Humans First, Dancers Second: Building A Mindset Of Elite Level Performance With Naira Agvanean


March 19, 2021

PTR 49 | Elite Level Performance


As dancers, we all dream of gaining mastery over that elite level performance, but the way we were raised in the industry has left us with the wrong idea of what it means. In her coaching work, Naira Agvanean reminds her mentees that they are humans first before they are dancers, that they have to take care of themselves too, to have fun and be fulfilled, that they have to let go of the obsession towards perfection and allow the true extraordinary artists within them to rise above. Like most of us, Naira has been thrust into ballet from a very young age and has seen firsthand how the system does not nurture this kind of encouragement in its dancers. Now, she is on a mission to help dancers develop a fearless mindset so that they can allow themselves to truly grow in their dancing journey and eventually live a successful and fulfilling life after the dance is over. Listen in as she trades thought-provoking insights on dance, mindset, and self-care in this conversation with Susanne Puerschel.

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Humans First, Dancers Second: Building A Mindset Of Elite Level Performance With Naira Agvanean

I am so grateful that you’re here. Our special guest is Naira Agvanean. She was born and raised in the former Soviet Union and graduated from the Heinz-Bosl-Stiftung. She is dancing at the Dutch National Ballet. She always felt the need to fight for dancers’ rights and has never been afraid to speak up, which landed her to be the dancer representative for the company. Thanks to that experience, she became a professional coach with the passion to serve and help dancers build a mindset of elite-level performers. The dancers are strong and fragile at the same time. Their mindset and heart need as much care as their bodies. Her mission is to start the change we are longing for so much in the dance industry so that dancers can be confident and fulfilled on and off stage and be prepared for a life that comes after their life on stage. I cannot wait to share this conversation with you. We have had such a deep and great connection around our experience, mission, and vision for the world of dance and ballet. Without further ado, here we go.

Naira, welcome to the show. I am so grateful that you are here.

Thank you for having me. It’s an honor.

A funny story, we connected because she shared on Instagram one of the episodes that she had listened to. I reached out to you and said, “I didn’t know you were out there. I didn’t know we have the same vision and mission. We should talk and we should have this conversation on this show.” My heart was filled up more with your willingness and you were like, “Let’s do it tomorrow.” That warmed my heart. Thank you.

It’s inspiring and I still am on that way. I was listening and you were speaking to Lydia. It came so close to me. I could not express to you my gratitude for doing this and supporting our community because I am passionate about it too. When I see someone else who does it, we are connecting and empowering each other. It brings so much more meaning to it.

PTR 49 | Elite Level Performance

Elite Level Performance: Stubbornness can be a strength, depending on how you look at it.


How and why did you start dancing?

Dancing came to me when I was about to turn nine. I was born in Armenia, but I did my ballet school in Moldova. The national school there is like a smaller version of the Vaganova Academy. From there, you enter ballet professionally at nine years old. A friend of my mom somehow suggested and said her daughter was going to try the entry exam. I’ve been dancing for fun here and there at the musical school. We tried and I got in with no problems. It wasn’t easy and I trained in Moldova State Ballet School until I was fifteen.

Since you weren’t from there, did your family move? Did you leave home at nine and stayed there in the dorms?

My dad is Armenian. I was born in Armenia, but my mom is Moldovan. She’s a Russian Moldovan. After the Soviet Union broke down in 1991, they decided to move to Moldova. I was five at the time. From 5 to 15, I grew up in Moldova.

You had six years in the school, how was that? You were not only in your formative years, but you’re also so young to be absorbed in this kind of athletic behavior.

Those are the years where we grow to either love it or hate it. Those are the years where the base is introduced to us. It was tough, but I didn’t know at the time. I knew nothing else. I knew this and I was good at it. I was very driven and was stubborn. If something wasn’t working, I had to make it work. That character trait in me has helped. There were ups and downs, but at that time, I didn’t know better.

What came after fifteen? That is still very young too.

Now looking back, it was the perfect time to transition and move schools because at the time I got everything I could from my teacher. She was very good for primary years, for base, for square, and everything like true Vaganova technique. When it came to dancing, once you got older, she was still too square, you could say, so I needed to move. We immigrated with my family to Germany. My mom has some Jewish bloodlines. My parents wanted a better future for my brother and I. They left everything behind and made this move for us, which I’m forever grateful for because our life changed from there.

No one knows you best than yourself. Listen to your intuition and believe in your own abilities. Click To Tweet

Can you go a little into that? What does that mean to you?

I was fifteen, so I came in. Everything was new at the time. I was like, “What’s happening? There are more opportunities.” The culture and art are so big in Europe. It’s different. You’re more appreciated and taken care of. You dance and do what you’re good at if you’re good at it. I was lucky enough to get a scholarship so I could study at Heinz-Bosl-Stiftung Academy in Munich and at the same time, live in a boarding house. My parents only had to pay very little for me to study and live there. All of it was a dream truly because I was fifteen. We had this gorgeous boarding house in the city center, a three-minute walk from beautiful ballet studios.

I do remember when I was younger, I used to dream that this could happen. I would live with all my classmates in one place and it was happening. The new opportunity to try something new was scary. We were taught like, “You do ballet like this, and this is it.” It was hard for me to let go a little. I had some conflicts in the beginning. Even though I was the youngest in my class, I would sometimes put my foot down and be like, “No, this exercise must be done this way.” I told you I’m stubborn.

I’m assuming that this stubbornness has served you in a certain way. I heard that I’m stubborn too all the time. However, it was never brought up in a good association. It was always something uncomfortable, something anybody and everybody around me, particularly my mom, had to deal with. Therefore, I gave up being stubborn because I thought people will not like me because of it. Had I known that it’s serving me to determine whether something is right or wrong and to speak up for it, I could have dealt with myself and with my surroundings in a much different way. Can you relate?

Yes, majorly. It depends on which way you look at it and what it means to you or someone. The same thing could mean something else to me than it is to you. If it were put in the right way, it could be used as a strength. It’s hard for me to say because I am a coach now and I powered through. I am who I am because I was very powerful and determined. I never gave myself any other option. Now I think about it, yes, it helped me but many things could have been done differently or felt differently or approached differently.

When did you start at the Dutch National?

I graduated from Heinz-Bosl and at the time, with Konstanze Vernon and her husband.

I’m sure you have stories to share around that time.

PTR 49 | Elite Level Performance

Elite Level Performance: There is so much difference you can make by just getting to know yourself and your needs better.


She nurtured me when I was 15 and I left when I was 19. We had this at the beginning where I said a little bit of this. She had that energy and it’s almost like she encouraged that stubbornness in me. She encouraged that like, “If you want it, go get it,” because she had that personality herself. She was raised that same way, the old school way. She taught us the same. It did help me, but it was not for everyone. It’s not for everyone’s character and path.

I graduated when I was nineteen. In the last two years, I started auditioning. That was very tough because I was at the top of my class. I was feeling that I can do this. In my first year, I auditioned and auditioned and nothing happened. That’s when I started doubting everything. “How is it that on one hand, I feel like this, or I hear this?” We were such an external. We get a reward. We get this feeling of like, “I did well, I’m going to get praise for it.” The auditions are the opposite where you come in and there are maybe 150 people. I always do the open auditions and then you go around and see the same faces. You know each other, but there’s also energy and tension in the air. I could tell you all about it.

At the time, I thought like, “I need to write a book of all my auditioning stories and all the things that have happened to me during auditions.” Probably, at some point, I remember counting something like 30 auditions for two years. In some places, I went twice back and forward. In the first year, there was nothing. It was the second year that I had a different look at it and I felt, “I’m going to try something else. Open auditions are not doing it for me.” A big part of it is luck. I would make it somewhere always, but sometimes not even. If you have 300 people, what are the chances that in those specific three seconds that they look at you, you’re doing something they like?

It was tough. At that age, you can imagine at 19, 18 is when you’re most sensitive to. In the second year, I thought, “I’m going to do this differently.” I started scheduling private auditions where I had a chance to show myself more, be better and also be within the company. That way, the directors can see if you are a fit for the company. That was way more successful. There was one and that was also my second year. I went to Madrid and had a terrible accident where I was robbed and choked. I ended up in the hospital with an open head and it was a terrible story. In that year, I needed some time to come back to my senses because here I am trying hard. I want this so bad. I am going everywhere with very little money, staying in places to make my dream come true, and then this happened. It was a little setback.

How did you recover from that? It’s not only a gut punch, but it also makes you question everything.

Every time something happens, my family reacts very sensitively and seriously. I feel it because of them. The impact it has on them affects me even more. I always think I can handle myself. I always think I’m invincible. It was a hit for them. They were so worried and scared. They were far away, and they couldn’t do anything. They were worried to let me go again. They were even more worried to let me go longer if I got a job somewhere else. That was the most difficult part. I was okay once I went back to the studio and I stuck to what I know, I’m good at and keep on going with my love and passion for dance. It’s this high of dancing that takes over.

We are humans first, dancers second. Click To Tweet

Did you know that the feminine spirit or the feminine energy connects the best to its higher self when it’s dancing? This is the reason why many female dancers are out there because this is how we connect into our higher selves. I didn’t know that either. I learned that a few months ago. This is why many people have the urge to express themselves while dancing because they feel more connected to themselves than in any other way. Why ballet is inspiring to the audience and to the community that is watching is because they can feel that, which is such a beautiful energy exchange. Please don’t forget we are getting to know each other. You’re incredibly strong. You don’t blame anything outside of yourself for whatever is happening or for whatever you can do. You knew all along that everything you want is coming from here and nobody else, which is very beautiful.

It is true. In those two tough years, I wasn’t the only one. I had classmates that were also auditioning. Everybody was struggling. I could see the difference and I didn’t know at the time, but most of them gave up quite quickly. I don’t know if it was a good thing. I told myself, “There’s nothing else I want to do. There’s nothing else I can do. I am doing this.” My brain said, “I’m going to do this and I will find a way.” In a way, some of my classmates also saw that in me. When someone has that energy, you catch that energy as well. It takes one person to get everybody going. I felt at some point that it was me with my friends and my classmates. In the end, I got rewarded.

In the second year, I understood how this worked. I gave myself time to learn the technique of auditioning because it was a different technique. It’s not your dancing technique. Auditioning is a whole other science. Very quickly, I had some short time contracts for some productions here and there. I had a long-time contract in Germany. This one here in the Netherlands, I was waiting for the last minute. I had a good feeling. When I auditioned, I knew I was going to get this job. It was this intuition moment that was happening and I was right. I got a call. I remember Ted Brunson called me. It was my moment like, “This is what I’ve been working for. I knew this was going to come. I needed to be patient.”

Let’s talk about intuition because I had learned very quickly while going through my training how to turn it off. I learned that feeling, having emotions or hunches or anything like that in this environment isn’t serving me at all. Finding my way back to it, I am so grateful that we are equipped with this ability to have that intuition, that gut feeling, that deep knowing that this is what we want to do, this is my next step, and I know exactly what is here. I encourage everybody to give in to that feeling. It doesn’t make us weaker. It makes us so much stronger. It provides so much more freedom and it gives us the ability to let go of fear completely. I see you nodding because that comes through in your story.

As a dancer and probably all dancers, we’re so unfamiliar with what intuition is because we are facts, numbers and pirouettes. That’s what we are. I didn’t know up until I started studying myself and understanding that intuition needs to be practiced, finding that feeling and connecting to what happened. It’s so beautiful. Trust the process.

PTR 49 | Elite Level Performance

Elite Level Performance: To be an amazing dancer, you need to be balanced as a whole. Every aspect of you brings value to your dancing.


Trust the process, but that also means that you have to trust yourself and believe in your abilities. I find that from my own experience, that wasn’t fostered. The telling over and over again that this is imperfect and this isn’t good enough. It’s focusing on one aspect of the dancer and not seeing that there are many other possibilities that held and kept us away from trusting who we are, what we want, and what we’re capable of. It’s like relearning and reigniting that will make a big difference in how dancers not only experience their career but also how the audience will experience any kind of performance.

It also goes to when you talk about connecting to yourself. For me, it goes deeper into being conscious. First of all, asking your mind and body, because no one knows. You know it’s inside you. You know the best, but it’s difficult. I know exactly what you mean because we are coached. We work with someone and at the end of the day, what they perceive is what matters. There are many times where I danced and I felt, “This was my best shot,” or it’s the other way around, “I didn’t do so well,” and then you get compliments for it. That’s where it’s like, “No, it’s me. It’s only me who can tell how it went and what did I get out of it.”

In a sense, if you always have in mind this feeling of like, “I can never make a mistake. I can never go wrong because I will always grow from it, learn something, and move forward. It will always give me a feeling of something,” then you can trust the process. You can trust yourself because you’re not focused on the result right now. I’m looking at where I want to be and how I want to feel, rather than, “This show must go on. I must do my best.” That’s how I’ve been per show. I was thinking about how wrong it was. I thought, “Who’s watching the show tonight? Which one of the ballet masters? What do I do? They know everything about me. What am I trying to prove?” It’s like I’m dancing it for them rather than dancing it for me.

Our actual why of why we’re standing on stage and why we’ve chosen this profession has completely disappeared. This is why it then becomes hard and hurts so much. This is why it leaves many scars in our souls and trauma that we have to deal with after we finished our careers or even in our later years. If we’re allowing the dancers to remember their why and come into the studios from a place of service versus, “I have to be, I should, I could, I need to prove myself, be perfect, be seen,” it is a lack mentality. There is so much fear associated with this beautiful art form and it doesn’t fit together. We all created this. We kept on going with the same and elevated the state of fear because there are many out there. We can have our egos come into place and put out terrible tactics. We’re treating dancers with disrespect and not as the most precious product that keeps this art form alive. Let me ask you this. When did you start? I think you always had it in you, but when did you become conscious of, “There is more to it?” When did this passion start growing in you for more?

Dance doesn’t have to be so hard. It can be fun and fulfilling. It can be art, like it’s meant to be. Click To Tweet

A few years ago, I had another dramatic event in my life that shifted everything. It made me question many things and ask myself many questions that I never dare to. I was married at 24 and then I got divorced at 27. It was not your regular divorce. It was very messy. It gave me a lot of instability and a lot of trouble, but then things came back to normal. In that period of time, I had so much anxiety and stress that as much as I think I’m invincible and I tried to separate work from life. I was told, “You can talk to me. I know you want to dance and I want you to continue.” It was the only thing that I had to distract myself with.

What happened was I started developing strong anxiety for the stage. It was so strange. I was like, “I’ve been dancing for nearly ten years. How is this possible? I should be getting better.” I have this feeling that I’ve never had before. I had a little bit of help and things were explained to me. That’s when I was like, “Wow.” It was the first time I had therapy with someone that made some things made sense to me. I could see how working with him more would help me with many other things. It wasn’t simple. He explained to me how my brain perceives personal and stage stress in the same way. I thought that makes sense. It doesn’t differentiate things and I wouldn’t know otherwise. I learned how to bring joy rather than stress, how to find myself back into why I’m doing this and all these things.

I started understanding how much better my performance and dancing can be had I approached it in a different way. That’s where the interest came, looking into a little more psychology. Coaching came to me a little bit later. I woke up one morning and I put two and two together. I thought, “Is this possible? Is this a profession?” This is how I came up with it. It was funny because I never heard of it, so I googled it. This is how I found out that you can do this. I think the first thing that came to me was health coaching. I put these two together and then I came to coaching. I was inspired by the difference that you can make by getting to know yourself and your needs better.

When I find something or something excites me, I start talking to my friends about it. I can’t keep quiet. I saw their reactions and some of the things. They said, “It’s not me. I’m not the crazy one,” which I probably am. When I saw their reaction, I thought, “This is true. What about this and that?” I transitioned into becoming a dancers’ representative on the committee. I became the chairperson representing dancers. Speaking out was never a problem because I felt strongly about certain things. I can see a lot of people struggle, so that what’s encouraging me. A lot of people struggle to voice their feelings or opinions. I don’t have a problem with that. That’s what encourages me to stand up for them.

That was a learning experience. I didn’t think I could do it. It was so much sitting at the table with your boss and having to negotiate with him, but I learned a lot from him. I learned a lot from my team. I learned a lot from the dancers and their needs. You’ll see how that slowly and slowly became a perfect recipe. I felt more responsible for my community. How can I make this better? How can I help? How can I encourage them? I know how they’re feeling, and they think they’re alone. That’s the hardest thing. I think I’m feeling this way, but no one else is feeling because no one is talking about it.

It’s not okay to talk about your emotions, feelings and fears because that makes you weak. Thank you for sharing. Do you see how this all perfectly fits together? It seems like your intuition is strong that it unfolds.

I’ve never shared my life with anyone. It’s like a coaching session because now it makes so much sense to me, but I was never able to put the whole stretch together.

I have put myself into very uncomfortable situations since 2018 to keep speaking and sharing. The big light bulb went off maybe a few months ago. Dancers never talk. We are not trained to talk or use our voice. We’re centered on our bodies to express what we want. Our feelings with our body, are we using it even to push emotions down to not feel them? We are not good at expressing our story, what we’re feeling, how we’re thinking and our beliefs with our voice. I feel the more and more we can listen to others or ourselves, even it will create many more light bulb moments that then will lead us into that feeling of, “We are not alone. What I’m feeling is what everybody else is feeling.”

That will unite us and make everybody stronger and perhaps giving them the permission and the power back to themselves to understand, “I’ve been following all of these beliefs since I have started my training.” I can question them. Between the two most obvious outcomes, there are a million other ways in between. That is where our growth lies. It’s not all or nothing. There’s so much in between. I find in the dance industry, we’re not looking at what’s in between. We’re not asking deep questions. We’re focused on finding the right and perfect answers that we forget to stay open and curious to learn and to ask questions over and over again.

I think of myself when I first joined the company. You’re new. You want to adapt, integrate and do well. A lot of the dancers get in that way and get stuck a little bit because you have to do like everyone else is doing. You have to do what everyone else is doing to fit in. You don’t ask questions. You continue the same way. Maybe here and there, you have someone that is putting their foot down. It’s difficult and I can see the struggle in most dancers. What happens is when then they suppress all of that, then they try to transition into life. They have a hard time because all that, “I am not good enough. I am not this enough,” all that self-esteem and all that they’d been suppressing are necessary in the dance world. It’s how it works.

You have a hard time letting go and it’s scary. The real world becomes so much scarier. Dancers are capable of many things, yet they have a hard time learning the skill of life. I even said that to my coaching schoolmates, people that I worked with, my coach, and this whole community that showed me a world of difference. I often say normal people, but it’s wrong to say that. I don’t call myself normal. It’s a perception we have that we’re not normal, so everything we do cannot be normal. We are humans first, then dancers.

That’s where it starts because we believe that to be successful, we have to be a dancer first and everything else doesn’t matter. That’s the first step. I believe that’s where we’re going wrong because if we don’t know who we are as human beings, we will become a box on stage that can turn pretty and lift their legs behind their ears and have no energy, story and diversity to share. That’s not art. It is perhaps not as comfortable to have to deal with in a company in a leadership position with diverse feelings, meanings, character traits or even energies, but that’s the beautiful thing. Everything is perspective. It’s always how you look at things. That’s how things change on how you look at them. I feel that this change is overdue. I feel that this time out is the chance the entire world has been given to rethink, restructure, take a pause and not follow the old rock that we have been going down every single day. It’s our chance to rethink and to ask these questions.

I even remember the first time I went through your website. Reading your words was the closest I felt with any coach that I’ve met or seen. What you expressed was what I felt. To be an amazing dancer, you need to be balanced as a whole. Everything brings value to your dancing, but we think the opposite. We think the exact opposite, “No, I’ve got to do more dancing and I’ll get better at dancing.” That’s not true.

PTR 49 | Elite Level Performance

Elite Level Performance: It’s important that we clarify where we want to go and how we want to feel. If you cannot find that in dance, then maybe it’s not for you. It’s better to realize this sooner than later.


I didn’t recognize that until I was long out of the field. I have to stop because my mental capacity was tapped out. I could not take the daily drill and abuse any longer. My body completely shut down. I wanted to add something when we were talking. You were saying it’s coming back up. Whatever we’re suppressing, no matter how long, it’s a matter of time for it to come up. It’s never going to go away. If you don’t deal with it, it will come 10, 200-fold out of you. You will struggle more and more even when you’re leaving your pointe shoes in a studio. You’re a beginner again with something else that you’re doing. The unworthiness issues are so prevalent in the industry, especially amongst women. They will come up and they won’t show their faces straight at you and say, “You feel unworthy and this is why this is not going.” It’s like back door after back door opening, layers and layers. This is why it is important that we start that work when we are in the field.

Looking back at how I started my education and how I was hesitant to start, with the same thought in mind, “Is it time for me?” I get quite passionate about new things. I thought, “If I start something I like, will that mean that I’ll stop dancing soon?” At the time, I couldn’t see the benefits yet. It worried me, “Will that mean that I have to give up on dancing?” I was worried about it my whole life. I was told I have to focus on dancing. How can I now split myself in two? It was still in my head. By a complete chance, I enrolled in my coaching school a week before we went into a lockdown and everything was last minute. I did my first in-person in Amsterdam. I did my first in-person three-day training, took all my books, came home and went into lockdown. I sometimes think some things are meant to happen the way they happened.

When I look at your examples, it’s like the prodigy of manifestation.

I do remember even going to the first weekend. Because it was the very last minute, I didn’t quite prepare myself. Some of the people that were there maybe had some experiences or they knew what they were going into. Everything for me was last minute. I came in and I was like, “Let’s do this.” I came there with my dancer mentality and all my baggage of, “No, I am not good enough. I am not smart enough. They’re all better. I’m going to sit,” without even realizing it’s autopilot. As we went through the first day, we started talking about a little bit. The first weekend was to connect to yourself.

First and foremost, to be a coach, you need to understand who you are. I sat there the first day and thought, “I’m fine.” My invincibleness where I told myself, “No, I’m really fine. I’m here to learn, but honestly, I’m fine.” The second day is when it hit me. I sobbed for two hours straight in my training because something broke in me. I realized some things and it hit me hard. I understood how not nice I’ve been to myself with all of these that I considered normal and okay because that’s what being a dancer means. It’s uncomfortable and painful. It’s a must. That’s how it is. You should’ve seen me. It was two hours. I tried to stop myself but I couldn’t. It was such an explosion of emotions because I realized something. Ever since then, it’s a journey and I’m still on it. You never stop.

I started looking at things differently. The season was almost over. It’s been a good season. I felt okay and strong. We came back. We were training. At the time, I couldn’t understand. I was thinking that it was some other source of why I had so much energy. We went back to rehearsing and dancing. We were quite busy. We were training. We came back and we did back-to-back a few programs. We were rehearsing for six months, 2 or 3 of the same programs. It was tough. It was during COVID, but it was my best time only because I addressed a few things, I realized I changed a few things.

It was hard. When I first walked into the studio with the coaching mentality and with the understanding of what’s distracting me, I went back into autopilot, into habits. It wasn’t easy. I went into autopilot and I was like, “No, wait a second.” We got back after the lockdown. We were not too busy. I had time to implement, to let it sink in and try things, and then went back to dancing. I had so much energy. It was a lot of work. I managed to work well, feel good and be motivated. It was my best dancing. I first tried to justify it by, “I must have been this. I must have been that. No.”

That is a beautiful example of how we, on a daily basis, fight for our limitations and how much harder life is when we put our energy to something that we don’t want versus what would serve us. Knowing ourselves or knowing where our energy resources come from or knowing how we operate and what triggers us versus, “I don’t want this and I don’t want this,” it is a tuck and pull that is so exhausting.

I love talking about energy. It’s this idea of this ball. If your energy is pulled in all those different directions and you’re leaking energy here and there, how can you ever be here? When you start focusing, bringing in and closing all these leaking energy spots, then you have all your energy engaged into this thing that needs you the most. If it is easy, then it’s not hard. That’s the thing that dancers go into it, thinking, “Ballet is so hard.” We work more than athletes. We do not have time to recover, but it doesn’t have to be hard. It can be fun and fulfilling. It can be art like it’s meant to be.

I believe that when we’re asking different questions, we will get different results. Asking the question, “What would this look like if this would be fun?” is a good starting point. I don’t start my day with to-do lists anymore. I don’t start my day with I have-tos. I ask myself questions, “How do I want to feel today? Who do I want to serve today? What do I want to create today?” This is where perception and perspective come in, where it is so important for everything that we’re doing and from what angle we’re looking at. I feel when we go back to our why, the fun factor will come up automatically.

Taking yourself as an example, what would be one or two things you would recommend for somebody that is reading this episode and is like, “This is intriguing, where do I start?” Let’s take the dancer mentality. They want results right away. We’re going to take that out of the equation. You’re not going to see because you’re flexing your bum or you can turn ten pirouettes. This is not how it works with self-development, with finding yourself, and with finding your core. What are two things that they could start with now?

This would be useful for anyone and not only for dancers who are professionals. It can be someone who is an aspiring dancer. I’m sure a lot of people are asking themselves this question. It’s about what we talked about. It’s about connecting to what dance means to you and how do you want to feel. It’s focusing on you and not what anyone else says about it. What do you want out of it? How do you want to feel? What does it mean to you? It’s getting down to your purpose and mission around dancing. What do you envision for yourself? Maybe somebody will put this two and two together and will realize, “It’s not for me. Maybe it’s someone else who wants that, but it’s not my dream.”

It’s important that we clarify where we want to go, how we want to feel and what is it going to give me. If you cannot find that, then maybe it’s not for you. It’s better to realize this sooner than later. What’s important is always to remind yourself that. It’s almost like doing your homework and reminding yourself. Whenever you’re struggling or whenever you have a hard time, go back to this, “This didn’t work or didn’t go as I wanted, but my vision and my mission are this.” As long as I know that, nothing can stop me.

I’ve been talking about this for a very long time. That is where we start, knowing your why, your vision, your North Star. Otherwise, you’re floating. You’re following everybody else and not creating your own life.

It’s common. We’re so young when we start. Who asks us those questions? We start because we like pink. We start because we like jumping around or who knows? All of a sudden, you’re into it. Ten years later, you are like, “This all I can do, so I’ve got to keep going.” We need to find out why we’re doing this.

What is your favorite self-development book that you have read so far?

The Power of Now was probably my first. It’s a good start for sure. It was my first book. It made such a huge impact on me. That’s my favorite because it’s the one that you can always go back to. It’s the one that teaches you a lot and you forget. You are like, “Let me remind myself.”

Have you read Untamed by Glennon Doyle yet?


It’s my favorite book of 2020. It revealed another level of how we put ourselves into boxes and believe the stories that have been given to us. It is beautifully written. It’s an easy read and it’s mind-blowing in many ways. The whole book is highlighted for me. There’s not one page where there isn’t a quotable sentence or a mic drop.

Who is it?

Glennon Doyle.

It sounds very familiar.

I’m certain you will enjoy it.

I’m looking forward.

If you could go back to your sixteen-year-old self with the knowledge that you have right now, what would you tell her?

I would tell her to take care of herself because I would be healthier. I’m pretty happy, but I would be healthier overall now. I’m also talking about physical health if she puts herself first at sixteen.

Naira, thank you so much for having this conversation. Before we part, where can we find you?

On my Instagram, @NairaCoaching. There you have my website and many other ways to connect with me.

Thank you, my darling. It was a pleasure talking to you.

Important Links:

About Naira Agvanean

PTR 49 | Elite Level Performance

Naira Agvanean Soviet Union born, Heinz-Bosl Stiftung graduate and currently dancing her 13th season at the Dutch National Ballet. I’ve Always felt the need to fight for dancers’ rights and was never afraid to speak up, which landed me as a dancer’s representative for the company.

Thanks to that experience I became a professional coach with a passion to serve and help dancers build a mindset of elite-level performers. The dancers are so strong and fragile at the same time, their minds and heart need as much care as their bodies.

My mission today is to start the change we are longing for so that dancers can be confident and fulfilled on stage and off and prepared for life after ballet.

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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. […]

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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.