The Whole Dancer Ambassador program was created to support a group of dancers and also to encourage them to share the joy and value they derive from The Whole Dancer. Each of these dancers went through an application process and was chosen for their unique perspectives. They have a mixture of professional dance experiences and teaching backgrounds. Each is perfectly unique.
I’m so grateful to each and every one of The Whole Dancer Ambassadors for being true to themselves as they embody this role. It is my goal that this program will be mutually beneficial. I hope it is a supportive journey for each dancer and they find true joy from their dance journey and the opportunity to spread the message of what The Whole Dancer is all about.
Lena Grace Easter
I started ballet at Ballet School of Kingston in upstate NY with Melissa Bierstock and finished my training in New York City at the Premiere Ballet Division under Nadege Hottier. I currently dance professionally as an apprentice with Ballet Theatre of Maryland.
My favorite self-care activities are reading and taking Epsom salt baths.
Being a Whole Dancer to me means to fuel myself properly each day, not only with food but kindness and empathy towards others and myself.
Follow Lena on Instagram @ballerina_lena
I entered the ballet world rather late compared to most. I had taken informal dance classes growing up and when I was little but was never super serious about ballet. When I was about 15 I fell in love with classical ballet and decided I wanted to try and pursue it professionally. I started training at Colorado Ballet Society and danced with the Colorado Youth Ballet for about five years. In 2021, I moved to North Carolina to dance with US International Ballet Company where I am currently a second company member.
To me, being a Whole Dancer means taking care of myself as a whole person — mind, body, and soul — and prioritizing all aspects of balance. Not only my food choices but also in my life, exercise, self-talk, and relationships. To me it means allowing imperfection and embracing that it is OK to be kind to myself.
My favorite self-care activity is taking a yoga class. I especially love hot yoga and getting my body super warm, stretched out, and relaxed. I find yoga occupies my mind enough to where I am not letting my mind wander into anxious thoughts, but it also allows me to relax and not think about anything except for how I am feeling in the moment. It also feels so good for sore muscles!
Follow Gracie on social media @_.simplybygrace
I began my dance training in Ohio at both Oakwood Ballet and Dayton Ballet until college where I earned a BFA in ballet performance from the University of Oklahoma School of Dance. I attended various summer intensives including ABT, Milwaukee Ballet, BalletMet, The Washington School of Ballet, and Orlando Ballet. In the past couple years, I have performed with Fort Wayne Ballet, Ballet North Texas, Texture Contemporary Ballet, and have choreographed for Confluence Ballet. I am currently working for DeCruz Ballet under Lindsi Dec and Karel Cruz as the marketing/admin/social media creator as well as instructing in ballet, pilates, and contemporary, and growing my choreography career.
To me, being a Whole Dancer means being a human first, dancer second. Having a keen sense of your own mental, emotional, and physical needs and allowing room to grow, mess up, rest, push, etc., in an effort to live the most purposeful, value-driven life that includes dance but is not centered entirely around it.
My favorite self-care activity is spending time with friends! I am a very social person, and a lot of the work I do requires me to sometimes put my social life on the back burner. I love spending quality time with others — experiencing something together and talking about life as a whole
I work for DeCruz Ballet, which is a finishing school for dancers who want to pursue dance professionally. We also have recreational classes, winter/summer intensives, as well as childrens and adult classes. The values at DeCruz align with the Whole Dancer: be yourself, spread positivity, harness physical and mental strength, and trust your training. It truly is a revolutionary approach to training and is by far the healthiest and most encouraging environment for all dancers. You can follow us at @decruzballet on Instagram and Facebook. Our website is www.decruzballet.com.
My choreography account is @knorrchoreo where I post samples of my work. I am always looking for more people to connect with there for future projects, so I would love your support!
I’m originally from San Diego, CA, which is where my dance journey began. When my family moved to the Chicago area, I began working with Preston Miller and trained at the Ruth Page School of Dance. I spent summers at Houston Ballet, Ellison Ballet, Ballet West, the Vienna State Opera Ballet Academy, Milwaukee Ballet, the International Dance Experience at the Ruth Page School of Dance, and the TDA Prep Summer Intensive with Preston Miller. My next step included a year as a trainee at Ballet West where I had the privilege to represent Ballet West Academy at YAGP, the Vienna International Ballet Experience where I received a bronze medal, and being part of an exchange with the Berlin State Ballet School.
The following year I participated in the “Cuba y Chicago” exchange created by Victor Alexander and RPSD, which led to an invitation as one of the first Americans to train full-time at La Escuela Nacional de Ballet “Fernando Alonso” in Havana, Cuba. I spent a year in Havana training under Ramona de Saa Bello and Ana Julia Bermudez de Castro. Following my year in Cuba, I joined City Ballet of San Diego. I spent two seasons there right up until March 2020 when our season halted for the pandemic. I was lucky enough to have already accepted my spot as a trainee in the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Training Program, and after spending a whole year online, I’m finally here in San Francisco heading towards the end of my second year.
Being a Whole Dancer didn’t mean very much to me before the pandemic. Once the version of ballet as we knew it had been taken away, I had to find a way to redefine myself, and myself in ballet. Being a Whole Dancer now means that we are both dancers and regular people. It means that we’ve invested time into developing ourselves as people outside of dance and we’ve put in work to be well rounded as humans and dancers. Being a Whole Dancer means you’ve made room for your human self to be present, involved, and included in your dancing and dancer self.
I have two favorite self-care activities. The first is definitely my morning routine. It sets me up for my day, it’s relaxing, and I always look forward to it. My other favorite self-care activity is doing my “crafty” kind of hobbies. I picked up baking over the pandemic, which I really enjoy, as well as painting.
My instagram is @timmanfreemorie.
I started serious ballet training at age 14 at the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music (CCM), and I am now a sophomore dancing at Butler Ballet.
Being a Whole Dancer means I am more than what I see in the mirror and more than what other people think of me. I am a whole person with a life outside of the studio, and I am able to pursue my passion for dance with the mindset that my worth is not dictated by my successes or failures.
Taking baths and long stretching sessions are my favorite forms of self-care.
I started in a small academy in Mexico, (@academiadeballetpayro) training RAD, then I moved to Chicago as a trainee, learned all about the American ballet world, moved to Pittsburgh where I got my job as a professional dancer with their company. Then I decided to move to Virginia, and I’m currently happily dancing with Manassas Ballet Theatre!
Being a Whole Dancer for me means literally being a whole person. Finding balance. Meaning I love dance, dance is my life, but that’s not the only thing I do. I’m a human who makes mistakes, who has a body that changes, who has a life outside ballet, enjoys other hobbies, and I try to incorporate everything together. Making me a whole.
So in other words: BALANCE.
I love to go to a recovery lounge where I can get my meditation or nap, where my body recovers and I feel good. I enjoy a good facial routine — any mask or scrub, bring it!! And just spending quality time with my puppies! That’s happiness and self-care for me.
You can watch my last show here: https://vimeo.com/ondemand/gaiteparisienne
I started ballet classes when I was two years old in Kamloops, BC, and later studied RAD at a local school completing my exams. At age 16, I moved away from home to train professionally at Goh Ballet Academy and The Richmond Academy of Dance in Vancouver, and I started my professional career at age 20 with Ballet Kelowna. I am now currently freelancing and teaching ballet while auditioning for ballet companies with the hope of being back in a full-time position with a company soon.
Being a Whole Dancer means honoring myself as a human, not just a dancer, and treating my body and mind with compassion and kindness. It means making sure I am taking care of all areas of myself and my life so I can be fully present and enjoy the biggest gift in my life, which is dancing. I am so grateful for The Whole Dancer mission and what Jess has done for my mindset and well-being over the years. I am in a really good place with my body image and dancing now, and she has been a huge part of me getting here.
My favorite self-care activities include epsom salt bath, foam rolling, and dark chocolate at the end of a long day.
Follow Bailey on Instagram @Bailey_madill
Dance background: This is a loaded question for me because I started dancing when I was 5, but I have SO much animosity towards the overwhelming majority of teachers I’ve had right up until the past two years, so I suppose I’ll start with my most current teachers and work back a bit.
Currently, I’m taught my Rachel Zervakos and Michael Cusumano. Rachel is my pointe teacher. She’s and ABT®️ NTC Certified Teacher through Level 5. Michael Cusumano is my partnering and technique teacher. He has an extensive history of performance in dance and musical theatre. He was ABT’s youngest male hire. Previously, I was taught by Zimmi Coker, who is an ABT®️ NTC Certified Teacher through Level 7 & Partnering. She is currently dancing in ABT’s corps de ballet. I started working with Zimmi before I took ABT’s NTC teaching course because I had SO much of a gap in my education.
After certifying through Level 3, I switched to working with Rachel to prepare for the next portion of the course. All three of my teachers helped me prepare for that course. I’m now certified through Level 5 and hope to complete the last portion of the course within a year. I was awarded the RISE Scholarships to attend the teacher training intensives because I am a disabled Latina who works with other marginalized and multi-marginalized dancers. I want every dancer to have genuine accessibility to the best education they can get.
Currently, I teach adaptive versions of NTC Primary Level, Level 1, and Level 3 on Patreon. I offer classes with accommodations for a wide range of mental illnesses, neurodivergent traits, and several physical illnesses. I have a wonderful community of Patrons that came together out of mutual exclusion or an interest to change how ballet treats people.
Part of your morning routine you can’t miss?
Taking my ADHD medication, which I wasn’t going to say, but I realized that other people reading this might also take meds for mental illness or to help make neurodivergent traits more manageable in a very neurotypically-centered world. It’s good for medication to be normalized.
There’s nothing wrong with taking medication if it improves your quality of life. The purpose of life is to have a good life. We only get one. Taking my ADHD medication is the part of my morning that I can’t miss. It makes the day manageable for me. It means that I can function in the world around me. I can work. I can dance. I can drive a car. I have a life because of my medication. And that’s okay.
Personal mantra? Favorite Quote?
It’s fine. Està bien.
I say this so much that one of the people I work with at Beam & Barre laughs at me when I say it. I could be on fire in the middle of of a desert and I’ll still say “It’s fine”. I find that the more stressed out I am and the less fine things are, the more calmly I say that phrase. I don’t know if it’s sarcasm or me trying to convince myself, but I seem to say it a lot. I put ALLLLLLL of my feelings on my face too, so I could be saying “It’s fine”, but my face will be giving “Oh &*!#” in a very obvious way.