R.E.S.P.E.C.T. the Dance: Lessons in Dance Class Etiquette

Every dancer out here knows this summer in LA has been wild. There are more dancers than ever before- which is a beautiful thing. People are here from every city in the world- to take class, practice their craft and be inspired.

The enthusiasm for learning and training is so awesome… but what’s not awesome is the lack of class etiquette! When I went to dance school, back in the stone age, we didn’t only learn to dance- we learned RESPECT. We learned how to TAKE class properly… and I’m afraid those messages of discipline and proper behavior are long lost. So I’ve dug them up, dusted off the cobwebs and have decided to list some of the most important aspects of class etiquette here.

Think class etiquette isn’t important? More important to just get the choreo and have fun? Well how about this- I can promise you that if you are not behaving properly in someone’s class, the instructor notices. I can also promise you that no matter how dope you are, if you are rude or disrespectful- or just outright oblivious in class- that choreographer will not book you for work. If you cannot behave properly when you are paying to be somewhere – why would you when we are paying you to be there? Time is money and no one wants to work with someone who is not focused, cannot follow instructions or slacks off.

Does that sound important? Well good. Because it is. You build your reputation, and therefor your career, as a dancer every time you step onto a dance floor. Take class, but take it seriously and correctly, or don’t take it at all.

Yes, dance is fun- but here in LA its also a JOB and training is not to be taken lightly. People are paying hard earned money and dedicating their lives to being here. People have moved from their homes and families, some dancers are so broke they are living in their cars or with multiple roommates, or maybe working two jobs- just for the privilege of being in LA to train and pursue their dream. It is our responsibility to each other, to the dance community, to make a positive learning environment where dancers can grow and excel.

1. Do not talk when the instructor is speaking. So often in class I see dancers turn around and talk loudly to their friends while a teacher is addressing the class. That’s really rude and huge no-no if you ask me!

2. When dancers are performing in groups at the end of class, MOVE ALL THE WAY OFF THE DANCE FLOOR. it’s fine to practice on the side but make sure you are as far off the floor as possible. If the choreographer is filming, be sure to clear the back as well. CLAP when the group goes out and when they finish. When its your turn to perform in a group don’t you want space and support from your classmates and peers? I’m sure you do. So, treat other dancers with that same respect.

3. When a teacher asks you to switch lines, SWITCH LINES.

4. When a teacher asks you to “watch”- STOP moving and watch the instructor. Don’t dance along with the instructor- JUST watch.

5. If you want to stand in front, WORK HARD. You are at the front of the class and are often serving as an example to the people behind you. If you have no energy or want to mess around with friends, stand in the back. If you are in the front dance full out and work at your full potential.

6. When the teacher asks the front half of the room to squat down, the front HALF needs to squat down- not just the front line. If you are from the middle to the front, regardless if you are off to the side- squat down.

7.PUT YOUR PHONE DOWN. If you want to tape yourself at the end of class, fine. But you should not be touching your phone to take selfies or doing anything else during class. Also, if you are going to have someone else video tape you, have them squat down directly in front of you. Sometimes, people will stand in the middle of a group, or reach their arms almost in the faces of other dancers in order to capture their friend while other dancers are trying to practice or perform. Be respectful of every other dancer in the room when you are taping or taking class.

Those are my most important rules for class etiquette when training in professional dance studios. Learn em, love em, USE EM!

Have any that I missed? I’d love to hear what you think is important and appropriate class behavior! Leave your most important rules in the comments below. Happy Training!

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The Cost of Our Success

It is currently 4:55 am… and I have been up since 9 am yesterday. I woke up to work out, went on two major auditions, learned to salsa dance off youtube in the car, choreographed a piece, taught class, held a 3 hour rehearsal and then spent the rest of the night into the wee hours of the morning at the gym- working with Matt creating a new piece for classes this week. This is not a rare thing- its fairly common to find us at 24 hour fitness as the sun is coming up dancing like two crazy people. Now I am not telling you this for  a pat on the back ( although I do love a good pat on the back)… I am writing this because it’s so common, especially lately, for people to say things like “I am so jealous, you’re so lucky” or ” I wish I could do that.” The facts are as follows:

1. What we have built has absolutely nothing to do with luck. We both worked for 5 or 6 years in our respective cities ( Me in NY him in VA) before we moved to LA, at the same feverish pace as the one we are working at now. I spent most of 2011 on the Goethals bridge and I think I slept a total of 8 minutes that year. We currently work with a laser-like focus- taking classes to train, working out, running social media, choreographing for studios and artists, editing videos, teaching classes, editing music, writing contracts, auditioning..it never ends.

2. You absolutely CAN have what we have and more- if you are willing to work for it. At the end of everyday we are covered in two things, sweat and gratitude. Work hard and be grateful and you can’t go wrong.

Sometimes I think people believe we float out of bed into a pit of money, then birds help us get dressed and squirrels do our dishes while we relax on the beach lol. So many funny tweets about how our life is perfect- and I wonder if they saw us at the gym just now, looking haggard and barely able to keep our eyes open- would they still want what we have? Maybe, but maybe they’d see it’s not perfect and its definitely not easy. I don’t think many people know what kind of work goes into what we do or understand that we didn’t just wake up one morning to opportunity and travel, that we created those things- slowly over time – with diligence.

We don’t have a magic lamp or a fairy godmother. We just have an unyielding, unrelenting drive to be better; Better dancers, choreographers, teachers, students…and people- and we won’t stop until we fulfill whatever potential we feel we have inside us. Nothing was created over night, even if it might look that way on social media. We have spent sweat, blood and tears- and in the end the high price of success is worth it- when you see your dreams materialize into reality you’ll have the joy of knowing you earned it.

If you are doing this too, not sleeping for a dream- know we are here with you- sacrificing, struggling, crying, screaming, laughing til it hurts. We are on the same journey, all the sleepless nights, long hours, frustration,  and it is all worth it. If you are wondering if you can work harder or do more, you can. Your potential is as large as you allow it to be. (BUT Balance is key- learn to push and learn when enough is enough. We take breaks when we need them to keep our hearts and minds strong.)

The difference between great success and great failure is often hanging on just a little bit longer- holding on when everyone else is letting go, pushing passed the insecurity and disbelief, working in darkness not because you can see the light- but because you trust that it’s there. So, hang in there- put in an extra hour, run an extra mile, accept the challenges before you with confidence. You CAN do it, I know you can- so keep climbing, slow and steady and we will see you at the top ❤

#AskDana – June 2015

I gave you guys the chance to ask me any questions you’d like on Twitter and here are the answers to some of my favorite ones!

  The first question comes from @AmandineTexeira.

 I have always been dedicated to dance and have always had a passion for it. I began dancing at a young age and really just fell in love with it. However, I wasn’t always sure I could make a career out of it. I was always a straight A student and enjoyed science so after High school I chose to study at a university and obtained a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience. I thought for a while that I would work in forensics or potentially become a psychologist. As much as I loved science I still had a deep feeling that I wasn’t finished dancing and that I should give it a shot. So, After graduation I gave myself one year to try to pursue my dance dream professionally.. And the rest, as they say, is history 🙂

 Second question comes from @amberrrr_g 🙂 

I would say that I always had the dream that someday I would dance professionally and live in Los Angeles- like the amazing dancers I watched in the music videos that inspired me throughout my youth. However, I came from a low income family and lived in a small apartment in Brooklyn. It didn’t really seem feasible that I could make it as a dancer and make a living doing that. I felt like most people do that I should look for a safer more sensible career. It took me a long time to realize that I could be good enough to make my dream a reality if I worked hard enough and wanted it badly enough. It wasn’t until I booked my first professional job at 22 that I realized this could be a profession for me and went at it full speed ahead.

My favorite style of dance I would say is commercial dance- jazz funk and hip hop. I like dance that is fun and light hearted and entertaining.  However, I love dancing so much that I enjoy class in pretty much every style (even the ones I suck at) and I love to watch dancers perform in every style.

 Next question comes from @jerzeejess– I WISH I could play an instrument! I have a lifelong goal to learn to play piano and I actually have a flyer for private lessons on my fridge. I WILL get to it one day- it’s something I’ve always wanted to do! 

  Final question is from @weronikaopalka

My favorite piece from this year was probably Be Real! I love collaborating with Matt and even though it was an easy one it was so much fun. Plus it was one of the routines we taught during our European tour so I have a ton of great memories dancing that one with so many great dancers in some awesome locations!
Thanks for sending me your questions! Follow me on Twitter @DanaAlexaNY for updates on my classes and projects and keep an eye out for the next #AskDana so you can ask me anything 🙂 love you guys ❤️ 

Travel like A Pro- Tips to help keep you from being “that guy” on your next trip!

I have had the privilege of traveling a lot in my life. I have danced across 5 continents, 38 states and countless cities. Travel is so special to me and will always be a passion of mine (I won’t stop until I’ve seen it all). However, I have seen some crazy stuff in my travels and some extremely odd, sometimes maddening, behavior from other travelers. This little blog is my two cents on how to tread lightly when you travel so you can have the best experience possible… and keep other people from wanting to strangle you.

1. You catch more flies with Sugar… or is it honey?

Either way, screaming at the lady at the ticket counter at the airport (or wherever else for that matter) won’t help you get your way. In fact, when you’re rude, people of all cultures are less inclined to help and accommodate you. By being kind and friendly on a recent trip to Boston I was able to have Matt and I upgraded to Even More Legroom seats on JetBlue (Typically $100 charge) completely free. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people at the airport screaming bloody murder at the employee in the terminal because they aren’t seated with loved ones, or because their connection was too tight so they missed their flight (I have obviously NEVER done that- OK maybe not NEVER… sorry lady in Switzerland)…which brings me to my next point.

2. It can be an ordeal or an adventure- you choose.

Part of the draw of travel is the unfamiliar, the change up from every day life. If you want to travel and see exotic places there is a fundamental fact you must accept before you purchase a plane ticket- THINGS WILL GO AWRY. Just make peace with the fact that there will be some annoyances and setbacks when you travel. Luggage is lost and babies scream on 10 hour flights- that is part of the beauty of it. One of the things we learn from travel is PATIENCE. Matt’s luggage was lost on our trip to Thailand and for 8 of the 10 days we were there he wore the same outfit. I have never seen anyone so calm. He just laughed it off, bought some T- Shirts at the local mall and enjoyed the hell out of Thailand. If he had gotten in to a huff and ruined the trip he still wouldn’t have had his luggage. When we told the group we were traveling that he hadn’t had his luggage and had been wearing the same clothes for the entire trip, they said they had no idea and hadn’t even noticed. Learn to let things go. No matter how many dirty looks you give that baby it won’t stop crying. Trust me. So pack some earplugs and keep fresh underwear, your toothbrush, medications, chargers and whatever else you can’t live without in your carry-on.

3. Stop Screaming “I have a flight to catch.”

Here’s a little news flash… this is an airport.. we ALL have a flight to catch. I can’t tell you how many airports I have been in where someone woke up late, got stuck in traffic and arrived to check in for a flight 5 minutes before the gate closed. What are they always doing? Yelling at an employee that they need to skip the line of people who showed up prepared and on time in order to make their flight. When I was in High School I had a teacher that said ” A lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.” This is never more true than when you travel. You should budget time to arrive TWO HOURS before an international flight and AT LEAST ONE HOUR before a domestic flight – this means arrive at the ticket counter- not at the airport. So if you have to park your car and take a shuttle to your terminal- you need to be at the airport even earlier. Account for traffic- Foreign cities have rough and unpredictable traffic and so do domestic cities like NYC and LA. In travel if you fail to plan you plan to fail. If you do miss your flight because you arrived late at the airport its perfectly fine to be disappointed but it is no one’s fault but your own. I set 200 alarms when I have an early flight to catch. Here’s a few things that can help speed up your travel process.

  • Check in and choose seats for your flight online and print boarding passes at home
  • Travel with only carry on luggage
  • Keep your ID/Passport and ticket easily accessible in your bag
  • Download the app for the airline you’re flying and receive travel updates on your cell phone
  • Pack your bags the day before and lay out the clothes you’ll wear on the plane
  • Purchase the speed upgrades where available to be put in the priority security line.
  • Get TSA pre-checked so you can always have an easy security lane experience. You can look into that here : http://www.tsa.gov/tsa-precheckR-application-program

4. Please stop wearing your chain mail and crown jewels to the airport

I have seen so many frazzled travelers lose their cool at the security line. The security line separates the amateurs from the pros. I move through the full body scan like I’m doing a choreographed routine. I’ve got it down to a science, and you can too. Most of the time people aren’t paying attention and then they get up to the belt and all hell breaks loose. Not me. By the time I get to the belt my shoes are unlaced, my laptop is out and I’m movin’ and groovin’. Security lane protocol varies a bit from airport to airport so make sure to check the posted signs- but here are some important rules that typically apply.

  • The machines are sensitive to metal. Please stop putting your rare coin collection in your pockets and then trying to board a flight. Pockets must be empty and belts off. The less metal you can be wearing the better. It’s better not to travel wearing all of your jewelry at one time anyway. If it’s super valuable.. leave it home (I even wear a fake engagement ring when I travel.)
  • YOU HAVE TO TAKE OFF YOUR SHOESSSSS- good lord save the lace up, thigh high combat boots for another time. if your shoes have laces UNLACE THEM WHILE YOU WAIT.
  • You must not have liquids over 3.4 oz when you fly out of the United States. Google this volume if you are traveling from another country. You cannot bring your water bottle through security. I once watched an old man fight to the death with TSA over a bottle of Fiji. Choose your battles.
  • Liquids must be put into a Ziploc baggie and removed from your carry-on.
  • Do not bury your computer under 100 pairs of Tighty Whities unless you plan to be digging through your embarrassing underwear pile like a maniac looking for it. You must remove your laptop from your carry-on and put it in a bin by itself. Usually Ipads, Tablets and things of that nature can remain in your bag- but pay attention to posted signs.
  • You must remove jackets and outer layers of clothing- so take your coat, scarf, cowboy hat, what have you, off before you approach the belt.
  • You must push your bag onto the moving belt before you go through the metal detector. Make sure you push your own bags into the machine.

5. DONT EVER under ANY circumstance, put your carry-on into an overhead bin BEHIND your seat.

If there is no overhead bin space directly above your seat move forward and put your bag into a bin in front of your seat. As you board the flight, try to look ahead to your seat as you approach it to check the available bin space. If it looks like the bins are closed or full, pop it into a bin in front and keep moving back to your seat. If you do happen to get stuck putting your bag into an overhead behind your row, accept one simple fact- You will be the absolute last person to deplane. You cannot go against the flow of traffic of passengers exiting the plane in an attempt to move from row 2 back to row 16 to get your bag. It’s also a good idea to have your bag in front of you so that you can keep an eye on it during the flight.

6. For God’s Sake don’t crowd the luggage carousel

This is my all time, number one travel pet peeve. The bags start coming down and everyone runs up to the machine in a mob and stands right up against the carousel. Now, no one can see their bag and if someone standing behind you has their bag come down first they have to shove you out of the way and drag their 50 pound luggage off a moving belt with 3 centimeters of space. I have to admit, I hit someone with my luggage on purpose one time just to make a point. BACK UP. Stand at least a few feet away so everyone can see and approach the belt when their bag comes off. If you have multiple bags, drag your bag back a safe distance and wait for additional bags. Seriously. Back up.

7. You’re in a foreign country- be kind to their culture.

I really have had quite a few situations in my travels where I have been disgusted by people’s behavior towards locals of the place they are visiting. Speaking english is not a global requirement. Stop being the person screaming at foreigners for “not understanding.” If you are visiting a foreign country with a foreign language it is you who doesn’t understand. I have seen americans become so fed up with people for not being able to help them because of a language barrier…? When you travel internationally you are a guest in someone else’s country- behave as such and try not to make the rest of us look bad by yelling nonsense and huffing and puffing. If you want all the ease and comforts of home, you should probably stay there. That’s not what traveling is about. I have had so many humbling experiences as a traveler.  You can truly see how other people live, how big the world is, how you are just a small part in a massive, living, breathing, beautiful machine. Its an incredible thing. If it means so much to you to be understood- then learn the language of the country you will be spending some time in or hire a translator. Travel is about expanding your mind and learning- being open to other cultures, religions and ways of living. Judgement is not welcome so check your ego and attitude at the door.

Do you have any travel pet peeves? Leave me a comment and tell me all about it!

Safe Travels!

How did I get here?

The more I find myself traveling to teach and reaching new levels  of success in my dance career the more I get comments and tweets from people asking me how I got here. How did I become a professional dancer living in LA, traveling the world and doing what I love? I don’t answer those questions because even the short version of the answer would take a long time. The shortest answer is, I don’t know exactly. What I plan to do here is give you some insight to what I think worked…

You can take comfort in knowing that I did not begin this journey with any enormous advantage. I was not born into wealth, privilege or fame. I grew up in Brooklyn, in a small apartment, where occasionally the bugs were bigger than my head and somehow the bathroom light switch was connected to the oven. I didn’t always know exactly what I wanted to do or where I would end up. My childhood fantasies never included the life I live now. I briefly entertained the notion of being a forensic scientist, psychotherapist and at one point a veterinarian (while I never pursued any of those in an official capacity I still watch forensic files and always guess the ending, psychoanalyze like crazy and I carry some cat food in my glove compartment in case I come across a stray.) I always loved dance and was smart and level headed- always a risk taker- a thinker- but it didn’t even dawn on me to pursue dance professionally until 20 or to move to LA til 24.

Today, I am no where in particular; Simply at some undisclosed location on the winding map of my life, somewhere between birth and death (Hopefully not any where near the latter.) I don’t know where I will end up, nor am I one of those people with a list of things to do by the time I’m 40. I don’t believe in deadlines or goals more long term than one year. What I have learned in my life is that my heart is always changing and that there is no such thing as certainty. My goals and objectives change and I allow them to change. Which brings me to my first “Thing I’ve Done Right” or TIDR as I’ll abbreviate it here.

TIDR 1- I NEVER FEARED CHANGE: I am not a religious person per se, more a spiritual one, but I do believe in a higher power. Something that guides us towards our truest desire, the one that sometimes even your conscious mind is unaware of. I believe the universe knows whats in our heart of hearts and if you allow it to, it will guide you there. The universe will first offer gentle nudges toward the direction of your highest path, and when that doesn’t work- it will drag you by your hair, kicking and screaming. The sooner you realize that change is good, that it means movement rather than stagnation, the sooner you’re likely to learn to heed the universe’s nudges and stop having your hair pulled out. How often have you found yourself in a less than wonderful situation, be it a job or relationship or what have you, and you’ve had that little inkling that maybe this isn’t right and your time or talent might best be served elsewhere?… but out of fear of change and movement, you stayed put. How often has that worked out? My guess is zero. When you feel something pulling you, go with it. A whole boatload of people told me I was wrong to move to LA and it would have been much easier to stay in NY with the life I had already built… but I was being called here and I knew I had to come. I made no excuses and with basically no money and no plan whatsoever, I moved out here and made it work. which brings me to my next point:

TIDR 2- I TOOK LEAPS OF FAITH AND CALCULATED RISKS: Life doesn’t come with a safety net. There are absolutely no guarantees.. not one (death and taxes, yea yea I know). I’m sorry that makes you uncomfortable but that’s the reality of it. So many people said things like: ” Don’t you want a real job?” and I would just laugh. What the hell is a real job? People have been brainwashed into thinking there’s security in some things and not others. Well, that’s a load of crap in my opinion. You could get fired or have trouble getting hired or have problems in any profession. Fancy degrees do not guarantee money and definitely don’t ensure happiness (I have a fancy degree anyway -so don’t start). The only security is in trusting yourself and your own ability. I will not allow myself to be less than my best self and I feel confident that when I work hard, with focus and drive, that I will not fail. That being said I’m taking risks that I can handle- I’m not jumping off a bridge without a parachute because I think I can fly if I focus real hard. Be brave, but don’t be stupid.

TIDR 3- I BELIEVED IN MYSELF AND DID NOT FEAR FAILURE:  Failure is a word for people who fall and don’t get up. Failure IS NOT hitting road blocks and making mistakes. I am happy to make a million mistakes if need be- a million well intentioned, good hearted mistakes. I believe in what I bring to the table and who I am on the inside. I cultivated loyalty, honesty, straightforwardness, humility, dedication, punctuality, kindness, thoughtfulness, intelligence, presence of mind- I worked hard to embody these characteristics… Characteristics I learned to love and respect in the people around me that I loved and respected as a child. Because I work hard day by day to build the best version of myself, I believe in my ability to do whatever I set my mind on. The people who don’t think you can do it won’t matter when you know you can. It begins with self love. Every day, brick by brick, I build my temple with the pieces of the person I want to become. Slowly removing old stones, like negativity and impatience, and replacing them with new ones, better ones- ones I like and would be OK to live with every day. I keep moving forward, bringing food to the homeless, letting someone ahead in traffic, apologizing when I am wrong, thinking of a thoughtful gift for a friend, letting a spider go outside instead of hurting it…brick by brick.

TIDR: I NEVER EVER MESSED WITH DRUGS: Life is hard- get a helmet, not a dealer. Here’s the deal- life is hard for EVERYONE… not just you. Life doesn’t come with instructions- NONE of us know what the hell we are doing here… we are taking educated guesses- AT BEST. (I suspect life will turn out to be like one of those huge 3D posters that were all the rage back in the day…Everyone staring at it trying to guess what it is- but we are only looking at a dot on a painting bigger than a football field, looking at it wrong, and missing the point.. its a space ship, no wait it’s a….) Life doesn’t come with warnings- EVERY one of us will likely be hit unexpectedly with tragedy and sorrow. The worst way to deal with the uncertainty or confusion of this life is to make everything worse by destroying the vessel you were given to sail these choppy waters with. I don’t have many hard and fast rules for life- I’m mostly a liberal, go with the flow, do what feels good to you, rarely judgmental, love all races/religions and colors type chick.. except when it comes to drugs. If you F+ck with drugs I don’t F-ck with you, period- point blank-keep it moving. I have never touched a drug in my life, not one and I’ve never known anyone that used drugs to be anything less than an anchor to everyone around them. If you’re on drugs, find help. If you need drugs to have fun, your problems run deep- sort them out before its too late- for yourself and for those around you. You can miss me with all that ” but if you’ve never been high how do you know?” bs – I’ve never been hit by a car but I know better than to stand in the middle of the street. We need to move towards becoming better, brighter, more self aware people and you cannot do that in the midst of a chemical haze when your laughing at a toothpick. Life is short- too short for that mess. All I know is I highly doubt anyone goes to their grave wishing they’d done more drugs. In fact I had many friends OD before their teenage years were over and I’m sure if they saw you using they’d punch you in the face themselves if they could. I don’t know much, but I’m 99 percent sure I’m right about this one.

TIDR 4: I TAKE RESPONSIBILITY: I firmly believe in the fact that everything in my life is my own doing. I believe that one way or another, with my thoughts and actions, I’ve created every single situation- All the magical ones and all the shitty ones. This has helped me to feel less like the victim of my story and more like the heroine of it. When things go poorly I believe I can address them. No, I can’t solve everything, I’m not a damn wizard- but I can move almost every single negative situation forward somehow with calmness, kindness and patience. People love to say “I have no choice.” Oh, but you ALWAYS have a choice- in fact, you usually have infinite choices. You can choose the way you react to everything, tomorrow you could pick up your bags and move to timbuktu or buy a dog or go white water rafting. You can LIVE your life- ACTIVELY and steer it in the direction you want it to go or you can blame your life on someone else. Even that, my darling, is a choice.

TIDR 5: I TRY TO LIVE MY LIFE IN A WAY THAT WOULD MAKE MY MOM PROUD. I make every choice and try to live every day imagining that the day would have been taped and aired on network tv for the whole world to see. If my life were the truman show, would I be OK with that? I try to be the person behind closed doors, in all situations, that I would be proud of- the person my mom would be proud of. Am I always successful-uh, no.I’ve had some days that if they were aired on network TV I’D have to pick up my bags and move to timbuktu.. but I learn, I move forward, I keep moving forward.

What has worked for you in your life? What has brought you success and happiness?

Living on Purpose

As I write this I am less than one week away from a month long trip to Europe. I have travelled to Europe before and have even had the privilege of living in Paris for 3 months. I have travelled so much already in my life and for last few years I have been blessed enough to travel with my fiance. I have never been wealthy and grew up with very modest means- but I have still had the opportunity to travel an enormous amount. Every time someone asks where we are going, I hear the same thing: “You’re so lucky.” Now, I am not one of those people that doesn’t believe in “luck” at all. There does seem something serendipitous about life, some right place right time phenomenon that does seem to be a little about luck. However, living my dream and traveling the world was not a stroke of luck. I built this life, brick by brick and stayed my course in some very rough weather. Often, people will ask me how I did it… so here are some lessons I learned (sometimes the hard way) that may help you toward your dream life.

1. When you get told “no,” instead hear, “not right now”

The entertainment industry is an animal that’s likely to swallow you whole if you aren’t careful. In my line of work I hear the word no 100 times more than I hear yes. I have seen so many people hear the word no and take it to mean never and give up on a goal. If you are persistent, the word no will turn to yes with time. Often, you are being redirected, not denied. I auditioned for agencies 10 times over a span of 2 years before I was signed. Yes, sometimes it became frustrating, but instead of focusing on that no and giving up, I redirected my energy. In time my number was called and when it was, I was ready.

2. Make the most of your time

Before I had an agent I always heard the same thing, ” you NEED an agent to work in NY or LA as a dancer.” I could easily have taken that as an excuse to wait around until someone signed me. However, I knew that no one would ever want to work for me unless I was motivated enough to work for myself- so I did. Instead of waiting for an agent to sign me and work for me, I worked for myself. As an unsigned dancer I performed on the news, Bravo TV, at Madison Square Garden as a Knicks City Dancer and I choreographed a world tour, danced in countless music videos and taught classes all over the world. You don’t NEED anything but a voracious desire to live your dream and a belief that in spite of any obstacle, you can succeed.

3. Don’t ever let anyone tell you you’re not good enough- not even yourself.

My bosses at my first professional job told me that I wasn’t good enough to make it in this industry. They said I simply didn’t have what it took- less than a month later I toured the world as a choreographer/artistic director and dancer for Kat Deluna. Just recently I had a studio owner from a school that was holding a master class for Matt and I, ask me why I was even bothering to come- because people only cared about Matt being there. I went anyway, and at the end of the day every single student in that room made me feel loved and appreciated- and thanked me profusely for what I brought to the table in that classroom. At the end of the day, this world will be full of opinions. Some in your favor and some against you- you must take them ALL in stride. Don’t let the positive feedback make you cocky or the negative feedback destroy you. Everyone has an opinion and thats a fact you need to learn to live with. Someone else’s inability to see your worth does not make you any less valuable. Surround yourself with the people who do see your unique and unmatchable value on this earth, people who stoke your fire and inspire you to be your best self and ultimately, love yourself. The only opinion on this earth that will make or break you, is your opinion of yourself. It is so important that you do your best to stay out of your own way. You are worthy, you are good enough, you are powerful and you have what it takes to make your goals a reality.

4. Practice what you preach, be a person of your word and always be on time

These things are age old lessons but they are so massively important in both our professional and personal lives. When you say your going to do something, follow through with it. Whether its a job, someone’s birthday or sending an e-mail. It may seem insignificant to you, but you must be someone that others can depend on. To truly function at your highest potential you must positively impact the lives of those around you. Show up for people when you say you will, let people know you are honest. Never say behind closed doors what you wouldn’t say to someone’s face.

Don’t keep people waiting. Our time on earth is limited and it is the most valuable thing we possess. If people choose to spend any minutes of their life with you be grateful for that gift. Whatever you are doing with your life, do it well, and do it gently. There is no force on this earth more powerful than kindness. To truly live the life of your dreams you must put nothing but good vibes, love and positivity out into the world. Everyday I try to do something kind for a stranger. I by food for the homeless, let someone pull out in a rough spot in traffic, help elderly carry groceries, anything I can. We are not on this earth alone and the most important thing to leave behind you is love and light, wherever you go.

Beijing to Bangkok

There is no point in panic. Panic is a deceptive, dark tool that puts fear in control of our experience. Panic makes you wish time away- ” I wish this flight were over,” “I wish I was done with the this meeting.” As someone who struggled with and continues to struggle with anxiety disorder I can tell you that most of my panic comes from living outside the present moment- outside of myself. Worrying about what comes next or obsessing over a past experience or choice. When I can connect to the here and now I can find calm in almost any situation.

One of my old anxieties comes from public transportation- it grew so out of control at one point that I avoided busses and trains like the plague for a period of 10 years or so. Any New Yorker can tell you that’s no easy feat. But that’s what fear does, it convinces you that it’s better to not do the action which causes the anxiety- it blinds you to the potential positive outcomes and makes you consider only the worst case scenario. I (pretty much) got over my fear of the train one wintry day in my early twenties. There was a dance audition in Manhattan and I was at my aunt and uncles house in Long Island. I didn’t have a car and when I was unable to convince one of them to drive me into the city, I resigned myself to missing the audition- there was obviously no way I was taking the train. At that moment my Uncle Alex came in and calmly said, “come on, if you don’t go- your just gonna stay right there.” Of course he meant that I would stay on the sofa for the day… But it resonated much deeper than that. How many years and months had I not moved forward? If I didn’t take this chance and face this fear.. I would stay right where I was- there could not be growth or progress with this crippling fear. I definitely wouldn’t book this job and who knows how many more opportunities I might forfeit down the line. To everyone’s surprise I let him drive me to the station and drop me off… He stayed until the train came and when I boarded I could see his smile from the platform. I knew then that he was right. Many people had tried to tell me that exact thing before but I had not been ready to receive it- that day I was ready.

As I write this I am on board a flight from Beijing to Bangkok. In order to get to our airplane from the terminal we needed to take a bus and even though some 7 years or so have passed since that day my uncle dropped me off at the LIRR, I felt that old familiar feeling in my stomach. That quiet ache, the voice of fear that says- “stay where you are.” But today I make the choice to get on the bus and go forward. I will reach out to life with the full length of my arms. I find, that if I focus, I can find reasons for gratitude in even the most stressful situations. Every time I find myself in a situation that causes me anxiety or stress I try to list 5 reasons I am grateful for this exact moment, things I may stand to gain and what my intentions were that lead me to this moment. When I can refocus and say thank you I change my vibration from negative to positive. Everyone knows like attracts like and I am determined to draw the most intensely positive and beautiful experiences to myself- which I know cannot be a done with a negative heart or mind. I will not be paralyzed or controlled by fear. I have been guided to this moment by a traveller’s a heart that wants to see the world and gets exhilarated by stamps in a passport. Even though sometimes it is difficult- now a days, I never miss a train.