Photo: Natalie Danza
Natalie Danza is the founder of Adult Ballet Community, a community that caters to adult ballet dancers. As a professional dancer with an MA in Dance Anthropology, Natalie Danza started on a bold new path when she decided to get back into ballet at the age of 26. Since then, she has become a ballet dancer and teacher with a mission to help others who have felt it’s “too late” to learn how to dance ballet rediscover themselves and regain their confidence through the dance. In this interview, she talks about her inspiring journey as a dancer, entrepreneur, coach, community leader and dance teacher.
How did you get into dancing Ballet?
I danced ballet as a little girl until I was 9 years old then switched to dancing other styles (contemporary, then later salsa, commercial, etc.) and didn’t come back to ballet until I was 26! That 17-year gap was enough to lose nearly all of my classical technique so I really felt like I was starting again from scratch as an adult. I was at a dance academy which offered lots of dance styles (at that point I was doing salsa, bachata and Brazilian samba) and I saw they offered ballet too, so I tried a class and became addicted! I started training 5/6 days a week and with the advantage of strength and musicality from all the other dance I’d done, I was able to improve really quickly and auditioned and was accepted into one of the conservatoires in Madrid the following year. It’s never too late!
How would you best describe the Adult Ballet Community?
The Adult Ballet Community is for any adult who dances ballet but who isn’t a professional. Whether it’s people who danced when they were younger and came back to it as an adult, people who took their child to ballet and were inspired to look for an adult class or people who come to it for health and fitness reasons, everyone is welcome! It’s a supportive and inspiring global community for people of any age, size, shape, gender, nationality, and ability. Our love of ballet is what brings us together. Find us on Instagram @adultballetcommunity
What impact have you seen with the adults you teach ballet to?
Ballet is a beautiful art form but it’s also incredibly difficult. Taking ballet classes is a very humbling experience for any adult because you realize how challenging each movement is that the professionals make look so easy. For that reason, it’s such a privilege to be able to be a part of people’s ballet journeys. Of course, there are obvious things like seeing people improve their technique, strength, flexibility, and musicality but it goes much deeper than that. Ballet forces you to hold a strong and elegant posture which directly impacts self-confidence. I see people grow in class in such a profound way that it impacts their life in all areas. Then, of course, you have the magic combination of moving your body to music (something I studied in my MA in Dance Anthropology) which releases a cocktail of feel-good hormones into the body which lasts long after the class finishes. Finally, I get to enjoy those moments of accomplishment when a student does their first clean pirouette or has their first class on pointe and it’s truly beautiful.
Photo: Natalie Danza
How do you balance being an artist (dancer) and a business owner?
My answer to this will be different depending on which year you ask me! Sometimes my creative and artistic side takes the forefront and sometimes I’m more focused on the business side of things. What I’ve learned is to be flexible and go with what I’m drawn to at that time. I always keep both things working simultaneously but my focus is usually more towards one or the other at any given time. I think it also helps that I dance for myself, meaning that I still take classes as well as teaching and running ballet retreats. That way my dancing stays fresh and is still something I enjoy improving for me and not only as part of my job.
Have you faced any major challenges?
Yes, lots! I’ve faced injuries, big lifestyle compromises, economic struggles, realizations that I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something I wasn’t going to continue with. There are always challenges and learning experiences (I don’t really use the word failure because as long as you learn from it then nothing was lost). With any challenge I always try to keep the bigger picture in mind and be patient with myself and the world. I do whatever I can that’s within my power to change and accept gracefully what I have no control over.
What has having such an interesting and unconventional career taught you?
Photo: Natalie Danza
Ballet forces you to hold a strong and elegant posture which directly impacts self-confidence.
I am so grateful to have the career that I have, not only because I love it but also because of the personal growth which has come from following the unconventional path I have taken of becoming an Influencer and Teacher. My Instagram accounts @nataliedanzaballet and @nataliedanza have taught me the power of community and connection. I’ve learned it’s about the depth of connection, not the numbers. Because of connecting with people online I’ve run in-person meet-ups and ballet retreats and I’ve made great friends IRL thanks to social media. My YouTube channels (by the same names) have taught me to have a thicker skin and to focus on what I’m doing and not worry about the opinions of others. It’s something I’ve always known but never really had to practice until I started on YouTube because the hate comments are very real. I try to turn that negativity into compassion because for someone to write such hateful things they must be in a pretty dark place. With so much of my time spent on social media, I also learned what a powerful learning and inspiring tool it is. I have found incredible interviews, TED talks, Life Coaches and Thought Leaders through social media and they have honestly changed my life for the better. I’m so much more intentional about my choices, I’ve started meditating and gained more business skills and confidence which is something I didn’t have any formal training in. I’ve been teaching dance since before I graduated from my BA and that has taught me that even though many people don’t take dance seriously, it’s something that can literally change lives. It’s something that brings people together. It’s something that gets people through the week of sitting in an office day after day. I hope in the future it will be taken more seriously in all sectors, not only the arts.
What are your thoughts on quarter-life crisis?
Although the term “quarter-life crisis” wasn’t really used when I was in my mid-twenties, looking back I can see that’s what it was for me. I moved to Spain on my own when I was 25. I started ballet again when I was 26. My career has changed and evolved every year since then and I just turned 32! I am so grateful to have listened to my own inner voice through all of those decisions. When I told people I was moving from London to Madrid it was sometimes met with either “You’re crazy!”, “You don’t even speak Spanish!”, “Why? You’re going to earn less than half what you earn now.” or something similar. But I knew it’s what I wanted, so I just did it anyway!
When I decided to take that first ballet class at 26, half of me was screaming “What are you doing, this is so embarrassing, you’re a dancer but you’re going to be a beginner at ballet and be one of the worst in the class, why are you putting yourself through this?!” and the other half was saying “You love ballet and it’s okay not to be amazing at everything you do, you’ll get better.” I always try to listen to my authentic self and not my ego in those moments and it’s inevitably better advice! Taking an open-minded approach to my career from then on and not worrying about what other people thought is what’s helped me navigate through my quarter-life crisis.
Would you say dancing ballet has helped you navigate your quarter-life crisis?
Yes, dancing is something that always helps me get back in touch with myself. It’s time when I focus on my body, I’m consciously in my body, not just using it as a vessel to get me around. It grounds me and keeps me humble as I know I’ll be a student of dance for life, there’s always more to learn. I have to say that when I moved to Madrid when I was 25, it was the moment that I went to my first salsa class after moving here that I felt “I’m home”. Dance is a universal language and such a wonderful way to find familiarity in unfamiliar surroundings and also to connect with people on a different level. I’m extremely grateful for that.
Photo: Aaron Jean Photography
What advice would you give anyone who wanted to branch out/change careers and do something bold like you did?
I would say, GO FOR IT! Listen to yourself way more than others. Do your research. Trust that you will find a way to figure it out even if some things don’t go exactly to plan. Have realistic expectations, not everything will be easy and fun, there will be tough moments but they will be so worth it when you’re living in the place you dreamt about or doing the thing you love as a career. Remember that nothing is permanent. Things are always changing and you are always changing. It’s okay to try something and then change your mind and go back. It’s okay to try something and then realize it’s not actually what you want and redirect your energy. Take the pressure off having to make the perfect decision, it doesn’t exist. Just start with the first step and you can always change course as you move forward.
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What future plans do you have for your company/community?
I just completed my Master Life Coach certification so that is another part of my Natalie Danza brand which I’m so excited to roll out over the next few months. I feel extremely fortunate to be in a position where I have experienced big life changes and learned how to be intentional in every area of my life and can’t wait to help empower others to do the same! I will, of course, be continuing with content creation and have some exciting videos and collaborations planned. In terms of the adult ballet community, I will be running classes and workshops here in Madrid and am currently planning the next Adult Ballet Holiday 2020 which will be in another country (to be announced in January). I will be continuing to support and encourage the amazing members of the community online. I have a great feeling about 2020 for my career, for the community and as a little bonus, I’ll be getting married to the love of my life too!
You can find Natalie at:
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nataliedanzaballet https://www.instagram.com/nataliedanza
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/nataliedanzaballet https://www.youtube.com/c/nataliedanza
Natalie was also a guest speaker at the Clever-ish Summer event Understanding Your Quarterlife Crisis which was held in July!
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