Becoming A Higher Version Of Yourself – A Conversation With Lydia Holt

GUEST CONVERSATIONS

January 25, 2021

PTR 25 | Achieving Self-Fulfillment

 

A dancer in Berlin at the Friedrichstadt-Palast for over a year, Lydia Holt had to pivot and adapt when her dreams were cut short by the lockdown. In this episode, she talks to Susanne Puerschel about finding not only peace but also fulfillment in her new path. Lydia launched her podcast, Red Lips and High Kicks, during the lockdown as a way for her to stay in contact with her art and spread positivity and encouragement that was lacking so much. She shares her experiences in the dance world and how she turned into this higher version of herself to cope with the current environment. Tune in to hear Lydia’s story – from the hungry dancer that wants to please everyone else to dancing as she wants and doing it right.

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Becoming A Higher Version Of Yourself – A Conversation With Lydia Holt

In this episode, I’m having a conversation with Lydia Holt. She is a dancer in Berlin at the Friedrichstadt-Palast. We’re going to talk about her journey and how she ended up and how she came to peace with the dream that she originally has that didn’t come to fruition. She adapted and found not only peace but also fulfillment in her new path. I’m looking forward to having this conversation. I want to know your feedback. I want to know if you are in that same position and what you did to pivot.

Lydia, thank you for coming on the show. I am appreciative that you take the time. I know you’re home and you want to be with your family, but yet you’re sitting here with me and taking the time to talk.

Thank you. This has been a real highlight of my day in quarantine. I’m always here to talk about the dance world, spread positivity and encouragement. It’s lovely to talk more.

I would love to introduce you to our audience. I know a bit about your journey, but can you share where you came from and how your dream changed in the middle and how you were able to pivot and still be okay with where you are?

With my own podcast, I found often that everyone has such a different journey. It starts similar like lots of little young girls which fell in love with the tutu, the satin shoes and the stories. I was lucky to go to a dance school where it was encouraged to run around. It was encouraged to listen to the music, have courage and have fun, which is where it initially all started for me. It’s funny because ballet sometimes can be such a contrast of that. Ballet is disciplined, focused, controlled, and at times not much character. Normally, it’s smiling, pleasant, fairies and princesses, but not always draws on many colors and so much diversity, but I did start with all that diversity.

After that, I fell in love with the ballet world and was fortunate to go to an amazing ballet school in England, Elmhurst Ballet School. We’re lucky in the UK to have these distinguished prestigious schools where you breathe ballet. It’s everything. Your teachers were these greats in the UK ballet companies. They dance and all this culture sewn into them. It was lovely to be surrounded by that from a young age. I worked my way up through that. I was there from about 11 or 12 all the way until I was nineteen and graduated. It was tough. These schools are charming but it’s difficult. It’s hard growing up. As any teenager, you go through many emotions quickly. Growing up alongside the ballet was always tough.

I came out the other side. I was working with Northern Ballet for a while and loved it. I didn’t get the job. Working hard, you crave that stability and security that you’ve done enough at the finish line. You’ve done it. The letting go and the breath of being like, “I’ve done it. I don’t have to worry anymore.” Unfortunately, that didn’t happen for me. I got close. Everyone was encouraging. I knew I was doing the right things, but it didn’t arrive. I didn’t get there and so much of that was my own mentality saying, “I haven’t arrived.”

From that moment, auditioning, being around Europe in trains, planes, trams, everywhere for an audition and nothing stuck. It broke my heart. I had performed. I knew I was capable, but I didn’t arrive. From that moment, I felt like I was faced with a pivot, “How do I go? Do I stop? Go to university and completely retrain? What do I do?” For me, it stemmed back to what it was right at the beginning. It was the performing, being on stage, the music, the wildness and the freedom that came with dancing. I was like, “If you’re not going to let me do it in a tutu, I’m going to find my own place.”

I took myself up to London, did many cruise ship auditions, which are another world. I could talk about it for hours. The differences are amazing. It opened my eyes to a whole new realm, territory and stream of dance that I didn’t allow myself to see. I was doing okay. I was doing quite good for someone who has done Sugar Plum and was running around doing Lilac Fairy. We’re in these jazz auditions and I was holding my own. I got an agent. They encouraged me in a way I wasn’t encouraged so much in ballet. I ended up in a cruise ship and had the time of my life. I saw myself as a performer, but as an individual, I grew so much stronger. I believed in myself. I believe what I had to offer was okay and was good enough. For the first time, that’s how I arrived at a place where I felt good enough and worthy.

From there, I got emails on the ship from this company I had auditioned at numerous times in Berlin called the Friedrichstadt-Palast. I auditioned back in my ballet days and they liked me, but there was never the security and the job. The minute I was on the ship, they came onto me down and wanted me, and I was committed to a seven-month contract. I couldn’t just pop over to Berlin. The minute I finished, I said, “I’ll come when I finish.” I landed on the Friday from the ship and was out there in Berlin on the Monday. They offered me the job on the spot. It was this moment where I was like, “It’s always difficult. These things happen when you don’t expect them. They happen when you don’t need them.” From there, I joined November 2020. It’s my dream company.

We’re a complete company of ballet dancers. World Super Tour and we all are dressed in these amazing costumes from world-renowned designers. We have the largest theater stage in the world and we’re appreciated. We’re like a gem of Berlin. They love it. The Europeans, the Germans, they love this avant-garde circus, show girl, Moulin Rouge. That’s where I’m at the moment, COVID-permitting. I was doing that full-time. It’s grueling eight shows a week. We’re pushed through our paces, but it’s amazing. It’s my dream job and it mixes the ballet that I love so much and devoted myself to. Also, the other side of me, the side of jazz, excitement, red lips, wearing fishnet and heels. I love that side. I’m happy to be in a place where they’re married.

Thank you for sharing that passionately. I want to know first, where did the need to express yourself through dance come from? Do you remember how it started?

I don’t remember wanting to do anything else. I feel the minute I knew I could do it as a profession, it was like, “That’s what I’ll do.” It’s funny, no one ever told me. I had teachers who encourage me, but I don’t come from a dancing background. I’ve never known another dancer. There wasn’t an influence in my life where I saw that as a route. I’m appreciating it, not only because of the pandemic, but as I’ve grown older. It’s who I am. It’s in my blood wanting to perform. It’s the expression and where I’m most comfortable. I’m an over-thinker and I’m quite intense. Dance is such a way for me. It’s meditation for me. It enables me to stop the mind going mad. It’s allowing my body to do the things that my mind can’t. It has always been that way.

I can relate to that. You said going through the school process was tough. Can you go deeper on that? Why was it tough? I have my own experience on why it is tough. It is always good to hear other people talk about the toughness that we experience in those formative years.

Everyone will have their battle, the mountain to overcome, the adversity and their own version of it. I was lucky my school was good. I knew they saw something in me. It’s hard and reflecting, you never know how much was put on you or how much you created. The hunt for perfection run deep in me. I’m competitive for sure, but I crave acknowledgement that I’m doing enough. At school, when you’ve got 12, 14 girls in front of you, all similarly competitive and perfection, I would drive myself a bit crazy on not being perfect and not being the best. What is the best? What is perfect? It’s all figurative. I was a lot responsible for not being nice to myself, for not allowing myself to be in the process, not accepting who I was.

I spent a lot of time wanting to be different. I’m slightly taller. Especially in England, I never had a ballet teacher that was taller than me, which is okay. It’s tough because it’s a role model. It’s someone you can see who looks like you. That’s minor. There are a lot of other people who don’t see themselves on stage, but it was a bit of that. I’m fortunate I’ve got some of the right body things, but I also don’t have a lot of the body of things. I’ve never been naturally skinny, which is a tall dancer can feel more pressure that you do have to be super slim. I never had those lovely bendy feet and those high extensions. I feel like I was telling myself, with a chip on my shoulder, I was not good enough. I have these things against me.

What are the things that you would tell that 13, 14, 15-year-old you? What’s that one advice?

Life tells you and shows you what you need. Click To Tweet

There’s not one version of success and perfection and all those things I didn’t like about myself. They’re not going away, but it doesn’t matter to me anymore. Those things that I don’t like, I now have something that I appreciate about myself that dwarfs that and it doesn’t make it important anymore. If I could tell her, “Be kinder to yourself. You’ve got a lot going for you. Don’t tell yourself you’re not going to make it and you’re not worth anything because you’ve got a few things going against you.” I spent a lot of unnecessary time being cruel and nasty to myself. I regret that. I wish I didn’t. I don’t want to look back and remember that I didn’t like myself. At times, I loathed myself and the shell that I belong to but it pushed me far. I’m grateful for the stand that I reached and the places it got me. Also, for the lesson it taught me to be kind to yourself and to allow yourself to grow, evolve, change, don’t run from that and embrace it.

Let’s go deeper in here because you said something. You turned into this higher version of yourself where you do not talk to yourself like that anymore. Getting to that place is a journey. It will always be a journey. Do you remember the point where you found yourself turning and realizing where, “What I’m doing here now is not supporting myself, it is supporting everybody else’s needs?” Particularly as a dancer, you have to not only support yourself, but you also need to know who you are. It would be of value for anybody that wants to start that journey or get there. We’re always looking to get there, which is a total myth. You’re never going to get there. You will reach new levels and start chasing that new level that is on the other side. What was that moment? Do you remember? Even if it’s not a moment, but even the journey or the processes.

It’s a process. When I was about nineteen, I hit a wall and I had that make-or-break point of falling apart. I felt not being okay. I was lucky that the school had counselors and therapists come into the school. I looked back and I think that moment could have gone 1 or 2 ways. I felt grateful for the school to have swooped in. That moment opened the Pandora’s box of everything of how I was talking to myself. That process, I learned so much about how to be kind to myself, how to nurture myself, and how to support myself. It was a real transition and it spell about 1 or 2 years. Learning those skills, I continue to audition and fight in the ballet world, but I was bringing those lessons along with me. There were moments I remember crying my eyes out in hotel rooms in Belgium and in random cities by myself. I didn’t get these auditions and having to remember those things though. It was a different process from learning about me and learning those techniques to cope with those things, and handle them in a much more positive way.

Through those years and period, I was still out there. I felt like the frontline facing all these directors in auditions, but I was coping much differently. When it did not work out and it was the end of audition season and I have no job again, I had grown enough confidence in myself and through that process of being upset but treating myself differently and crying. Using those techniques, at the end of that process, I suddenly realized, it’s not worth it. You learn on the job and through the adversity that I was choosing myself every time. I was going, “No. I don’t know why I’m putting so much power in these directors’ hands,” directors I’ve never met and don’t care for me. I don’t care for them. They were the ones that were telling me whether I was good enough or not. They were the ones that were giving me the appreciation, the acceptance. I was so baffled that that was the power dynamic. It was like waiting to fall asleep at night, every night thinking, “What if any emails come through where I’m going to get a job and my whole life will change?”

That’s such a dangerous, unstable place to be. Why would that email come through on a random Thursday night? Why would it? From there, it was all about grabbing that power back and being like, “I’m going to decide if I’m good enough, how and when I’ll perform, because I don’t want to wait for anyone else to tell me I can.” It was a process. You learn through doing and I’m grateful for that experience with a therapist to understand how to coach myself. When I continued to audition, it changed me enormously. It enabled me to be stronger for the next pivot and the next part of my career.

Having the courage to say, “I’m now here and I’m happy. When I come back and you still have something open, I can then come and join you.” I don’t think that prior to this journey that you have gone through, you would have been able to do that because you wanted to please everybody.

You can smell desperation. Especially as a graduate, everyone is desperate and hungry. Not only for their dreams and their ambitions, but to get a job and money. This isn’t a cheap career. The desperation is real, but when you start to believe in like, “This might not happen, but it will at some point,” and have that inner belief in yourself. I’m not saying they’ll always materialize and every gig goes straight ahead, but your journey will entirely change and your experience on your journey.

It will. When you stop chasing something and you set your intentions and you say, “This is me. This is who I am, and I stand for it.” There is a completely energy that you’re putting out and you attract way different things. I want to dig deeper even. When we’re seeing all of this desperate, hunting, chasing, the fear, unworthiness, not enoughness and the mental unfitness that we both experienced in our careers and that we are seeing in the people that are in the industry and coming in. I’m seeing that we’re not paying enough attention to how we can prevent all of these mental challenges at this point. On a daily basis, what are habits that people could put into place in order to keep them mentally fit? To put mental fitness as a priority and understand that your physical fitness goes hand-in-hand with your mental fitness. If they are out of alignment, it doesn’t produce the best that you could be.

Much of it is acceptance and giving yourself permission. This was something I learned. I was giving myself permission to feel certain things and to be allowed to not feel guilty about those things, not feeling ashamed or that I shouldn’t feeling those things. It was giving myself permission to have a sulk, to have a bad day, to be angry and to be pissed off. Allowing yourselves to do them instead of squashing them is a powerful technique. It is something I use day-to-day. If I’m having a down day and I’m like, “This is show 7 of 8, I will give myself permission to be like, ‘You’re going to perform at 80% because you can’t perform at 100% every night.’” If you do, what is left for you? You can’t pour from an empty jug.

Sometimes it’s allowing yourself to lower a gear, to lower the percentage and enabling yourself to do that. You gain power and acceptance, but it also then allows you to push farther. The next show, I am at 100% and I’m feeling good about it because I allowed myself to not feel good so I can then feel better. It’s a difficult thing to learn, but that was a big change for me. It’s being like, “I’m not going to feel bad about not being 100%.” Much of that unfortunately does start at school because the dynamic of teacher, and you would do anything for your teacher. You want them to love you. You get the most corrections. They might help you get a job. You never know. We do adore our teachers in a way that we don’t adore their math teachers and their science teachers.

Dancers idolize their ballet teachers. Having a brave face, never complaining, and always being the perfect student does leak into our private lives and our personal lives. When you come out of school and you don’t have that teacher, you don’t have that director, you’re trying to please everyone. You’re almost on autopilot, trying to be 100%, mask on, being perfect and shiny all the time, which is unsustainable. As a professional, you have to learn to be your own boss and be your own teacher and decide who are you pleasing, who is this all for. Allowing yourself to be on a scale is a good technique to take care of yourself.

I want to add something to that. When you said, “Who are you going to try to please?” It’s finding that in your strength to be your own leader and not to rely on other people, which starts in school with trying to be seen, trying to get all these corrections. This is where we could make such a difference in mental fitness and speak to these things. I don’t know if you ever seen Frozen. One of my son’s favorite movies and it is there. It says, “Conceal, don’t feel.” Those three words spoke to me so much when that movie first aired, because that was my life too. Don’t feel, always stand there. Don’t show your emotions, just smile. That translates into your private life because you’re not allowed to be anything else. You’re a dancer. You eat, breathe and you are everything and anything at any given time as a dancer. We all experience in some way or another in our careers a heartbreak and our rock bottom moments. Can you share with us how that materialized for you? As in feelings, emotions, physical signs, and what did you do to get to the other side?

Professionally where I felt like, “That was it. I had no chance. I failed,” was when my second or third season auditioning for classical companies. It was always spending all my money auditioning, and being told I was doing the right things but it didn’t happen. There was one job from the last ones and the audition was at the end of March. It was nearing the end of the audition season. It was one of those classic ones where it was like, “We’ll let you know,” and it was months and months later. That was a point in my life where I was checking my phone as if it was going to magically appear, and my whole life would change. I was on the cusp for months, which is an unhealthy place to be especially to that seasonal auditions.

It was an experience and anxiety that I remember clearly, but haven’t experienced since. It was an anxiety that laid in the pit of my stomach. It felt like loose electrical wires are going on in my stomach and shocking me in a way that I couldn’t control. I was distracted by it and it was a physical reaction to an anxiety. In every audition, it would prang and pull when I was waiting for this yes or no for months. It was there the whole time. When I got the “no,” I remember I had nothing left. I cried as many tears I could. I remember it again. I am close to my mother and she held my face, and my tears were falling into her palms. I remember it clearly because I remember feeling like, “This is it. I failed and I’ve not got anything that I wanted, anything that I worked hard for,” which is a lie in itself. I’d performed. I’d done the ballet thing. I’d been on stages. It was a lie I was telling myself but in the moment, I felt like I failed.

In that moment, it was like, “Do I want to study? What do I want to do?” From there it was like, “I want to perform.” It was about performing from the beginning. I got lost in the technique, all the things I wasn’t, and all the shortcomings I had that I forgot that it was about performing. That’s when I took myself to London and wanted to be in front of people, smiling and wanted to get a job. Cruise contracts are an amazing opportunity and avenue for lots of dancers. It worked for me. I’m grateful to some jazz teachers I’ve had in the past. It’s that people were telling you things before you’re ready to adapt them.

One jazz teacher in particular was saying, “You look great in feathers. I can see you in feathers,” and me being like, “No.” I was offended like, “Why? Not me, I’m going to be in a tutu. You’re confused.” I remember contacting him. I’m grateful for these teachers in my life that believed in me. He lined me up and said, “Go to this, do this, try that, get some photos, buy these shoes.” He encouraged me. I was like, “Maybe it’s worth the try.” It was trial and error. I remember my first audition, tanning up a bit, rosy cheeks, and I apply a little Vaseline on the lips. I was with these girls with curls, red lips, and false eyelashes. I was like, “I didn’t get the memo. I need to try a bit harder next time.” Slowly, I pushed myself up and learn how to do these auditions. I got a job. That experience was fun in a way that ballet wasn’t fun anymore.

The queue is long. It goes around the block. I would chat to the girls in queue and it was fun. No one ever chatted in a ballet audition. No one ever spoke. The whole experience was fun and I didn’t mind it. I was getting faces. This is off the backend. This for me felt like the second prize. This is a silver medal and I’m having a great time. I’m happy with the silver medal. I’m content on how this has thrown me. It’s funny because the job I was waiting for, that email, the pivotal moment was the job I have now. I needed another eighteen months and that job would be mine. Life tells you and shows you what you need. Going away, becoming more confident, becoming a better jazz dancer, knowing who I am as an individual, not just an artist was exactly the thing I needed. When they did want me, I arrived. I was there and I’m a much better employee, a much better worker and dancer for them than I have been if I’d gotten the yes initially.

Here are the things that I’ve heard from you to summarize that. You forgot your why. You were chasing something that you thought you had to because everybody else was doing it. That was the dream that was put the most recognition to. When you were able to hit your personal rock bottom, however that looked like and the tears were all cried out, you were able to hear more and to see more in you. You found your why again. It was like, “I want to perform. This is my why.” You opened yourself up to opportunities that you would have never seen or be ready to receive if you had stayed in that mindset of “I have to.”

The importance and novelty of rock bottom is you have nothing to lose. Click To Tweet

Tunnel vision is powerful and to a lot of people’s detriment. I would encourage any young dancer to open your eyes. You can have your tunnel vision but make that tunnel transparent. Keep focused, but don’t ignore and disregard those other options. What I did is I felt like I pushed myself so far in such a narrow little cliff that when it didn’t work, I was alone and I didn’t have those other options. Those other options were always there. I do love ballet. It is beautiful. For sure, it was my first love. I’m grateful for that training. It’s crucial and it’s at the heart of any dance.

If I had ended up in a ballet company, let’s say I got those jobs, there are a lot of sides to me and a lot of colors and skills that I have that might have come out once a season, maybe when I got a bit older and they might have given me a bit of a solo, or some choreographer came in and wanted something different. Maybe, I don’t know. Now, I feel utilized and exploring every avenue of myself as an artist rather than the tunnel vision and thinking I was one thing, when I wasn’t giving myself the best opportunity. I wasn’t seeing my own potential.

Let’s talk about diversity because that is something that is imperative in many aspects on becoming your best version. I grew up with diversity, not being something encouraged, fostered and seen as necessary. All you have to do is learn everything about dance and ballet and you’ll be fine. Your journey of learning ends the day you leave the school, and then you be perfect, 100% all the time. What I’ve learned over the years is that mentality, focus and belief was one area that helped me back in becoming more and better. Being able to make that tunnel lighter and shine the light and take down the walls. That box was tight.

It is important for that generation getting into the theaters or even the people that are performing. You can be multi-passionate. You can have many things in your life that lights you up. You put in your time and you become your expert with your 10,000 hours of practice. That doesn’t mean daily. You already did that. I want to hear your thoughts on it because you sneaked on it in your intro. I want to dive a little deeper on that because now in my 40s, I still look at myself and say, “I cannot be too much in every direction or be interested in too many things because I’m not going to be good enough.”

It’s things I’m grateful for that were completely by accident. At the beginning, my teacher when I was 5, 6 years old wasn’t a ballet teacher. She wasn’t an ex-ballet dancer who opened a dance school. She was a jazz dancer. My initial experience of dance was doing competitions, smiling, dancing around to songs I knew. It was fun and it was lively. That got put on pause when I was doing the ballet thing and coming out the other end. I knew and even when I was at school, maybe it was the high or maybe I didn’t want to compete with the likes of the small girls who had impeccable foot work. I felt I didn’t have that.

I would always go towards the more neoclassical solos and push myself towards those because I knew I was better at them. Not knowing how, I thought I was better at them within the bracket of ballet. When everything did fall apart, I thought I’ll give the jazz to go. I was nervous because I was like, “I’m going to be rubbish. These girls have trained as hard as me. They have done as many hours as me just in this avenue, just in this style. Thinking I can hop across with no issue, I can’t do that. I’m not going to be good enough.” That was the mentality.

The thing I had is the rock bottom. The importance and the novelty of rock bottom is you have nothing to lose. I went to those auditions knowing I did not have the training. I did not come from these jazz schools. I didn’t wear my red lipstick, but I had nothing to lose so I allowed myself. I gave it a go. There was nothing riding on it. There were no expectations, no heartache and no trauma attached to the yes or the no, or “You’re through to the next round.” There was nothing. It freed me up entirely. Going to these auditions, I just had a go. Even as I was in my cruise contract, on the ship in the middle of the Mediterranean, I was still learning things, asking and watching my classmates. I was learning so much. Diversity is important. It goes back to the kind of career you want to have. When I was younger, I thought I only want to ballet, which is risky. You’re writing a lot on one thing. If it works, great, good for you, but you have to play the odds. The odds of that happening are low for a lot of dancers.

If you want a career on stage with performance in it, you have to be versatile. You have to get that diversity. My school was good. We did flamenco, tap and jazz. We don’t want to go to them often. There’s such a stigma. It was always trying to find an injury to get out of them because no one would do that. All of a sudden, we’ll start crying, “I need to go help her? I don’t want to be in the lesson.” That’s what made that jump possible for me. I’m grateful to my school to be giving me a plan B and a little safety net without me even realizing it. I’m learning on the job. I’m still learning so much. I still got a long way to go, but I’m not as afraid anymore. With every performance, every person I fool, it gives me confidence that maybe it doesn’t matter that I didn’t spend X, Y amount of time in jazz, heels and in fishnets. Ballet is great. I know that it will serve me and has served me. It’s a process, but it’s massively shaped my career and it will continue to for a long time.

When you say you fooled them, I want to look at it from a different perspective because I don’t think you fool anybody because you didn’t have the training. It’s the same way in business. Your actual knowledge and your technical skills are 20%. What your mind is capable of, where your mindset is at, how you can navigate yourself through failure is the other 80%. That’s where we’re going a little off side when we’re teaching dance, when we’re teaching ballet. You’re only seen good and worthy if you’re in a tutu and you have pointed shoes on and anything else is even lower.

That is not the case. Look at us, what did we say? We wanted to skip jazz dance. We wanted to skip the modern class. I hate modern, but not because I wasn’t good at it. I could have been great if I could have let go and if I would have been open to the possibility that, “It makes me happy. It gives me something,” and not what other people expect of me to be or what it means to be or what my mother wants me to be. If we were to equalize like if your why is to perform, then that’s your why. How you express yourself on stage, how you impact others with the soul that you are opening up to them, and the energy exchange that you’re creating does not matter.

The Friedrichstadt-Palast is a near and dear place for me because I grew up around there. I walked Friedrichstadt every day on my way to the shop. I was lucky enough to go and take classes there sometimes and hang with the cool girls. The ones that were women and stood in their power. I always looked at them, “This would be so much fun,” but I never had the guts to audition because I was afraid of what other people would think. Tell me why you are feeling like your home there. Why is it such a good place?

As a tall dancer, I don’t want to use that as an excuse, but it’s a bit of salt in the wound. I remember working for a company and being told, “We like you. You’re everything we want, but you’re too tall. It’s such a cop-out. It’s like, “Then hire me.” It is hard. I had to audition three times before I got it. The first time, looking in the room and I’m standing with them, waiting my time to get size because I’m just with the company. I felt like getting it and be like, “I do fit in here.” I understand why directors are like, “Sorry, you’re too tall.” I was like, “This is what it’s like to fit in, to be at one with the rest of the group.” I did understand it there. That’s powerful.

What we’re encouraged there more than I’ve ever experienced is to be an individual, bring your own flavor, your own take, your own creativity to every role we do. That’s enormous fun and it was a playground. That means that you’re not compared. That does still exist, but I’m not trying to look like her when I do it. I’m trying to like me when I do it. One girl does one role and she does it like this. The next day, the costume is given to someone else and she does it entirely differently. That’s awesome. That’s great. That’s how it should be. We should be able to express ourselves as we are, rather than pleasing directors or pleasing whoever we think. It should be from within.

That’s enormously fulfilling and satisfying. From the hungry dancer that wants to please everyone else to now be doing it as I want and doing it right. That’s what’s most important to me. I remember taking my mom several years ago being like, “If I find a place where I fit in and I feel right, that’s what I want in my career. This is what I want.” My first few weeks, I’m being like, “I found it, I’m right. I’ve got the right skills. I’m in the right place. I look the right part.” It’s huge. The women there are inspiring. I love looking around different ages. Everyone’s got their own journey and experience. It makes us all different. I got inspired by that. I love the room to grow that we have there. I’m a big fan and I’m lucky.

For the people that don’t know what Friedrichstadt-Palast is, when you say you’re able to be your own, be creative, stay curious to be free in what you’re doing. Let’s not forget Friedrichstadt-Palast is around girl lines. It’s about being together but be yourself. This is where they’ve gone in such a beautiful way to the encouragement. If we encourage everybody to be themselves, we’ll meld together more beautifully and are able to create more than if we are asking them to be exactly the same.

We do the same show for two years. It’s a long time to play and create. That gives us a hand to experiment, but also within the show, you do several parts. There’s always a kick line, a girl dance where we do have to look exactly the same. It’s all about the precision, the ensemble and that mass chorus. There are other parts where everyone’s got their own costume and you can bring much character to it. It’s a playground. I love that. It’s hard and demanding. We’re only compared to the likes of West End or Broadway dancers with eight shows a week. It was grueling, but I love that balance, that cross section that we live in. Having just ballet dancers is powerful because we all know hard work, precision and discipline. We do a ballet class every day. We’re true to our roots, then the embellishment, the feathers on top are the best bit. It’s a great company.

Eight shows a week, let’s talk about that. We talked about giving 100%, how that is not possible. With eight shows a week, how do you keep yourself from getting injured and burnt out? How do you support yourself in a high-level that you are able to step on stage eight times out of the week? You have something like double performance.

It’s been tough. I started in November, I was gaining momentum and growing my legs before the wells went into hiding. It’s frustrating because I don’t want to be fraudulent or pretend to be doing it for years because I haven’t. The cruise ship was grueling too. The repetitive of one show on one stage, eight shows a week is tough. My experience that I was thrown onto a lot of roles quickly. I was trying to blend initially, not get any corrections and do my job to the level and nothing more. There’s nothing wrong. I want to meet the bar. I was filling in girls’ costumes. I am filling in for old girls who used to do it who now got moved on to something else. It was being good enough. It’s a big company with about 60 dancers. I was overwhelmed. I hit a point of being like, “Why am I not there? Why am I not present anymore? Why am I not excited about it?”

PTR 23 | Higher Version Of Yourself

 

For so long, I was trying to blend. I try to do what was possible and what I was told to do that I forgot to be myself on stage. You never stop growing and learning. I was thinking, when I was in the ship, we did the same five shows every week. I was like, “I never got bored of those. Why am I not as inspired?” I forgot to enjoy myself, have fun every night, push myself a bit farther, and try something new every night. That’s what I felt. As soon as I remembered that, it would change again. If it continued, I’d love to carry on doing that. When we get back on stage, I’m excited to do that again because that’s what keeps it interesting. Sometimes it doesn’t always work. Sometimes you try a new move or a new pose, and you go a bit further. You might stumble, you might fall and you’re like, “Don’t do that again.” That’s the experiment. That’s the fun and that’s how you continue to grow as an artist. I’m incredibly ambitious. There’s so much I want to do. I don’t want to ever get too comfortable.

What’s your vision?

I feel like if you would ask me a year ago, I might have said a different answer, but with the podcast and with this pause, with not performing, it’s always been so reflective. Everyone’s got to look inside. Dance is important to me. It’s in my blood. I don’t want to ever stop. I’d have to be involved in the dance world. After I can’t perform, I don’t want to give it up. I’m excited to teach. I’d love to be the teacher I didn’t have. I’d love to be the teacher that could find one student and stop them getting sad that night, or stop those habits forming in their head. I would love to get hands-on and see it as the experience I had.

I’m also excited to try new things. We performed on live TV. Crazy in this day and age. We were on Germany’s Next Top Model and that was something I’ve never done before. It’s exciting. It’s something I never thought. I would never be on live TV and I somehow managed to do it in 2020 of all years. Talking to the guests I’ve had on the podcast I’m seeing how many routes and avenues there are. I don’t have to have done it by now. I’ve got so much time ahead of me. I learn every single day.

I’m excited to get in there. I want to be where the magic and the creative stuff is happening. From several years ago, I just want to be in a tutu and someone told her she was good enough. She would have stopped being happy. I never want that to happen. I didn’t want to have the mentality of someone else telling me I can stop and I’m good enough. I need to keep growing, keep doing things and learning. That’s how I’ll stay happy and sane. It’s by not creating a finish line for myself. I’m excited to try and to get in there. I’m lucky to be from England. Dancing in London is thriving and exciting. There are many great creators coming out of there. I hope one day to be in there too, to be involved, to be it, to see it, to be where the magic’s at. That’s what I want. I’m such a mega fan of dance. I love the impact it has on me and on people. I don’t want to ever give up.

Let’s talk about your podcast. How did it come about? What’s the purpose?

I write quite a lot and I’ve always put these pieces together. On the cruise ship, when you have no Wi-Fi and you will spend days at sea, there’s a lot of time. On the ship, I spent a lot of time writing. It was a creative outlet. One of my close friends I meet on the ship, I remember reading him something that I’d written. This is early lock down. He was like, “You’ve got to do something with it, Lydia.” If all it is, you can blame it on the Coronavirus, the lockdown and you being crazy. It’s funny that it was the motivation I needed. It was that to be like, “It’s an escape card. It’s a blame card. I have an excuse because of the pandemic.” Before that I was too proud. With anything, you don’t want to start anything if it’s going to fail. You want to start something and it’s a booming success.

Isn’t that so true though, “I’m not even going to start because I’m already putting the lid on it. It’s going to fail.” Why is that?

We were proud. I feel dance is particularly proud. It’s like you were saying, you keep it in and you will save face. I find myself judging others and being like, “She’s trying to do this. She’s trying to do that.” I don’t like that quality in myself. I’m untraining myself to do that because everyone does have to start somewhere, whether it’s a venture online, you’re starting something new, you’re testing yourself a new genre of dance. Give it a go. We’ve all trying our best. The judgment and the stigma do exist.

You said you were trying not to get corrections, meaning you didn’t want to do anything that could offend something, somebody, or be the wrong thing, or would make you not being liked. I can relate to that. With you starting a podcast during the time you were still dancing, that could have possibly in your mindset at that point, put you into that position. There’s no difference there too. I’m glad you did because it’s a good podcast. I am proud of you that you’ve chosen that route. Purpose and how often do you drop episodes. If people want to be on your podcast, how do they do that?

I drop an episode every Wednesday. We’re stopping for season two and I’ll get back at it in 2021. The purpose is enrichment. It’s encouragement, fulfilling, storytelling and sharing. Throughout my career, sharing, acknowledging, and acceptance are powerful things. As dancers, we’re private. We don’t tell other people our experiences. We don’t share what the things we didn’t get and the things that people said. We don’t share that stuff. If we do, it will make us also better. We’d be like, “This girl who I see as a success, I see she made it. She had the same struggles I had, or she also got rejected from there, or she also was told to lose weight or she also had to pivot.”

There are many different things we share that until we start talking about it, you don’t realize. I found that so much of my own career and especially moving genres a bit like going on the cruise ship. Coming from this ballet background that I thought would isolate me. I thought people wouldn’t understand, but it doesn’t matter where you’re from or the training you’ve had. We share so much. That’s a great thing. It bonds us. From that experience it’s having met people on the real mix from the dance world. It fueled this need to create a community, a safe, happy, encouraging space because so much of what we do is alone and it’s hard.

I would have loved to listen to this podcast and to some of the guests that I’ve had, and being reminded that it’s okay to fail, be rejected and to change your mind, go on a cruise ship. It’s okay. That’s what I want to create. It’s been for me more than it’s been for anyone else. It’s helped me get through 2020 massively. It reignited my passion. I’ve learned so much about the dance. I’ve spoken to people I never thought I’d speak to and learned so much about them that will continue to help me and my career. It’s been an amazing exercise and learning curve for me. I’m excited to see where it’ll go. It’s a bit difficult when I’m performing again, but I’m excited of the different angle. Initially, I felt that it is great that a lot of experienced, established professionals have the platform. They have that, “I’ve done it. I’m a success. I’ll tell you my story.” Often for them, they are that good because they’ve always been that good.

They had gone straight through one school and had an easy career trajectory. That’s great. They’ve got so much insight and experience worth telling, but what you’re not hearing are the people who wiggled around, did different things and have tried. I wanted to hear their stories and also people who were in it. That’s my angle with the podcast. I’m young. I’m in the business and I’ve changed so much in the last several years. I will change again in the future. It’s the experience and the fact that I’m in this. I like to think it gives me an edge. It makes the podcast a bit different because I’m much in it as much as my listeners are. I’m learning as much as they are. I’m loving it. It’s never what I thought would have come out of this 2020. It’s been valuable to me and I’m excited to keep at it.

That’s where the longing for diversity comes in. Building that community, Pointe To Rise has 748 members in the community, which shows me that there is a need. We wanted to share, huddle and feel connected. That’s different than having an audience that you put yourself in front of, then go home. We’re not sharing any interests. I’ve learned so much about story and storytelling this 2020. This is how we communicated way back when we draw these little pictures on the stone wall. This is how skills were passed on to other people by communication, by telling stories. That has not changed. Particularly, dancers I find were scared of sharing our stories because we don’t want to be judged or we don’t want to come across as not perfect.

If we’re able to stand in our own a bit more and understand that your struggles make you human. Your struggles are your superpower because they’re not infinite. They’re not something that you have to hold on. Failure is not something that makes you less. Failure is an opportunity to succeed, be more, learn more, pass more on and change the world. I feel that is imperative. Thank you for doing that. I hope that even if you go back to eight shows a week, you will find a way on still having these conversations, because it’s all in our mind on how we can structure that.

It feeds us. It keeps us safe and inspired. As a community, we should encourage that and encourage the breed of creativity and the cultivation of inspiration. It comes from everywhere and we can learn so much. I’m excited to be putting one thing out into this big world, big platform or atmosphere, to have created one thing that might make one listener smile. That’s all I would want. It’s been a great experience.

As long as we know our why. As a closing to bring it in, what is one thing you want to give all of these dancers that are sitting at home and are somewhat lost, and are waiting for their life to start up again? What is that one thing you want to give them, pass on to them and encourage them with?

Everyone's got their own journey and experience. It makes us all different. Click To Tweet

It’s not over until you say it’s over. Although we’re not performing, no one is performing, this experience is serving you. It’s growing and changing you. It’s worth something. It’s difficult as it is, I’m scratching my hair. It’s driving me mad also. It is a part of our journey and it is an opportunity for growth, healing, digesting, understanding and processing. That will be worth something. It might not be obvious now but it will be some day. Keep hope. It’s not over until you say it is. Keep believing.

Everything is happening for us. Nothing is happening against us or to us. If you keep that perspective, everything will be granted. Thank you, Lydia. We should do a second part to this. I remember that person. I remember her thinking that way and feeling that way. You and I sharing it gives other people the permission to feel it and to be, “I am not different. I am not broken. I’m like everybody else in this business. I’ll keep going.”

I believe that for such a long time. I was struggling to cope because that meant I wasn’t made for it and I couldn’t do it, because if I could do it, if this career was made for me, I would be finding it easy. I thought like, “If this was meant for me, if this is supposed to be what my life is, why am I finding it hard?” I didn’t tell me that. I wasn’t talking about the fact that I found it hard. Until I realized that everyone finds it hard, I was like, “It is hard.” I can still do this. It is still made for me. It is still my purpose. It’s just hard. If you hear someone else say, “This is hard.” You allow yourself to feel it too.

Thank you.

I hope you stay well and everything’s okay at your end.

Important Links:

About Lydia Holt

PTR 25 | Achieving Self-FulfillmentI started dancing very young and was lucky to have opportunities dancing on stage with company’s like English National Ballet & Birmingham Royal Ballet in my early school days. I trained at Elmhurst Ballet School from the age of 12 to 19 and graduated to join Northern Ballets Grad Program. After several short term contracts with Northern Ballet and Cork City Ballet I struggled to find a secure long term contract with a European ballet company.

At this point I decided to diversify and see what the Jazz world could offer me. It is a very different world that operates unlike the ballet world. My height and ballet training became an advantage and I was using my versatility and personality. I was signed by an Agent who secured me a contract working on board a cruise ship. I did 7 months away from home and was pushed way outside my comfort zone, but learnt masses.

Whilst away The Friedrichstadt-Palast in Berlin where requesting to see me and after I returned I went out to audition and got the job that day. I have been at Palast for over a year now and it was during the lockdown that I launched my podcast Red Lips and High Kicks. This podcast was a way for me to stay contact to my art and spread positivity and encouragement that was lacking so much. I’ve interviewed dancers and choreographers from all over the world and have over 5 thousand listeners from 29 countries. I endeavor to share my own experience as well as many other dancers in a hope to cultivate a community and enrich the artists who tune in.

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Past Episodes 

There is a better way to pursue ballet at the professional level. Instead of dancers pushing beyond their body’s limits, there is a healthier way to train your body, your mind and your spirit to soar. To become the best at your craft, you must be healthy. The mentality of surviving to make a performance perfect is an old paradigm that needs to change. As athletes, dancers must thrive in order to shine and connect with their audience. This new approach, leads to fulfillment, strength and longevity. It allows you to give more of your heart and soul on stage, creating an unforgettable experience that moves your audience. And that’s the whole pointe. 

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