Building community and releasing perfection
Today’s interview is with my friend Heather Britt who is a professional dancer, choreographer, she is also the founder of Dance Fix which is a high energy adult dance workout class that offers original and creative choreography and really taps into amazing different styles of dance such as jazz, lyrical, Latin, hip hop and more.
When you meet Heather, listen to her talk, see how she dances, this woman embodies passion in movement in such an amazing way. Heather’s dance work out classes had a huge influence on my life when I first moved to Cincinnati, OH back in 2005. Her warmth and high energy, as well as the other teachers at Dance Fix really helped bring me out of a major funk I was in at the time. It was one of those times that movement really helped heal my heart.
Heather thank you so much for speaking with me today, I wanted to start off with a question: What do you love most about dance?
Oooo…I love the expression you can create through dance. I like to experiment with changing the texture of the movement, or changing what you're visualizing during a movement you can also change the expression and then the emotion that is being given in by the movement. So I definitely feel like I've always expressed myself through movement and that's what I enjoy about dance so much that I am able to be fully me.
Wow that is beautiful! So dance has been a big part of your life and you started at any early age from my understanding. Can you tell me about your dance journey and how it has shifted and transformed into what you do now?
Well I started dancing when I was little as some many do with ballet, and jazz, and tap, and I started really enjoying it. In fourth grade I decided I wanted to go to the School of Creative and Performing Arts here in Cincinnati. So I started studying and ballet more intensely at that point and I was taking dance 5 days a week several hours a day 5th- 12th grade. It was a time of intense training and I have to be honest I questioned several times if this was the path for me because of the burn out that I would feel due to the type of rigorous detail oriented training, and feeling like I had to fit a particular mold. When I graduated high school I decided that I had had enough and that I was going to quit dancing, for a year in a half which was kind of crazy. I decided I wanted to move and see some new things, so I moved to Colorado and was snowboarding and not taking any dance. I went from taking dance every day to zero dancing !
But towards the end of that first year I started looking up adult dance classes in the area and found an adult ballet class who many of the students were from this dance co-op that would perform through the city. They were a wild group of people and came from every walk of life, and I loved them. When I met this group of people they were like wow you have dance training you should join us! Through this group of people I fell in love again with dance as it was this no pressure environment where it didn't matter who you were or what your training was that you could perform and enjoy it.
It sounds like once the pressure of needing to be perfect faded and you could release some of the pressure you once had felt then you were able you fall back in love with what made you, you.
Yes completely! After Colorado I moved out to California and started auditioning for dance companies out there and thought how I wanted to be again a professional dancer now that I had a different thought process around it. I auditioned with some modern dance companies and got the spots and started performing, and at the same time I found this dance workout class there called Rhythm and Motion where the people that were coming to class were from all different backgrounds and basically it was a big melting pot of people and movement styles. I fell in love with the class so much that I decided I wanted to teach for them so I auditioned and got the job and then was dancing professionally and then teaching the Rhythm and Motion dance workout classes.
During that time I started taking some business courses at the city college out in San Francisco and started creating this vision of having my own dance studio. I didn't know what that would look like but I wanted to start figuring out how to be a small business owner. After two years I left San Francisco and before leaving, the owner of Rhythm and Motion said to me, hey you really embody the message of Rhythm and Motion would you want to take it with you when you go and expand the program?
I decided to move back to Colorado and took Rhythm and Motion classes there. The classes were successful and lots of people came, but then in 2000 I decided to move again and moved back to Cincinnati, OH where I brought Rhythm and Motion with me as well. My company Dance Fix started originally as Rhythm and Motion and over time it kind of morphed into its own thing as far as the structure of the class, the kind of choreography, the music, and the needs of the students in Cincinnati verse San Francisco. It's funny I never had a plan to branch off and do my own thing but it just happened that way as I continued to listen to the community that was coming to class and understand what they wanted more of, so by accident really Dance Fix was then created.
When I originally came to your class I was in a pretty hard place in my life emotionally. I wanted to move my body again after years of not dancing myself hoping it would just make me feel better. I remember coming to my first class and I got something so much more than just a dance class or workout class. I was embraced immediately in this place of acceptance, fun, and freedom, it was so huge for me. It didn't matter what experience you had or what your background was, you were embraced fully into this amazing community. Community seems to be a big theme throughout your dance experience would you agree?
Yes, and I think the whole reason Dance Fix works so well for me and others is that the choreography comes from a professional place, so we are doing some pretty technical stuff but then there's the idea that everyone is EQUAL TO EXPERIENCE THAT. So it takes the side of me with the dance co-op that I had in Colorado, mixes it with all my professional training, and sticks them together. I always say the reason people excel in the Dance Fix classes is that they don't have a pre conceived notion if they can do some of these more challenging moves like a "tour jete", which if it was a technical class people might be in their heads about it but in Dance Fix we might not even call a more advanced move by its original name and just say things like kick your right leg up and then your left leg and people are like oh okay I can do that. We are always working to create an environment that says YOU CAN DO THIS, just try it.
Would you say you work towards helping people let go of needing to be "perfect" in their dancing?
We really are, because it’s not about being perfect. It’s not about if the movement looks professional, it’s all about how does it feel, what is the experience here for yourself and others. The mission of Dance Fix is to create health, happiness, and connection to yourself and connection to your community through dance.
You had mentioned that when you were younger and you were going through all this intense training in your early dance years you had talked about the burn out that happened. So maybe other than taking a year off and going snowboarding :) are there any self-care practices that you have now picked up over the years of dancing that you have maintained that help keep you feeling refreshed and vibrant in your mind and body to help keep that burn out feeling in check?
Right... well I have to say I wish I had better practices (laughs) I mean I go in and out of mediation practices, I go in and out of yoga practices, I am not as consistent as I would like to be but I have to say the way I have been able to keep my dance training fresh is I really love all kinds of dance. I like African dance, I love jazz, and I love lyrical, flamenco, modern dance. I mean at one point I thought I was going to open an African Dance studio because I loved it so much. So I think as a choreographer I think with all those different styles it just helps keep it fresh and always trying different movement. I didn't always know where I was going with dance but being open to following each style of dance has given me this freedom in a career that I love and am super excited about.
It sounds like how you came to create Dance Fix and your own journey with dance has been very organic, very similar to what happens in class, where you are just called to move your body and your spirit the way it needs to feel right at the time. Does that sound pretty true?
Oh yes, I mean we have been as organic and grassroots as you can get. I mean didn't pay myself for years and sometimes had IOU's for teachers when I started to have other teachers teaching because we were just trying to create something special and it was never about the money, we did this because we loved it. I never was like "okay this business will be this huge by this date," it just happened and people came and now it has grown to be something I'm so proud of.
It has been really wonderful to see the growth over the last 10 years, first with class sizes getting bigger, then another studio location opening north of downtown, what is new for Dance Fix currently?
Well I didn't really have a structured plan of how to expand Dance Fix necessarily, and the universe works in certain ways as to when these things happen. About two years ago I was starting to dream about how we could expand Dance Fix and I was looking to declutter my schedule a bit since I had been teaching at NKU for 8 yrs. and then running Dance Fix and raising two teenage kids as single mom, I am just really busy. I knew Dance Fix had this growth potential, so last summer when NKU was in the middle of budget cuts my program was on the short list so all of a sudden I was going to have this big space but financially I freaked out!However, a week after my program at NKU got cut the Nashville Ballet reached out to me and said they were interested in bringing Dance Fix to their area and wanted to start immediately which if I had been employed with NKU it wouldn't have been able to happen, so things worked themselves out. It's been great to see Dance Fix be welcomed so quickly in a new city so that part is really exciting.
With the success of Dance Fix going to Nashville, TN what does the future of Dance Fix look like?
Yeah I'd say we are looking to grow and now that I have done it once I already know what I would do differently and what needs to happen going forward, little tweaks here and there but the success of Nashville has shown that this business can thrive in other markets. Basically for the future the more people out there dancing, being in a really good mood, having fun, and connecting with each other, the better. That's what is so cool is there might be little business things that shift a bit from one city to another in how Dance Fix might operate but the most important piece that has translated immediately is the students connecting with each other, creating this amazing community with this shared common bond and that's really what I want out of this experience.
For more information on classes and schedules in the Cincinnati area, or to contact for more info go to https://www.dancefixcincinnati.com/