How long have you been involved with Ballroom Dancing?
I took my first social dance class, Merengue, in 2002, as a junior at New Mexico State University. At that time I was pursuing a degree in Kinesiology with a minor in Dance. I was interested in a career in Physical Therapy but after taking a few more social dance classes, my interest slowly began to change. I was asked to join the NMSU Dance Sport Team, which I had never heard of and had no clue what it was about. I showed up for my first practice very nervous and was thrown into a West Coast Swing/Hustle competition formation piece. I had never ever danced these types of dances before and had no clue what I was getting myself into, but I was very intrigued. I soon became hooked to Latin and Ballroom dancing from then on.
After graduating with a BA in Kinesiology and a minor in Dance in 2004, I found myself craving more of a career in dance so I decided to finish my Dance degree. That’s when I really started focusing on Ballroom Dance and found a passion for performance and choreography that I never thought I would find. I graduated with a BA in Dance in 2007 and I continue to study Ballroom Dance with hopes of finding a long term career.
What has the New Mexico State University Dance Team meant to you?
Everything. Ever since I joined the NMSU Dance Sport Team in 2002, I have grown on a personal and professional level, in all aspects of my life. My first few semesters on the team I really didn’t know much of anything. I was shy and timid and trying to figure out who I really was while being introduced to so many styles of dance. I also joined the NMSU Contemporary Dance Company and Flamenco Dance Company (Sol y Arena). Being a part of three different dance companies was really difficult because I wanted to put 100% into each one. My senior year I really had to step back and make a decision on which company I wanted to focus on. There was no hesitation when it came to Ballroom Dance.
As a member of the NMSU Dance Sport team, I was able to learn about competition from past members of the team. Getting the opportunity to witness their growth and passion really inspired me to push myself to become a better performer. I found a passion for choreography as I learned syllabus figures and it really consumed every minute of my life. Being a part of the team gave me strength and confidence that I always wanted and a level of professionalism that I know I can use wherever I go. The NMSU Dance Sport team has really molded the person that I am today and I’m very proud of that.
What made you want to get certified?
Well, I have wanted to get certified for a few years now. Up until a few months after graduating from NMSU Dance Department, I was never really thrilled about the teaching aspect of dance. I was really terrified of the idea of teaching, therefore I never saw myself becoming an instructor. I was familiar with being a demo partner in a lot of social dance classes taught at NMSU so I wanted to stick to more of the performance and choreographic aspect of Ballroom Dance. However after graduating, and not really knowing what step to take next, I soon realized that performance and choreography both stemmed from teaching. It was time for me to get over this fear and just “do it”, in order for further my knowledge and experience in Ballroom Dance.
I understand this is not your first attempt at getting certified? Tell me more about that.
No, this was actually my second attempt. I should say second attempt and first accomplishment. My first attempt was put on hold for a very special reason. Shortly after graduating I came across the Ballroom Dance Teacher’s College website. I called to receive information and as soon as I got off the phone I knew this was exactly what I was looking for. So my mind was completely set on attending BDTC as soon as possible. However, destiny had a different plan for me. I became pregnant with my first child two months after making plans to move to San Francisco. Of course, I was disappointed at first but I was excited about becoming a mother and always kept the goal of becoming certified in mind. I knew I would get the opportunity eventually.
About a year after I had my beautiful son, Thomas James (TJ), I began thinking about how I could start this certification process again. No sooner did I become pregnant with my second child. This became my primary reason for wanting to get certified as soon as possible. I knew I had to do it soon or else I just wouldn’t have the time I wanted to put into studying. I spoke with my colleagues at NMSU and they were all on board with me. I knew this was going to be a huge challenge, while being pregnant, but it was a challenge I was willing to take on completely. I don’t regret a minute of it.
How did it feel dancing Leader’s and Follower’s roles while 8 months pregnant?
This is a funny question for me. I have never really learned how to lead and I didn’t realize how much a good lead requires good frame and posture. It was easier dancing the Follower’s role, naturally, but I really had to concentrate on how to lead. It wasn’t too frustrating learning the Leader’s role, at first. However, as my belly got bigger, my center of gravity began shifting, my posture and frame began to crumble and I felt really sloppy trying to lead these figures. It’s so funny thinking about times that I would find myself wanting to move my belly around to my back as if I were wearing a belt. I am thankful though, because I really got to learn how to lead, mainly from how my body was changing. When it came time to test it actually felt good knowing I could lead my partner correctly and I had so much fun doing it!!
I understand that you and many of the dancers and the head of the dance department are eager to grow the department and want to add a vocational aspect to it? Can you tell me more about this?
Absolutely. We are very eager to build up our dance department by implementing BDTC-in-a-Box into a Ballroom Dance degree program. This program will provide students the opportunity to not only major in Ballroom Dance, focusing on the DVIDA syllabus for competition, performance and choreographic purposes, but will fully prepare them to get their teaching certification by the time they are juniors and seniors. This will allow students who want to pursue a career in Ballroom Dance to have a variety of opportunities after graduating from NMSU Dance Program. I truly feel that if I had this opportunity when I was studying Ballroom Dance at NMSU, it would have opened so many doors earlier on. I believe this will not only stimulate more interest in Ballroom Dance at NMSU, but will allow our department to produce more Ballroom Dance Instructors, which is really exciting.
Where do you see yourself in one year? 5 years? What is your biggest dream for your dance career?
In one year I hope to be continuing my certifications as well as possibly teaching some beginning dance classes on my own. In 5 years, I see myself having completed my certifications up to Grand Master level. My biggest dream for my dance career has changed since I started my family. I think now it’s even better. It used to be that I wanted to be a famous performer, choreographer and eventually be on Dancing With the Stars (who doesn’t want that chance?). Now, I simply want to be the best Ballroom Dance Instructor that I can be. I believe that will open so many doors for a good long lasting career. I can also see myself having my own business, one where I can team up with Wedding Boutiques or event planning agencies and provide choreography and performances for a variety of events. My most important goal is to have my family involved. My husband is so supportive of my dance goals and who knows; when this next baby is born (a girl by the way) I could be raising two future Rising Stars? Won’t that be another exciting challenge to take on?