Get Up And Dance Your Life With Joanna Vargas

GUEST CONVERSATIONS

March 5, 2021

PTR 43 | Dance Your Life

 

There are a lot of parallels between dance and life that the things dancers learn the hard way throughout their career are often the same things that form the core tenets of personal development. Joanna Vargas offers her wealth of wisdom and experience in both fields through two new podcasts, The Get Up Girl and Dance Your Life. While appealing to two different audiences, both podcasts teach its listeners how to embrace their imperfections and dance with the chaos. Throughout her career as a dancer and dance studio owner, Joanna has earned her way to the front at a time when choosing something different was not celebrated. We see that theme over and over again, whether it’s in dancers being shamed into performing like everyone else or women being force-fitted into roles that don’t speak to who they really are. This conversation between Joanna and host Susanne Puerschel challenges these patterns of conformity and teaches each one of us to choose ourselves and be comfortable in our own skin. Listen in and be inspired to dance your life the way you’re supposed to.

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Get Up And Dance Your Life With Joanna Vargas

My guest is Joanna Vargas. Joanna creates her life. A powerhouse entrepreneur right out of high school, Joanna never worked corporate and chose the path less traveled. At twenty years old, she formed her corporation, took all of her savings, and produced a dance show in Hollywood called the King of Pop. With Joanna’s quick, some might say crazy, work ideas, this venture quickly turned into a dance competition called Maxt Out. Using keen street smarts and with no professional business training, she created Jayvee Dance studio.

By the time she was 24, she had built that business to 700 students. As a true serial entrepreneur, Joanna sold that dance studio and prepared to design her next download from the universe. Joanna recognized the gap in conversation about mindset and physical form when it came to fitness and respond with the solution. The Fit Factory Studio, a wildly successful brick and mortar fitness studio catering to women, their mindset, and living fully. In the process, Joanna’s own work-life philosophy, built on the principles of asking better questions, and getting curious about life inspired her to make a choice to close the physical doors and go completely virtual with The Live Fully Academy now serving women all over the world with her 3F’s, forms, fundamentals, and fun, and a new thought leader for Gen X and Millennial women.

Known for her open book candor and positive vibes, Joanna proposed to her city that she started a 5K run. It was then the Pumpkin Run 1K, 5K, 10K Halloween event was born. Her superpower is getting butts in seats and this run brings 1,500 runners every year with no paid advertisement. By the time she was 32, she was running four businesses and choosing for her. With learning how to choose herself, she now facilitates other female business owners to do the very same. Joanna launched two new podcasts, The Get Up Girl and Dance Your Life.

The Get Up Girl is a rallying cry for all women who are different and were taught to choose for others who are now ready to get up and choose for themselves. Dance Your Life is a podcast of dance conversations for dancers by dancers and developed to educate dancers all over the world with stories and wisdom. Awarded Women of the Year Congressional Honor by Congressman Adam Schiff and Women of the Year Congressional Honor by Judy Chu, Joanna is a well-respected female business owner and creator. Named Business of the Year by her city, along with many other business awards, Joanna has earned her way to the front line of businesses during times when choosing yourself and a road less traveled were not celebrated. I cannot wait to have this conversation with her. Joanna and I have been in the same mastermind. I can only tell you that she is nothing but fire and love. Let’s get started.

PTR 43 | Dance Your Life

Dance Your Life: A dance studio is not for everybody. It takes a certain breed of person who has the tenacity to run it.

Joanna, thank you so much. Welcome to the Pointe To Rise Podcast.

Thanks for having me. I’m excited to chat with you. You’re one of my favorite peeps on this planet.

Thank you. I’m going to cry now. My dog is on my lap. It’s the perfect storm. Before we start, I want to ask a few icebreaker questions to set the intention. Born and raised and where do you live now?

I was born and raised in Los Angeles, California and I still live there. I’m in the same house that I grew up in. It’s really interesting to live in the house that you grew up in to create a whole new identity. I live in a craftsman house. It’s over 110 years old. There’s a lot of character in this house.

They’re my favorite houses. All that energy and all the memories are still in there and that is the very best, I feel.

Susanne, every single person. I use that word lightly but it’s true. Every single person I’m like, “Here it comes. 3, 2, 1.” They all say, “Your house. There’s something about it.” People almost melt like when they see a dog or something of that nature. That’s how they respond to the house. It’s cool to witness.

I have to come. I want to get on a plane right now. Your favorite food.

I love Japanese food. That’s my favorite. Yet, my favorite is rotisserie chicken. I can eat a rotisserie chicken for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

If you’re doing something because you have to, you’re a slave to it. If it feels light and easy, then it’s a partnership. Click To Tweet

Marty too. A book you’re reading and if you’re reading more than one at a time, which I completely understand, please list all of them.

The one that I am reading right now is I Will Teach You To Be Rich by Ramit Sethi. That is a very famous book. It’s great. I am also reading the Women Who Run With The Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés. It’s about American-Indian women. One of my girlfriends recommended that book to me. I finished again Atomic Habits and I recommend that book to be top five.

I’ve been talking about that book all week long.

It’s incredible. I highly suggest it to be in your top five in your arsenal of tool of books. It’s pull it out and read it again so to speak type of book.

I read it twice now and I took it as an example in every conversation I’ve had.

What a gift that it came up again. Those are the three that are in my world right now.

Your favorite childhood memory?

It is choreographing in front of my house with my sister and friends. Putting the routines together with music and I’m getting passionate about when they didn’t get it right. It was this one particular memory. Even though it was not a fun memory for the people around because I was harsh in my direction, it reminds me of the girl that’s in there. The fire that’s in there has always been there since I was a young girl.

Let’s jump into it. Why did you start dancing?

I was dancing since forever. My mom was a ballet dancer when she was pregnant with me. There’s a picture of her. I’ll send it to you and you could put it up maybe in your Instagram. She’s three months pregnant with me and she’s on toe. She’s in the fifth position and there are two other girls with her. Her lifelong dream was always to do toes. She was 28 when she did this, an older took ballet. Her pointe is pretty great. She wasn’t a professional or anything but my mom was always great at dancing. I grew up having the ability to hear music. I could count it. I could pick up steps. It was very easy to me.

As a young girl, I would choreograph, write plays, get all my cousins together on Easter and Christmas, and create these elaborate things, at least at that age for a seven-year-old, and write a script. Can you imagine I had a Casio computer? I used to write songs and the script. I wonder if it would have been more developed. I didn’t develop that talent to write music. I started taking hula when I was seven years old. I studied hula for eight years and I did it hardcore. When I say hardcore, it was like the way you did ballet is the way I did the hula and taking shit.

The girl that was in-charge, she was extremely strict where she called us idiots, juvenile, and delinquents. I remember my mom thinking, “I’m going to take you out of Hawaiian.” We beg, “No. Don’t take us out,” because we knew that she loved us and she cared about us. She wanted us to look good and we did. I learned a lot of my foundation of discipline, how to stay in line, and use my peripheral vision. I learned all the basic fundamentals of dance in her Hawaiian troop. I started ballet, tap, jazz, the whole thing, and then went to high school. I was on the dance team there and we were one of the best dance teams in California in the United States. We went to Japan and we competed.

I was the captain in my junior year. It was that kind of dance. I was not a dance studio kid. It was different back then. This was the early ‘90s. It wasn’t the way dance studios are now. I always knew I wanted to have a dance studio ever since I saw Paula Abdul. I was eleven years old and I saw Paula Abdul on the American Music Awards. I got my first download. At that moment, I can hear God, life, universe saying, “You’re going to have a dance studio.” I heard a voice. I’m like, “I’m going to do that.” From that moment, I could see the dance studio.

PTR 43 | Dance Your Life

Dance Your Life: What if you dance with the laziness rather than beat yourself up because your body is feeling lazy?

 

I always saw it. I saw the colors and what it was going to look like. I was already manifesting it. I wanted to be a Laker girl because of Paula Abdul. That was one of the only things that I never made into fruition. That didn’t happen. That’s how I got into dance. After I opened up my dance studio, I was a dance major in college, and I wasn’t my strong suit as a dancer. I was more of the behind the scenes girl. I was the creative girl. I was the, “Let me own the dance studio business girl,” but I’m still in dance. I understood it, but I was never the best dancer. I didn’t have the best technique. I had knocked knees. I wasn’t the technique girl, but I was the performer girl.

I can go out there and perform. I opened up my dance studio. I didn’t know what I was doing as a business owner. I was 24 years old. I had a dance agent in college. I left college and I dropped out of every class because if my dance agent called me to go to this audition, I would leave school. I would drop a final to go to that audition. Ultimately, when I was around 19 or 18 years old, I want it to be the next Jennifer Lopez. Honestly, I was like, “I’m going to be the next Latin dancer/singer/everything.” I started doing that in Hollywood and I hated it. It wasn’t for me and then I opened up the dance studio. Here’s the thing, I always wanted a dance studio but I thought it would come after the dance career. I’ll do that when I was in my 30s or whatever and it came sooner.

That’s pretty powerful. I love how you knew at eleven that this is what you’re going to do. What a gift though. Many people don’t have that ability to tap and tune in, to be aware of what’s coming through and knowing that’s what they want to do.

It was pretty cool to have that.

Let’s talk a little bit about being 24 and being a studio owner. How did you manage?

I’ve always been a tenacious person. I went with my superpower. My favorite thing to tell dancers that want a dance studio is, “This is not for everybody. It looks fun and glamorous.” I can manage it so I can own it. There’s a very particular person with the personality and tenacity to have a dance studio because it’s a certain breed. I was in school also teaching fitness and dance at other studios and opening the dance studio all at the same time. I thought I could do it. One day I was driving to school and I had a nervous, freaking breakdown on the freeway.

I pulled over, cried, and lost it. I’m like, “I need to make a choice.” I left college and then left all the other jobs that I was doing and focused on that. That was the beginning of a very turmoil relationship with that business. I was a slave to that dance studio. Moving forward, I’ve been making choices of, “Do I want to be a slave or a partner to my business.” I’ve had many businesses and many of them, I have been a slave. Some of them, I have been partners. Now I have the contrast to know the difference.

At 24, I did everything and everything to “figure it out” because my parents literally told me, “You’re crazy. What are you doing? It’s not going to work.” What’s such a cliché where everybody was like, “It’s not going to work.” Everyone told me, especially the city I was in, “It’s not going to work. These parents don’t value that here. It wasn’t an affluent city.” Everything I did at 24 was to prove them wrong. As soon as I did build the business and then “prove them wrong,” I was bored. I created that business with this F-you mentality to everybody instead of creating it to be creative. I was doing it to do it.

Commune with your body. Be aware of what it wants. Let it be your best friend. Click To Tweet

I built that business from two students, literally. Two of them came with me that I’ve been teaching and those 2 went to 3, and those 3 went to 4. It was a couple of months until we had eight in a class. I’ll always remember that like, “I made it. There are eight in a class. We did it.” This studio was 6,000 square feet. It was three rooms. We were only occupying one room for so long. One room turned into two. Two turned into three and I kept hiring. The hardest part of owning a dance studio, I would say, is having the instructors. It’s building and growing them.

They’re always moving, teaching, and getting jobs and/or animosity. When you’re in your twenties and you’re trying to figure your own self out. You have to lead these other human beings, create them, develop them, and the front desk staff, there were many moving parts. This was back before YouTube. This was 2004. This was before Myspace. This was before a lot. I built it with old-school marketing with people paying checks. It was old school. You can see where my skillsets now in 2021 are very different. It’s been twenty-something years of learning the new skillsets because I know how to build a business in old school times. I grew with it. That’s what it was like.

What a learning curve. You sold that studio, didn’t you?

Yes.

When we’re talking about building a business on an F-you mentality versus on a serving mentality and you’ve done so much personal development, it was all you knew at that time but would you ever build a business on that mentality ever again?

If I do it’s because I’m choosing it unconsciously but I would not choose that again. I did a podcast about that called SLAVE or PARTNER‪?. I’m discovering what it means to be a slave to the business or a partner. One of my favorite words is creationship, to create with something. I want to create with my business and the dancing. The moment that it’s a slave, I fall out of love with it. I did. I fell out of love with dance because of that uphill for many years. One day I was like, “I’m done.” I was in a divorce with dance overnight. “Bye. Sign the papers. I’m done.” Everybody is looking at me going, “What? You’re going to stop?” “I’m going to stop.” Knowing of how I operate and what is required for Joanna. Creationship is a partnership.

Moving forward, we’re in the pandemic, I can feel that to move forward right now and take a next step with building my new business, I’m going to be a slave. I could feel it. I’ve been pausing more and go, “I’m not ready yet.” Even though everybody on the outside is like, “Hurry up, you need to make money.” I go, “I’m not ready yet,” because if I do it just to do it because I have to, I’m going to be a slave to it. I’m going to hate it. When it feels light and easy, that’s the creationship. It’s similar if I got in a relationship with a man and I marry him just to be married instead of falling in love and wanting to be with this man. That’s how I see my next relationship. I’m like, “Why am I going to go on some Tinder, swipe right, and pick the first guy because I have to pick a guy?” That’s how I see my next business. “Do it. Come on. Get the URL. Let’s go.” I’m like, “I am not ready yet.” I will know when the business shows up when it feels light, like when my next partner shows up. That’s the best way I can describe it.

Let’s talk a little bit more slave versus partner because it was beautiful how you said when you found that you became a slave in your dance career. You divorce it right away. What I’m seeing is most dancers, predominantly in the ballet industry, are slaves versus partners to their business. What kind of advice would you have to course-correct that? I know the intention and most people that are dancing professionally is because they love doing it. Somewhere, somehow, they became a slave to it. How can you pivot or wiggle your way towards love again?

PTR 43 | Dance Your Life

Dance Your Life: When you ask a question and don’t answer it, the universe will send you an awareness that is way better than your logical brain can ever come up with.

 

Their feather touches because if we think, in my experience, I want to go from A to Z. My feather touches were twenty years long as life is. We’re feather touches. Being willing and open to receive the feather touches that they’re minute. It’s following every little feather touch. The biggest thing I would suggest is beginning to commune with your body. Notice how I didn’t say communicate. In the Catholic Church, they say take communion. It means to become one. To commune with your body is a new relationship of how to listen, be aware, and have more allowance for your body. What I’ve discovered in the last so years is, what does my body want?

I was taught since I was a young girl that this is the vessel, the tool, and your body and soul are different, etc. I’m going, “Can I commune with my body? Does my body know stuff? Can my body tell me stuff?” For example, I get a headache. Is my body communing with me of something? I wonder what that is. That’s A to Z when I’m talking feather touches but this has been many feather touches of my body talking to me. When I opened the dance studio, I had bronchitis for one year. I was miserably sick and stressed out 7 days a week, 365. I didn’t even go to Christmas or anything. My family never saw me because I was grinding, working at that dance studio and literally living there.

I had a couch in the office and I would sleep there. What I’m saying is the body was a big feather touch but a feather touch to slow down and wake up. When you’re asking me what can be done, one thing I would say is learn to quiet the mind and meditation. Meditation is broad. We think right away somebody is crossing their legs and sitting. It could look a gazillion different things and learning how to listen, receive awareness, how to commune with your body, how to sit in stillness, and how to receive. To me, that’s meditation. It could look whatever it is to you or to me. That’s the first thing I would do. It’s to start to listen, commune, and go, “What’s up?” so that we don’t fall out of love with it. I do miss it now, several years later. I miss dancing. I could tell my body wants to move with her own way the way I did it when I was a young kid.

Mother Nature is chaotic and then we come and try to make it perfect. What if dance was a little more chaotic like Mother Nature? Click To Tweet

I feel my body wanting to go back to when I was a little girl and to the reason why I started dancing. Let’s dig a little deeper on communing with your body. Here is what I grew up with. The story was you have to fight your body because your body is lazy and your body doesn’t want to work. You have to fight that every single day. That’s not being in alignment with your body because particularly, a young mind can take that to the complete extreme. We don’t know where the cut off is, even grownups don’t know. When we’re talking about communing with our body, without feeling that we’re not doing enough without feeling lazy, do you have a little bit of insight from your own perspective and learnings that you could share?

When we make something wrong or right, lazy or energetic, it takes judgment to make something right or wrong, black or white, up or down. It takes judgment in order to do that. What if we’re lazy? What if we’re all of it? My word for this year 2021 is, and. This has taken many years for me to like, “Get the light bulb.” The first time I heard it, I was like, “This is a bunch of crap. This is stupid,” because I had such a strong point of view that lazy is bad. It took so much judgment in order to make that point of view solid and make it very concrete in my world. The moment it became fluid with an and, there’s no judgment anymore. I have no point of view around it.

I have no point of view around laziness where I was very tough on lazy people. To go back to your question, and I hope if this resonates, I’m incredibly grateful for this if one person can get it. What if you’re lazy and you’re energetic and it’s a choice? I choose lazy all the time. I’m going to choose lazy for ten minutes right now. It’s going to feel good and pleasurable, and then I choose energy. It’s a choice. One day, I’m lazy. One day, I have a lot of energy. One day, my body doesn’t want to dance. I totally get as a dancer that as a performer, you’ve got to show up and dance. What if you dance with the laziness?

Rather than beating yourself up, making yourself wrong, shaming, and guilt because I’m lazy and my body is feeling lazy. Maybe she doesn’t want to dance that day. What if you’re able to commune with your body and go, “I know you don’t want to do this. Can you do it with me anyway?” Do you see the difference? One of my questions, 2019, my number one question for that year was, how can I be best friends with my body? How do we talk to our best friend? You call her up, “How are you? How are you doing? Love you. Miss you. I’m here for you.” How do you talk to your enemy? We talk to our body the way we talk to enemies. For that whole 2019, it has been a two-year journey of me discovering what it means to be best friends with my body.

If my best friend is lazy that day but we’re still going to go to Disneyland. I’m going to say like, “We still have our tickets. We’re going to go to Disneyland. You’re going to be a little lazy but you’re still going to go. We’re going to go.” That’s how I would talk to my body rather than, “Come on. You’re lazy. Let’s go,” and beat her up. How many years did I do that? Beat the crap out of my best friend. I talked horribly to her. “Avoid mirrors. Look at the mirror. You’re fat. You’re ugly.” A lot of judgment to make it right, wrong. I take everything I’ve ever learned and I shake it up. It’s taken me many years to remove those points of views and those solid things of like, “This is right. This is wrong,” because it takes a lot of energy to make something wrong. I have to prove that I’m right.

PTR 43 | Dance Your Life

Dance Your Life: Most dancers wear the starving artist’s badge with honor. Why would you want that? The ones that wore it are not surviving this pandemic.

 

We talked about arguing for our limitations and not wanting to be wrong. All of this. Let’s continue here. When did you start opening yourself up to self-development and why?

Thank God, I had the tenacity to know that there was a different possibility. I always knew that I’m like, “Everybody around me is not happy. What’s up?” I was a young girl and I was such a brat at 12, 13, 14. I was that girl that was like, “This is stupid. This is dumb.” Everybody else around was good little girls to their mom but then rolled their eyes behind their mom’s head. I was the girl right in front of my mom rolling my eyes and going, “This is stupid.” Meaning, I was the rebel. I didn’t know how to articulate it to say, “You all are unhappy and you’re telling me what to do.” I didn’t know what I was doing at that moment. I was too young and naive but there was something there.

That kept leading. I wonder, a lot of creatives go through depression and anxiety. I was in a mental hospital or institution, whatever you want to call it, when I was eighteen because I was depressed. I was depressed because I knew there was a different possibility. There was no reason. I didn’t need medication but everybody was trying to diagnose me as something. I was screaming in the mental hospital, “I’m not crazy,” then I looked crazier. I was like, “I don’t need to be here.” It was because my parents were trying to help me and like, “You’re sad. We’re trying to help you.” They’re doing the best they can but that was not the thing that was going to create the most at that time.

Everything the feather touch led me to the next thing. I was like, “I’ve got Tony Robbins’ CDs.” It was an infomercial. I was 22 and I bought the CDs. I listened to them over and over, and I went to see him live. That led to something else, the feather touch. I kept seeking the next thing and I’d meet somebody and they go, “You’ve got to read this book.” I go to the next thing, “You’ve got to do this.” That’s what got me into self-development. I’m like, “There’s still something missing. There’s still too cliché.” When I finally discovered consciousness, what I’m talking now about there’s no right and receiving all of it.

As soon as I started to live in this nature in the new possibility, my life made a complete 360 out of many years of self-development and then taking everything that I’ve ever learned and wipe it clean. I’m like, “We’re going to start over.” That’s what I’m doing now, as I said, my point of view. Taking my point of view and knocking it down like a set of Legos that a kid would do to Legos. What I realized is like, “I have many solid. I’m going through life. It’s uphill. I have to fight and defend. I’m exhausted. I don’t want to fight anymore. I don’t want to defend. I don’t want a point of view.”

Babies were born without a point of view. We think, if we don’t have a point of view, who am I? Sometimes when I’m learning this stuff and I’m discovering, I’m like, “Who the heck am I?” How cool is that to know? I always knew myself of, “This is what I believe. This is who I am.” What if what I am is happy? I don’t have to have a point of view of this is right, this is wrong, I’m lazy, I’m strong. I’m all of it. I could care less like a kid does. They could care less. They don’t want to listen. I’m like, “They’re the happy ones.”

Dogs have that. Your dog has no point of view. She’s like, “Whatever.” That’s why we love animals. I’m like, “They have something and I want that.” I might sound like a crazy cuckoo person because you’re going, “You don’t want a point of view?” “I don’t. It’s easier.” You have to fight hard for what you believe in but that’s what we’re taught. It’s a completely left-field way to think. To go back to your question, that’s truthfully what it is.

When you and I met, let’s get into the transformation you were gifted to go through over the last months. It’s intriguing and it speaks so much for you how you keep asking different questions in order to find that true fulfillment. I find that when we are traveling down that highway. We forget to look up, take our car off of cruise control, and embody what is around us so we can live a full life and not please everybody around us. I’m talking about particularly in the dance world. It is all about comparison, judgment, and pleasing somebody because we think we’re nothing without them. In September 2019, you and I met in a beautiful mastermind, Lori and Chris Harder. I remember when I met you, I was like, “There’s so much fire in this person.” When I saw you again, you were sad. Are you willing to talk about that?

I’ve met my past partner in 2016 and I fell deeply in love. He and I mutually fell deeply in love. I asked for a magnificent partner and he showed up. For three years, we lived together and I was in love. I thought he was and out of the blue, he broke up with me. I was devastated. I believe that I was in shock. My body was like, “I’m fine.” My body was ignoring it. In December of 2019, one day, I woke up and I could not walk. I literally needed a cane. From A to Z, there was no explanation that I could not walk. I was at my dance competition that I produce. I could not walk. I’m sitting there all day with a cane. Everybody is looking at me. Everybody is asking what happened and not having an answer.

The question I kept asking during this time was, “What’s right about this right now that I can’t see?” I was afraid that I would never walk again, that I would need knee surgery. The awareness that I got from life was that I am deeply sad and it’s time to let the past partner go because I was still holding on. The metaphor of walking forward with my legs was that I was not willing to go forward. As soon as I created this mantra, I said, “I love so-and-so. I set him free. I love myself. I set myself free.” I said that over and over again genuinely. The next day, I was able to walk. I was doing MRIs and every chiropractor in the world told me I was going to need surgery.

You're not wrong, you've never been wrong, and you'll never be wrong. There is power in your sadness. There is power in the ugliness. Click To Tweet

I was on a quest. I transformed it myself. I stopped and I said, “Joanna, how would I facilitate one of my own clients?” I’m like, “I would ask the client what happened? I would ask the client to ask questions.” I wasn’t doing my own personal facilitation. The next day, everything is fine. Even though that was a year ago, I’m still devastated even to a week ago. It’s been one year of heartbreak of beginning to get back up from that. It’s all been with questions. I want to teach your audience that when you ask a question, you truly get curious, and you don’t answer it, life, God, and the universe is able to send you the awareness and the answers that are 99.9% of the time way better than you could ever imagine than what your logical brain can come up with.

What we do when we ask questions, we normally want to answer them. The reason we want to answer them is because we want to be right. The reason we want to be right is because we’ve been told we’ve been wrong our whole lives. The worst thing that can happen as a human to us is to be wrong. It’s a whole circle. That’s all we’re doing. Our whole life is we’re trying not to be wrong. What if you’re willing to know that you will never ever be wrong? I’ll never be wrong. If I choose lazy, it’s not wrong. If I choose energy, it’s not wrong. Nothing is wrong. Watch an adult with their child. They don’t say you’re wrong, but energetically you’re telling your children that they’re wrong.

We tell people all day long, they’re wrong energetically. That’s what I did. That’s what was happening when you met me. I was low and I had never loved like that. With all the healing, opening, questioning, forgiveness, and receiving, a new man came into my life. Here’s the question I kept asking, Susanne. How does it get better than this? All in the crap. In the wonderfulness, how does it get better? When I was with my past partner, we would ask it together but we were asking it thinking it’s going to get better together and then we break up. God is going, “You want better than he is? Let me show you.”

Conventionally, our logical brain is like, “No. I need him.” This gentleman is better. I would’ve never, in a gazillion years, I’ve never seen it. When we broke up, even though I couldn’t walk and it was horrible like on paper, it was still better. I was able to see with a whole new pair of eyes and my life got better in a different way. It went down, got up, and got better. I have a new partner and it’s better. There’s guilt. I’m making this up but it’s almost like queen guilt. You can have guilt for when you see other women in relationships and you’re going, “I have such an amazing man. He treats me like a queen.” Isn’t that interesting? I’m like, “That’s interesting.” I have guilt for all the other women that are not in amazing princess fairytales. I’m like, “I believe in fairytales.” I was patient enough to know that it does exist. I do believe in magic. Let’s review it. Ask a question, get curious, don’t answer it, be open to the awareness, and it’s magic.

Here’s what I’ve seen and learned. When I got out of school, I was under the assumption that I had to stop learning. I stopped asking questions because I was supposed to be done. I took every job under the assumption that I had to be perfect. There’s no room for growth that I have to function. How much did I hold myself back? I was not giving myself the permission to be curious, ask more questions, not take everything that was presented to me as how it is, but why is it that way? I see it so much in the entertainment, dance, ballet, and arts in general. We have lost the ability to staying curious or re-becoming curious because we are under the assumption that everything has to be perfect in order to portray beauty. That is the component that is holding the arts back from evolving.

We’ve talked about this before. I wonder where ballet will be in the following years. I wonder what it will be because there’s not enough curiosity to stay with the sign of the times with how the earth and the planet is changing. Ballet is still trying to stay solid. There’s no fluidity, so to speak.

There is no and. It’s either/or.

That’s an Instagram quote title that there’s no and. I wonder if there was and in ballet or something like that. That’s genius.

It’s that one podcast episode and I want to get back to your two beautiful podcasts that you have put out since I’ve met you. Seeing perfection as the end all be all, for me, personally, the death of any art, of any human development to me because we’re always a work in progress. Everything that we do, everything that we are is a work in progress. If we’re putting ourselves in a box that we have to stay a certain way and always be that way, we miss out on life. I missed out on life for twenty years because I was under the assumption. I’m not here to ask questions, I’m here to function.

As you were talking, I was thinking about the arts as Mother Nature. I was listening to this podcast and she referred to Mother Nature as chaos. She’s like, “Mother Nature and animals live in chaos,” meaning it’s not perfect. Let’s take a garden, so to speak or nature. It grows. You could burn it down, it will grow again. The weeds will come through the concrete. Mother Nature is abundant. It’s similar to a Japanese garden. We will take it, prune it, and make it perfect.

The flowers have to be perfect and this has to be perfect. The grass needs to be groomed. I think about fires. There are plants that can only grow when they’re burned. What a metaphor. They can only reproduce once they die and burn. Mother Nature wants fires, it will burn, and it will grow up again but we give it such solidity of like, “Fires are bad.” I totally get it. Human started fires. I’m not talking about that but what Mother Nature does, volcanoes, and hurricanes. That’s chaos. Mother Nature is chaotic and then we come and we’re trying to make it damn perfect.

What if dance was a little more chaotic like Mother Nature? I’m noticing that the more chaotic creatives in 2021 are the ones that are thriving. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Lizzo. Let’s take Lizzo, the singer. She’s more overweight in these realities of what is in this reality of supposed to be beautiful. Her dancers are all sizes and all shapes, which you would have never done years ago. She’s out there in a thong and whatever. She is popular, meaning in this reality, more chaotic. She’s not perfect the way it used to be and everybody looks like a Rockette, that doesn’t go anymore.

They can’t relate to it. They don’t see themselves. They don’t even want to be there because they know they can’t be that way. They need something that is more relatable that they can see themselves in. That’s where the world of dance and ballet has to pivot and make it more accessible to everybody. Be in your tutu and pointe shoes but allow these dancers to be human first and foremost.

I wonder if it stays perfect, will it die or slowly or whatever.

I’m saying this from a deep place of love and care for the art form because it’s my baby. It’s what I adore, love, and always have been into but look at where they are right now. They don’t know how to perform, pivot, and create another business. We know that to be creating wealth, you should have several streams of income in your square. That doesn’t exist. We’re still fundraising. We’re still asking to get money for dancer relief funds because they can’t make any money and provide them with a salary. They cannot look after their product. That, for me, is 1930s. This is where the pivot. I feel of what makes such a big influence because once they understand that taking care of your product should be number one priority in everything that you do on us every day. Every day, you start over again, and you asked the question, “What else can I do for my dancers? What else can I do for them? Where do they need my help?” We’re not doing that. We’re not creating something that is sustainable because it’s not growing, it’s dying.

That’s pretty passionate. It’s interesting with your perspective. I never thought of it that way. It’s at a pause during the pandemic because on my dance podcast and Instagram, I’ve interviewed many dancers. I would say 1/3 have quit or they’re like, “I don’t want to dance anymore.” A third have created a new stream of income and maybe 1/3 are paused right now but very small has created something else. As you said, has pivoted. The ones, this is my interesting point of view, they’re the younger ones. The older ones are a little bit like, “What do I do? This is all I know. If I’m not performing, I have nothing else in the arsenal.”

That’s where diversity comes in. I’m learning more about this. The teachings of dancers only being interested in dance. I had to sign a waiver when I entered the state ballet school. Bless your hearts, guys. You didn’t know any different. I am not judging. I had to sign a waiver that I will not partake in any outside activity and I would focus my time only on dancing. I wasn’t allowed to play the piano anymore. I wasn’t allowed to go horseback riding. None of that. I feel like this is where we’re creating these highway dwellers versus multifaceted people that are interested in many other things in life that then make that interesting person that can create that beautiful art.

Do you think that there’s going to be what’s needed, or required in order to do that are pioneers in ballet? Some pioneers to start something different. What would you do, Susanne? Let’s say if you were the pioneer to start, how do you transition ballet?

I would scrap the whole concept of how companies are run completely. I would turn it into a business top to bottom. I would completely change the structure of schools and how they’re being taught. We’re going old fashioned that we assume that because we’re in the arts, we have to raise money. We’re putting our energy into chasing money. This is the wrong energy. I did a study, 60% of a yearly budget of a company goes back into fundraising. You’re not creating any wealth. You understand that. What does that produce? We have 100% of a full battery in the morning, we’re going to go, and we spend 60% chasing money for tomorrow. What is that going to produce? We are not evolving.

If you created a product that people wanted to buy a ticket for, let’s say and not need to fundraise, all you needed was that 40%. If you created a product that will bring in 18-year-olds, I would add some hip-hop and fun ballet. The first thing I would do, this is Joanna talking, I would get ballet into music videos.

I will get it on Twitch for that matter. Open up the studios and live stream the dance.

No more secrets rather than here’s the final product. No, show everything.

That’s what it’s about. People will eat that up. I’m in the process of creating a media company that is education, community, and a place where dancers cannot only learn about all of these other ways of making money but also by hosting their stuff on the side. Make money themselves from advertisement dollars that come in. Every company could do that. There are many people that have these fellowships. New York City Ballet almost has two million followers if you count in all of their dancers. Imagine what they could do with that. If everybody of these 2 million people would be on membership of $0.99 per month or $1.99. That’s the problem because we’re only choosing the big pockets. I was in that leadership role prior. We were only looking for people that had big, deep pockets because we didn’t want to talk to the ones that are giving us $1.

Instead of $1 million of single dollars, let’s go to that one person.

Offer something in return. Why are we here? What are we doing? What is our purpose? Many companies don’t even have a vision or that purpose like, “What are you doing?” Everybody is doing Swan Lake in 2018, every single company in North America. Are we doing the same to be safe or let’s see what our vision is? What could we create? By bringing in new works, I get that, but why are we creating it? What is your why? Who are you serving? Who are you talking to? What’s your ideal client. Why are you only going after the 60 years old?

They’re going to pass away soon. There’s no legacy.

They would never, ever go.

“I’m going to take my niece to the Nutcracker.” She’s like, “No, thanks.” That’s the tradition. It was like, “She doesn’t want to go.”

That’s the innovation. We’re afraid of having the arts dying that we’re forgetting to ask the other question. How can we create something more? This is not the end. This is the opportunity to create more. Look at all these dancers in their kitchens. I say this with the utmost respect and love because it is not an easy situation to be in but stop doing the same thing over and over again to be safe. Take a breath. Stop the conditioning that you’ve been in for many years and see what else you can be. What’s your and?

At my dance studio, it was pulling teeth to get the kids to take ballet. You can already see it years ago. They didn’t want to do it. I wonder if the classes that they did or, “I’ll take that ballet class if you add some hip hop music.” Add something else so that the smart ballet teachers would add some fun music and do the same plié. If you play that same classical song for them and do the warm-up, they’re bored. What if they could do the same thing but we change it up a bit?

Classical ballet is the fundament for every other dance movements that we have out there. It’s important to have these fundamental teachings. I understand, but we can bring it into the 21st century.

To meet them where they are, to speak to what they can hear. They can’t hear it. Rather than they go from A to Z and they do nothing like, “They’re not going to take ballet.” I’ve talked to many older dancers that go, “The biggest regret is that I wish I would have taken more ballet.” When they’re young, they couldn’t see it.

We use many business terms for entrepreneurs. For example, it’s important. What’s your ideal client? You need to meet them where they’re at. This is what I meant with, “Let’s bring them into a business setting,” because in a business setting, it is no longer expected that people show up for you. You need to go and show yourself, and you need to go and ask.

Do you know what I’ve wondered in talking to many dancers? Most of us, we’re the starving artists badge with honor. I’m a starving artist like, “What? You want that?” The ones that wore that are not surviving during this pandemic.

Let’s talk about your podcasts. Go shine because they’re fabulous. Everybody should listen to them.

Thanks, Susanne. I appreciate that. I have two podcasts. One is a business and mindset one. It’s all about consciousness and a greater possibility on this planet. Everything that had been talking about and it’s called The Get Up Girl. I give you tips on how to get back up in life. The second one is a dance podcast. I interview other dancers and it’s called Dance Your Life. We talk to these dancers about other streams of income that they’re creating. They now have the time to do it. They’re like, “I’ve always made chocolate chip cookies on the side, but now I’m selling them.” Any little thing like that. It’s cool to talk to them and discover that.

Thank you. Before we part, what is that one thing you would tell your 16, 17-year-old with everything that you’ve learned over the past, let’s say twenty years until now, what would you tell her?

I would tell her, “Joanna, you’re not wrong, you’ve never been wrong, and you’ll never be wrong.” I’d also say, “Joanna, your pain is your power and there’s power in your sadness. There’s power in the ugliness. Please do not buy the lie from these adults that when you’re sad, it’s bad. I bought that it was bad so I made myself wrong for it. When I’m sad, I’m like, ‘There’s power.’” That’s what I would tell my 16-year-old self.

Thank you for your time. I could talk to you all day.

This was a great conscious conversation. It’s cool where it went. That was fun. We talked about everything.

You are literally everywhere, omnipresent. I encourage everyone to check Joanna. Do you have any offerings right now? Any events coming up?

I do a free 30-day challenge. Every 30 days is a new Instagram 30-day challenge. Now, I’m doing a pushup challenge and it’s not your traditional challenge. Follow me on Instagram @JoannaVargasOfficial to find out what the next 30-day challenge is. It’s totally free. Join me live every day.

You’re on there at 7:00 in the morning.

It’s cool. It has completely changed my world personally. As you said, how can I serve? I’m like, “I’m serving me and then when I fill me up, it serves others.”

There is and again.

Amen to that.

Thank you. Here’s to and. Thank you for being here.

Thank you, Susanne.

Important Links:

About Joanna Vargas

PTR 43 | Dance Your LifeJoanna Vargas creates her life. A powerhouse entrepreneur right out of high school, Joanna never worked corporate and chose the path less traveled. At 20 years old she formed her corporation, took all of her savings and produced a dance showcase in Hollywood called The King of Pop. With Joanna’s quick (some might say crazy) work ideas, this venture quickly turned into a dance competition called Maxt Out now going on its 20th year. Using keen street smarts and with no professional business training, she created Jayvee Dance studio by the time she was 24 and built that business to 700 students.

A true serial entrepreneur, Joanna sold that dance studio and prepared to design her next download (from The Universe). Joanna recognized a gap in conversations about mindset and physical form when it came to fitness and responded with the solution, The Fit Factor Studio; a wildly successful brick and mortar fitness studio catering to women, their mindset and living fully. In the process, Joanna’s own work-life philosophy, built on the principles of asking better questions and getting really curious about life, inspired her to make the choice to close the physical doors and go completely virtual with The Live Fully Academy.

Now serving women all over the world with her Three F’s; Form, Fundamentals and Fun, a new thought leader for Gen X and Millennial women. Known for her open book candor and positive vibe, Joanna proposed to her city that she start a 5K run, it was then the Pumpkin Run 1K/5K/10K Halloween event was born. Her superpower is getting butts in seats, and this run brings 1,500 runners every year with no paid advertisements (a little fun fact for our fellow entrepreneurs). By the time she was 32 she was running four businesses and choosing for her. With learning how to choose herself, she now facilitates other female business owners to do the same.

This summer Joanna launched two new podcasts – The Get Up Girl and Dance Your Life. The Get Up Girl is a rally cry for all the women who are different and were taught to choose for others, who are now ready to Get Up and choose for themselves.

Dance Your Life is a podcast of dance conversations, for dancers, by dancers and developed to educate dancers all over the world with stories and wisdom. Awarded Woman of the Year Congressional Honor by Congressman Adam Schiff and Woman of the Year Congressional Honor by Judy Chu, Joanna is a well-respected female business owner and creator. Named Business of the Year by her city along with many other business awards, Joanna has earned her way to the frontlines of business during times when choosing yourself and the roads less traveled were not celebrated. With the entirety of her career devoted to inspiring her sisters to wake up and live fully, 2020 is poised to be Joanna’s biggest year yet. The Get Up Girl is her latest creation to surpass her upper limits and expand energetically to avenues she hasn’t discovered yet, and YOU are invited for the ride as she redefines what getting back up really looks and feels like.

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  — Susanne shares a quick thought that came to her after hearing a quote. Who told you that you are not deserving of what you want? She remembers how this feeling showed up in her life and how other people’s limiting thoughts would so easily be accepted as hers. Watch the episode here: Listen to the podcast here:   Who told you that you are not deserving of what you want? And I’m back. […]

February 11, 2022

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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. 

THE POINTE TO RISE MANIFESTO