1) Where are you from?
I was born in Sydney, Australia
2) What is your occupation?
Dance Instructor and Creative Director & Co-Founder of SMILE
3) What are your hobbies?
I'm a bit of a foodie so I love everything to do with food. I especially love baking sweets! It’s bad for my hips, though! But, my biggest hobby is my job. Dance is my number one passion.
4) At what age did you start dancing? I was nine.
5) What prompted you to start dancing?
As a young child, I would always move and jiggle whenever I heard any kind of music play. I had no hobbies at the time so my mum decided to enrol me in dance lessons to get me moving.
6) When did you start competing?
I started competing almost right away. I'm a very driven person so the idea of dancing competitively was so appealing. I felt the need to succeed so I worked towards achieving dance-oriented goals, which in my case were medals.
7) Where did these competitions take you (i.e. countries/cities)?
Dancing has taken me all around the world. From Moldova at age 13, to Tokyo, Germany, London, Moscow, Miami and many more. I’m very lucky to have visited these incredible places doing something I love.
8) Why did you stop competing?
Unfortunately, Dancesport (or competitive ballroom dancing) has never truly been recognised as a sport, so funding is dire. We had hopes that one day Ballroom dancing would be part of the Olympics, however it never eventuated. Once I turned 19, I made the decision to quit dancing competitively to go back to school and pursue a different career. I wanted more security in life, and unfortunately all dancers do eventually have an expiration date. I had to think with my head instead of my heart. In the end I quit competing, but dance has never left my side. I ended up going to the University of New South Wales (UNSW) where I studied a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in International Business and Media and Communications.
9) What motivated you to start teaching?
I left dance completely for a couple of years during my time at university. However, in my final year, a dance colleague of mine asked me to take his competitive couples for lessons as a favour while he went on a trip away. That first step back into a dance studio instantly reinvigorated my love of dancing. I continued to work for the studio and came to realise that this was exactly where I belonged. I could still pursue a career in dance without actually having to compete.
10) What do you love about teaching?
I love giving people the same feeling I have inside: happiness, excitement and energy! Dancing is the best form of expression. If I can give that to someone, then my job is done.
11) What has been your greatest triumph in teaching?
My greatest triumph in teaching would have to be with one of my students from my dance fitness class who has CHARGE syndrome. She came to my classes barely able to stand on two legs due to her balance related issues from the syndrome. The year before she came to classes, she was in a wheelchair. Fast-forward a few years and she has taken up medal competitions in ballroom dancing. She takes all our fitness classes, and is fitter than ever before. Most importantly, she has grown to be a confident, “I can achieve anything” type of girl and I like to hope that some of that confidence came from me ;)
I now teach at Sunnyfield Day Options, a disability program for older adults, where I have taught for over two years. Seeing the amazing changes in everyone there after having a dance activity taught to them weekly has also been a great triumph. Basically I have too many personal triumphs to name :)
12) How did the SMILE idea come to be?
I had been teaching seniors for a number of years and found that as time went on, more and more ladies found that my existing fitness classes were too fast for them. Consequently, they stopped coming to class and doing any physical activities. At the same time I had started teaching my own style of chair class to residents at nursing homes around Sydney. This was when I realised the importance of staying active for not only the body, but for the mind, as most participants were dementia sufferers. I saw that if I could create a similar class for the wider older adult community than most of those participants that found the standing exercise classes difficult could become active again. There needed to be more alternatives in the market so I wanted to try and create it, hence my SMILE & Sway program. However, there are still many older adults who want alternative standing dance fitness classes, and this is our next project. We want to create low impact programs for everyone.
13) How is SMILE different to other chair-based dance classes?
The style and sounds of Ballroom dancing are at the heart of the program. I want participants to view the class as dancing from a chair to music they love. It is easy to do, but most of all it's fun. Everyone has a smile at the end of class.
14) What’s the greatest compliment you have received from a participant of SMILE?
A participant said that coming to class made her heart smile. She doesn't get out much and said she needs this class to feel good about herself and to have something to look forward to every week. She said if it weren’t for the class, she would most likely be in a nursing home!
15) What makes you SMILE?
Seeing active, healthy people dancing until they’re physically unable to anymore. When my participants smile, I smile, and know I've done my part to make someone happy even just for that moment of their day. It makes you feel good. I get to do what I love everyday!