She gave me insight in giving back to the community, teaching and artist empowerment.
You started dancing in Astoria and now you’ve opened your own studio here. What’s the feeling like?
It feels like I am fulfilling my destiny. It feels like all of the pivotal moments in my career have prepared me for this.
It feels like I am breaking new ground, and that's really exciting. Although there are so many performing artists living in western Queens now, they haven't had a studio where they could receive world-class training and take artistic risks in a truly supportive environment. Now, they do.
The same goes for children. Our children's program will offer high-caliber training in a positive and holistic environment preparing them for a professional career in the performing arts, should they wish to pursue it.
In addition to dance, there are theatre and music programs. Why did you decide to expand beyond a dance studio?
Because cross-disciplinary training opens your mind and expands your range and depth as an artist. I am a dance-theatre artist; dancer-choreographer and actor-director in equal measure. The fusion of the two enables me to be so much more creative and expressive than in one discipline alone.
I can't imagine dancing without having some sort of emotional context or impetus. And I can't imagine acting without first finding the character in my body.
Great dancers are great actors too. They're not just bodies in motion. They have a deep reservoir of inner life and imagination. And great actors know how to use the body to create fully fleshed-out characters sometimes even beginning with the character's physicality before incorporating the text.
I'm in love with both art forms and find their relationship to each other essential and profound.
As for music, music is one of my greatest passions. There are pieces of music that crack my heart open and bring me to tears with their beauty. How can I not have a music program at my studio especially with so many musicians living in western Queens now?
And, fortunately and coincidentally, my husband is a professional musician, composer and music producer with his own studio in Manhattan. He will direct the music program and teach many of the classes and clinics. His name is Andy Altmann of AltmannProductions.com.
It's perfect! Also, musicians can be sedentary and that's not healthy. Now they can take a music lesson and a dance class right after. Haha!
Most of your classes are focused on adults, what has the response been so far? Exactly what I hoped it would be. The kinds of individuals who are taking my classes are from all walks of life but they share a few things in common. They are discerning, passionate, fiercely dedicated and know what makes for high-caliber instruction. They're thrilled to be able to take great and challenging classes in a positive and professional environment so close to home. Many of them also come from Manhattan. We're just three stops from midtown.
What would you like to say to someone who wants to take a class but is unsure (due to skill level, experience, etc.)?
Firstly, inhibition and fear are often our greatest impediments. If something inside of you is longing to dance/act/make music that means there's an artist in you. Set them free. Don't wait until you're "ready." Don't wait for some sort of permission. We are never ready and no one is going to give you permission. We become ready by doing, and we give ourselves permission.
Secondly, go to the studio. Check out the vibe and facilities there. Notice how you feel while you're there. Inspired? Turned off? That, in and of itself, will answer a lot of questions for you.
Thirdly, speak with the director or teacher. They should spend some time getting to know your goals and concerns a bit, and be able to offer you supportive and helpful guidance toward taking your first class.
Lastly, when you find a studio you like, take the leap and sign-up for a class! Life is now.
I noticed your artist empowerment page. Can you tell me a little more about why you decided to incorporate these seminars and clinics?
Because great artists are fearless and independent and now, more than ever, they have the tools to take charge of their work. Unfortunately, artists are often conditioned to believe that some other authority should decide if their work is worthy of being seen. This belief prevents the artist from fully owning their artistic voice. Fear and doubt are the greatest enemies of the artist.
I can only share what I've lived. The artist empowerment program was born of my own life experience.
When I self-produced my first show, it was exhausting and terrifying. I was in way over my head with no experience and no option of turning back. I was taking a huge financial and personal risk, I had never produced a show before, things were not always going according to plan, I constantly had various fires to put out, people I depended on, cast and crew, didn't come through, the list goes on and yet I had to get on stage and deliver.
I was faced with an almost debilitating fear of failure and yet I had to get on stage and perform a very personal work in front of audiences and critics.
And you know what happened? My life forever changed. The strength and courage I needed rose up inside me under the lights and I had never felt so liberated and empowered. From that point on I could never go back to who I was.
It was then that I was born as a true independent artist because I no longer needed anyone's approval or permission to say what I wanted to say through my art.
The world needs brave and daring artists. And the truth is you don't need a huge stage and a huge budget to create great art. What you need is vision and courage- that's my message to other artists.
The artist empowerment program exists to propel the artist out of his or her comfort zone and out of fear toward deliberate growth. It provides artists with practical tools and guidance for taking charge of their careers as well as the inspiration and support to embark on a path of self-determination.