gave me the opportunity to teach classes independently, which I really enjoyed. I really fell in love with teaching at Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University.  While I was there they started a program where you receive your BFA in dance performance along with your Masters in Dance Education within 5 years. I was part of the first cohort to do that program and that’s where I really became an advocate for dance education.  

I feel really strongly that every life skill I have I learned through dance.  The best part of teaching is knowing that I’m not only sharing an art form that I love, but I am also creating a safe space where students can develop the skills they need to succeed regardless of the career path they choose.  

KC: Who are your dance heroes, and why?

OMC: My dance heroes are Barbara Bashaw and Michele Stevens. Barbara Bashaw created the dance education program at Mason Gross School of the Arts.  She was and still is an incredible mentor for me. She helped me discover what dance teaching meant to me so that I could develop my own philosophy and vision as a dance teacher. Her methods challenged every preconceived notion and misconception I had about dance and teaching. She created a safe space where I could develop and grow into the educator I am today.

Michele Stevens is another mentor and hero of mine.  She was my cooperating teacher during my student teaching internship in graduate school. This woman is so incredibly patient and selfless.  She teaches between 600-800 second to fourth grade students every 6-day cycle. She teaches every child with the same amount love and enthusiasm and what she is able to accomplish with them is remarkable. Whenever I am having a bad teaching day I try to channel her calm energy into my work.  

KC: Tell us about Dance Ed Tips. How did it come about?

OMC: Dance ED Tips is a company that is dedicated to helping dance teachers refine their craft, so that they can create the most well-rounded and skilled dancers.  Through my social media handles, website, workshops, and services I help teachers develop themselves quickly and effectively using research-based strategies.

After working with many dance teachers there’s one thing we all have in common: we all want to constantly improve our teaching methods.  Unfortunately, our busy schedules don’t always give us the time (or money) to professionally develop ourselves the way we want to. The last thing dancer teachers want to do after teaching 8 classes in a day is read a lengthy article or book on pedagogy, and yet we still want to improve so all of our classes can be really effective and impactful.  

Last summer I began researching to see if there was anyone who was providing dance teachers research-based, effective tips in a quick and easily accessible way.  I found lots of resources for studio owners trying to improve their businesses and for teachers who only teach ballet, but there wasn’t really anything out there for people like me who teach all styles of dance along with choreography, improvisation, dance history, etc.  There also wasn’t a place for people who teach in studios, K-12 schools, and higher education to all come together in a quick and easy way to discuss solutions to common issues that are happening in their classroom. When I realized that there was no place like that for dance teachers I was inspired to create Dance ED Tips.   

KC: How do you describe what you do for a living to people you're just meeting?

OMC: I had someone ask me once to describe what I do in 6 words and I came up with: “Sharing movement through performing and teaching.”  I think it works!

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

OMC: During my student teaching internship, I had the incredible opportunity of teaching a self-contained children with autism class with Michele Stevens (one of my dance heroes! ☺).  Those children broke every stereotype and misconception I had about dance for individuals with disabilities.

There was one day in particular that will stick with me.  We were doing a lesson where we danced out a winter-themed story.  I had one student who, in general, I had a hard time engaging in the material.  In most classes, she stayed emotionally detached to what was happening in the class and from what I could tell she was nonverbal.  On this day, though, as we were dancing out the story she looked at me and clearly said: “snowman.” I was so surprised and excited that she had finally found an entry point into the content! For that whole class, she was really invested in the work.  She created her own dance that represented a snowman’s large, round figure and she shared her creative interpretations of ways snow whirls, melts, and falls. That day proved to me that dance is absolutely for everyone.

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

I think dance teachers, unfortunately, are really isolated in their profession.  Dancers who don’t teach label them as “teachers only” and try to discredit their artistry because they have chosen a path in dance other than performing.  Then, teachers in other content areas try to discredit them as educators because “they only teach dance.” This big misconception is something that I try to combat in my work.  A dance teacher is not one thing or the other. A dance teacher is beautiful, rich, complex, and nuanced mix of these worlds, where both sets of values work synergistically to improve and inform the educational and artistic side of the individual. There is scholarship in dance and there is art in educating others. Trying to label dance teachers in one way or another is futile and, honestly, ignorant.

KC: What's next for you and Dance Ed Tips? Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?

OMC: Dance ED Tips is growing, which is really exciting!  I’m beginning to offer my own workshops where people can work with me to refine their craft.  My workshops are packed with a lot of useful material that dance teachers can take back to their studios and implement right away, which I think is really important.  I’m having one in New York City on July 28th!  Dance teachers can sign up at

And now, just for funnies....

KC: Burritos or tacos?

OMC: I usually eat burrito bowls! ☺

KC: Legwarmers or ballet skirts?

OMC: Definitely legwarmers.

KC: Disco balls or rainbows?

OMC: Disco balls

KC: Center Stage or Flashdance?

OMC: Can I say “Save the Last Dance?”  I was obsessed with that movie as a teenager. ☺

KC: Absolutely! Such a great pick! How about one word to describe yourself?

OMC: Grounded

AH-mazing. Thanks so much for your time Olivia! If YOU want to be featured in the next Backstage blog, or know someone who you think should make an appearance, holla at me here! Then be sure to share this interview with a dance teacher you think would love it! Have a great week everyone!

Backstage With Melody Pourmoradi of GirlLife Evolutions

You know when you meet a fellow #GirlBoss online, or in person, and you're struck by a wave of 'this girl is SO cool!!' Well that was pretty much my impression of Melody Pourmoradi, who is a life and wellness coach who has some super important messages for girls and women surrounding self-esteem and confidence, body love and acceptance, and supporting each other in a world that's so often trying to tear us down.

I connected with Melody on social media few months back and fell in love with her work, and was so thrilled when she agreed to sit down for an interview with me! My current momentum in bringing body positivity into the dance classroom feels like it jives well with her It’s actually GiRLIFE Empowerment & Life Evolutions work (a program that's dedicated to empowering young girls with tools to nourish their minds, bodies and souls), so I was super excited to hear more from Melody about her amazing work! Read on for a major dose of Girl Power (and a special offer for YOU from Melody)!

KC: Tell me a bit about how you got started in life and wellness coaching.

MP: As a young girl I was always very fascinated by human potential and finding ways to support others to move forward in their lives. As I started studying psychology however, I realized that the nature of the field required a great deal of healing old wounds and working on the past in order to create positive change. My gift as I learned a little later on was to work with people on the strengths that they have today to help them grow into the best versions of themselves. When I learned about coaching, the job description so resonated with me that I immediately went to coaching school, received my certification and started taking on clients. It has truly been one of the most significant decisions of my life. 


KC: What was it that sparked your interest in coaching specifically for women, and young girls?

MP" As I reflect on all of the transitions that I myself experienced as a young girl and as I watched my twin daughters move through their own set of ups and downs, I was very inspired to create a girls empowerment program. There are so many layers of fear placed on young girls from the outside. Unconsciously, we all accept those fears and allow them to shape our reality. The goal of my program is to instill a strong foundation within our young girls from the youngest possible age, so that they can move through every phase of their lives with as much ease, grace and peace as possible. 

KC: What's your favorite thing about working with women and girls?

MP: My favorite thing about working with girls and women is to watch their grit and grace as they move towards their goals. I believe that female energy, talent and intelligence are one of our planet’s most valuable untapped resources. I love playing a role in bringing light to this positive female movement. The sooner we can all be introduced to our own personal power, the sooner we can step up and claim a life that truly serves us and those around us. 

KC: Do you have any lady heroes, and why?

MP: My biggest lady hero is the incredible Oprah Winfrey. The way that she has used her platform to create a positive shift on our planet is beyond inspiring. I attribute so much of what I have created to date to her and other female role models whose fierce and fabulous energy I call on in my own life each day. 

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KC: How do you describe what you do for a living to people you're just meeting for the first time?

MP: I am a life coach and the creator of The GiRLiFE Empowerment Series: A mind and body training designed for passionate women who want to bring girls empowerment to their own communities {while earning for the good work that they do}. 

KC: What's it been like doing the GirlLife work and curriculum with your own daughters?

MP: It has been so gratifying. I love watching them immerse themselves in the workshops. My favorite is when we are running workshops for younger girls and they help me with everything from set up to registration to actually speaking with the girls who attend our workshops in a one in one setting. It’s also very comforting to see them use the GiRLiFE principles of self-love, gratitude and intuition in their own daily lives.  

KC: Do you have any new or special projects on the horizon you're excited about?

MP: I do. I am actually putting the finishing touches on my first book called: xoxo, from a girl who gets it: life notes for the young girl within. I love sharing all of the messages from my workshops in a fun and inspiring way. The target ages for the book are 5-105. I believe that there is wisdom in this book that the young girl in all of us needs to hear to heal and to grow. I’m super excited to be publishing it soon!

And now.... just for funsies....

KC: Burritos or Tacos?

MP: Tacos all the way!

KC: Flashdance or Footloose?

MP: Flashdance

KC: Legwarmers or Headbands?

MP: Legwarmers always

KC: Disco balls or rainbows?

MP: Rainbows

KC: One word to describe yourself?

MP: Resilient

Thank you so much Melody for sharing your time and wisdom with us, and for creating this special offer for Different Drummer Dance readers!

Melody has generously offered up an entire module from her GiRLiFE Empowerment Training. This training will guide you through one of the themes from her workshop so you can give it a test run in your community, and it's also a great way of getting acquainted with the GiRLiFE mission and our movement. Make sure you claim your offer below, and then let me know once you did so I can give you a virtual high five! 

You can also get more of Melody and empowerment for women and girls over on her Facebook group page. Hop to it and get empowering! 

Backstage With Kimberly Weiss - A Body Positive, No BS Coach

I'm super excited to share this week's Backstage blog, because it features a new friend who's doing some pretty badass things when it comes to injecting our society and culture with a much needed dose of body positivity. Kimberly Weiss is a body positive, no BS coach for women, and we've bonded over the ridiculous body standards women face, as well as over a love of tacos and dance parties. Especially as my focus has started shifting to teaching dance from the inside out, our conversation felt like an important step towards embracing all the ways we enjoy movement. 

KC What's your background with movement? Were you into dance, sports, etc. as a kid?

KW: Not at all. I did a few dance and gymnastics classes when very young, but I didn't like them. I had friends that played softball or soccer but never really found something I liked. I ended up playing tennis later on and actually loving tennis, but when I was young I always hated sports and fitness and movement. It was always a HAVE to - not something I had a choice on. It was the "You have to" in gym class that measured how healthy you were by how fast you could run a mile - a concept I completely disagree with. It took the joy out of movement for me that I didn't find again until I was an adult.

KC: Your work focuses around empowering women to feel good and comfortable in their bodies. Is that a mission you've always been aware of? How did it come about?

KW: It came about because I changed careers and began working with girls from 8 - 18 with at various non profits from different backgrounds. I kept seeing /hearing the same things with the kids and their parents or just out to brunch with my own friends. I got tired of it so I knew I had to stop complaining about it and do something about it if I wanted to see a change. We have such a narrow view of what is acceptable (body size, beliefs, how many grams of sugar we can eat). We don't take time to actually be happy. And we rely on others to define health and what is right/wrong instead of listening to our own needs. We waste so much time on fixing ourselves - life becomes and ongoing fixing journey and I love me some deep conversations and soul searching, but I also love when women free up the mental time/energy/money to stop being an a** to themselves with food and life. We need to stop passing on these beauty/body expectations onto the next generation and it starts with all of us. 

KC: What's one message you wish you had heard as a young girl surrounding your body and abilities?

KW: If something doesn't feel comfortable - that is okay. I can find something else that does. I am not bad at sports or unfit because I can't do one thing. Everyone is good at different things and has their own abilities. 

KC: What's your most favorite way of moving and why?

KW: I love walking and running and I like to put on a quick video at home and just MOVE in whatever way feels good. I've been doing tae-bo a bit lately which is fun. Also boxing! It changes a lot - but I always do go back to walking as a simple can do thing. I love listening to an audio book and going for a long walk. I do love weights as well - I feel so powerful with weights in my hands!

KC: What's one memory that stands out to you about your jobs where you were working with young girls and the struggles they (or their parents/community) had about their abilities/appearance/diet, etc.?

KW: It's hard to think of just one. I think for me one big thing that stands out is when women are shocked that their daughters say something negative about their bodies when they are 8/9/10 when the mom's/teacher's/society are telling us we need to not eat sugar/gluten/carbs/fat and we go on cleanses and elimination diets that we say are not diets and then we are surprised when girls grow up and think there is something wrong with them. We teach them to think something is wrong with our own actions. It's in the little things and the passing comments. Things like "I was so bad last night. I can't believe how much I ate." drives me crazy. Shaming yourself out loud or talking bout the diet you are on that you don't need to be on and then your daughter is standing right behind you. It's not just about what you say when they are around. It's also about what you truly believe about yourself. Kids are SMART. They know. How you feel about yourself matters and they will take it in. 

KC: What's one project you're currently working on in your biz that you're excited about?

KW: MY PODCAST F Your Diet which recently launched. I'm having fun with that. I really like taking to women from different backgrounds and finding the common areas we all relate to. It's a podcast for people that are tired for BS and crave real stories. We talk about body, food, movement and perfection. I'm so glad I started it! I'm also putting together a free video series to introduce people into getting away from diet culture and how to actually listen to their own bodies. I think a lot of the work can be overwhelming or feel like another TO DO on a list so I want to change that by providing an easy introduction to the work. That will be on if anyone is interested! 

KC: Now, just for funsies...

Burritos or Tacos?

KW: Tacos. Always Tacos. WHO is saying burritos!? TACOS! They are the perfect food. I love tacos! 

KC: Disco balls or Rainbows?

KW: Rainbows, but I respect a disco ball. 

KC: Solo dance parties or group dance parties?

KW: Solo. About 10 times a day minimum. 

KC: Flashdance or Footloose?

KW: Footloose. Great soundtrack. (esp. for solo dance parties). 

KC: One word to describe yourself?

KW: Genuine. 

THANK YOU, Kim, for sharing your genuine, honest, badass self with me! I'd love for you to share Kim's interview with a woman in your life who you think would benefit from hearing Kim's wise words, and you can also get more Kim on her website, , Facebook, and YouTube

I'd also love to hear from YOU! If you're interested in being interviewed for the Backstage blog, hit me up with a message, or let me know if there's someone you'd especially love to see here!