I’m so thrilled to introduce our amazing 2023 ambassadors for The Whole Dancer! Each of these dancers brings a beautiful and unique perspective on what it means to be a whole and balanced dancer in the pursuit of such a challenging art form. I hope you will find some inspiration from each of them.

Claire Peoples

Claire Peoples graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and was one of only thirty undergraduates awarded the Presidential Award of Excellence. At UGA, she was a member of the contemporary African ensemble CADE:NCE and the neoclassical ballet company Dance Repertory Project. She performed in the Spring Dance Concert, Young Choreographers Series, and at conferences across the United States and internationally in Jamaica. 

Peoples attended the American Dance Festival in 2018 on full scholarship, studying contact improvisation, Limón modern, and ballet. For two years, she served as Head Resident Advisor for the Joffrey Ballet School’s summer programs in Georgia, Colorado, and Texas under Artistic Director Colleen Barnes. In 2020–2021, she moved to Massachusetts to dance as a trainee with Boston Dance Theater, where she had the opportunity to train alongside the main company and learn the repertory of notable choreographers such as Itzik Galili, Micaela Taylor, Yin Yue, Shannon Gillen, and Marco Goecke. 

In the 2021–2022 season, Peoples danced as a trainee with Confluence Ballet Company for their inaugural year, also working as marketing and social media manager. With CBC, her favorite roles included Clara in The Nutcracker Sweet and dancing corps de ballet in Fokine’s Les Sylphides. Peoples is thrilled to be joining New Mexico Ballet Company for their 50th year and anticipates a great season in Albuquerque!

What does being a whole dancer mean to you?

Being a whole dancer means nourishing my mind, body, and soul while still working towards my dance goals. While I am always working to improve my ballet technique and strength, I also want to make sure I am not neglecting other parts of myself to accomplish that. 

I used to have a really negative relationship with food, and I felt it was a way to control my body and other people’s opinions about me and my dancing. The Whole Dancer’s curriculum helped me to recenter my relationship with food and remember that I am a whole person outside of my identity as a dancer.  

What are your favorite self-care activities?

My favorite self-care activities are epsom salt baths, going to get a massage, and lighting my favorite candles and eating my favorite snacks while watching a good TV show. I also love crafts like embroidery and decorating old pointe shoes, and doing crossword puzzles.

Connect with Claire!

My dance Instagram: @clairepeoplesdance

My website: www.clairepeoples.com

Photo of Claire by Sarah Takash Photography

Ana Emilia

Ana is an 18-year-old pre-professional dancer aiming to work with recognized ballet companies. She started dancing at 4 years old. Later on at 9 years old, she decided to take it seriously and start studying at EBDM. She continued her studies until 2021 when she graduated with Le Corsaire at 17 years old. 

In August of 2021, I joined Ballet de Monterrey as an apprentice where I got the opportunity to dance in the corps de ballet in Swan Lake, Le Corsaire, and Gala Levitar. After dancing with them for a year and a half, I decided to start training independently to strengthen technique and audition for other ballet companies.

What does being a whole dancer mean to you?

To me being a whole dancer means being a conscious and balanced dancer. To be a whole dancer and get to the best version of ourselves, we must learn to be conscious of all the different aspects that make up a balanced dancer: mental, emotional, and physical health. It is crucial for us as dancers to learn to give importance to how we fuel our body, how much we train, allowing ourselves to rest, strengthen our mindset, take care of our body, and sometimes even completely disconnect from the dance world for a bit. I believe that if you want to grow to be a strong and intelligent dancer, you must learn to be a whole dancer. 

Check out this related post :   OKC Dancer Madeleine Purcell "Healthy at Home"

What are your favorite self-care activities?

Doing yoga, reading, meditating, massaging my muscles, and journaling.

Follow Ana

Instagram: @anaemilia.zp

TikTok: @anaem.zp

Zoe Shemet


Tell us about your dance experience so far.

I dance at The Rock School for Dance Education in Philadelphia. I am 16 years old, and it is my first year training at The Rock School. 

What does being a whole dancer mean to you?

To me, being a whole dancer means taking deliberate care of every aspect of my dancing. I owe it to myself to put in maximum effort every day, and I also owe it to myself to rest and make sure that my body is happy and healthy. 

Being a whole dancer also means educating myself outside of just the studio on things like nutrition, self-care, and positivity.

What are your favorite self-care activities?

Some of my favorite self-care activities are watching movies, talking and being with friends, improv, listening to podcasts or music, stretching and rolling out my muscles. I have recently come to realize that although self-care can include the things that are very good for my body (like skincare and tidying up), it can also include just things that I enjoy doing.Follow Zoe on Instagram: @zoeshemet

Maia Blake 

Tell us about your dance journey so far.

I started dancing when I was 3 and began ballet seriously around age 13. I studied at Bossov Ballet Theatre for 3 years, then went to earn my BFA in ballet from the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music. Now, I’m dancing in my first professional season with Ballet Spartanburg!

What does being a whole dancer mean to you?

Being a whole dancer means that I am a whole person, not just a dancer. Dance is the biggest part of my life, but I try to not let it take over in everything else I do. I can enjoy time out with friends, a day off or two, a little extra sleep one day if I need, etc. 

Being a whole dancer means that I am balanced in all aspects of dance too! Technique, how I fuel my body, how I cross-train (being turned in is actually so good for you), how I view myself and my body every day, and just having the understanding that not every day will be great and being okay with that. 

What are your favorite self-care activities?

My favorite self-care activities include spending time with friends, journaling, going on nature walks, and having spa day moments for myself! Follow Maia on Instagram: @maiarblake

Kai Cole 

Tell us about your dance background.

My mom insists I’ve been dancing since the womb, but I wasn’t really dancing consistently until I was 13 or 14. I’m somewhat of an “underdog,” I think, because my dance career/journey got off to somewhat of a rocky start (ahem, I didn’t make my high school dance team 3 years in a row), but I think that experience really pushed me to, I guess, want to dance more, and I ended up being led to my amazing home studio. I really like where I am now and the dancer I’ve grown into. 🙂

I’m now in my final year of study in the Dance Performance and Choreography department at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica, and I still dance with the same studio company, BEAM Jamaica. I also teach part-time at BEAM as well as at a local preschool.

What does being a whole dancer mean to you?

I think…being a whole dancer means accepting all the parts of myself and my journey. It can be really easy to kind of gloss over the less spectacular parts of my journey and create this highlight reel of the best moments…but I always try to recognize (and openly talk about) how each part of my dance history was necessary for me to be where I am now. 

Check out this related post :   Experiences of Body Shaming in Ballet

This also includes recognizing how each aspect of my being is shaping who I am growing further into, and giving each facet (physical, mental, social, emotional) the right amount of attention and care.

What are your favorite self-care activities?

I consider myself super chill, so a day where I have absolutely no responsibilities and I can watch Netflix all day long…my kinda day.

It helps me to take what I call “unstructured dance breaks,” so just turning on some music and moving for the sake of moving my body, without any expectations of grades, technique, or choreography…I just like to be present in my body and explore, appreciate and enjoy what I can do.

I find hanging upside down does something really nice for my nervous system, so the occasional aerial hammock class really hits the spot for me as well.

Another zero effort but highly effective activity for me is simply sitting in the sun (or outside in general) and just breathing…It’s a good reset for my mind and body.

Follow Kai on Instagram:@kaiyac__@barefootballerinahh

Grant Gonzalez

Tell us about your dance journey so far.

I started dancing at a small studio, The Arvada Center Dance Academy, in Arvada, Colorado, around 14 years old by taking jazz and modern classes. The following year, I began taking ballet classes at the same academy and fell in love with the art form. 

The next year, I was invited to join the resident performing company of The Arvada Center Dance Academy, The Arvada Center Dance Theater. That following summer, I attended the Colorado Ballet Academy Summer Intensive and was recruited to join the highest level in the evening academy at Colorado Ballet Academy. 

I trained at the Colorado Ballet Academy for two more years in their pre-professional division after my first school year with them. My second year in the pre-professional division, I was called to understudy corps de ballet roles with the main company, Colorado Ballet, for the majority of their 2021–2022 season. 

I was lucky enough to go in for a few corps de ballet roles in Derek Dean’s Romeo and Juliet that season. Following my second season as a pre-professional student, I attended a couple of summer intensives and secured a contract as a trainee in the second company of the Kansas City Ballet. 

As of right now, I am still under that contract for the second half of the 2022–2023 season. The last program the company presented was a new choreographic workshop called New Moves!

What does being a whole dancer mean to you?

Being a whole dancer means that I can lead by example on a journey to repair my relationship with food. This opportunity gives me a chance to focus on this goal that I’ve had for a while. I feel like many dancers can often feel like they are alone in the conquest to rebuild their relationship with food, so I hope that I can show others that they are not alone. 

Additionally, as a non-binary and gender-fluid dancer, I’ve been particularly struggling with acceptance of my own unique identity and body type. So I hope to connect specifically with queer dancers who might be struggling particularly with their gender identity and dance.

What are your favorite self-care activities?

My go-to self-care activity after a long day at the studios is taking an epsom salt bath and reading. I recently finished a mystery thriller novel titled The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley.

Follow me on Instagram @engler.g.gonzalez. If anyone ever has any questions or needs someone to talk to, feel free to reach out. My DMs are always open to connect with others!

being a whole dancer
The Whole Dancer 2023 Ambassadors

Jess Spinner

Jess is a former professional ballet dancer turned Holistic Health, Nutrition, and Lifestyle Coach for high level dancers. She founded The Whole Dancer in 2015 after identifying a greater need for balance, wellness and support in the dance world. Since The Whole Dancer was founded, Jess has worked with 100's of dancers worldwide at top companies and schools. She has been featured in or written for Dance Magazine, Dance Teacher Magazine, Pointe Magazine, and Dance Spirit Magazine.

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