What’s the archetype for attaining a “successful” dance career? Training intensely at an elite dance studio or conservatory and then diving straight into the professional world right out of high school? Maybe, for some. But not for all. For many years I experienced imposter syndrome, feeling like I didn’t deserve to pursue this career because my path was anything but linear. I’m finding, though, through interviews I do with dancers and creatives in this business, that there really is no such thing as a cookie-cutter path. And in fact, sometimes the road less traveled can lead to opportunities you might not have even imagined.
Take Alessandra Stenta. This Canada-born, now LA-based dancer and choreographer has a resume that will make your jaw drop. She’s danced for the likes of Diplo, Skrillex, Calvin Harris, Meghan Trainor, Tyga, Paris Hilton, and Snoop Dogg…just to name a few! But dancing professionally was not always the plan. While Stenta grew up dancing at her mother’s studio in Ottawa, she majored in biochemistry in college and was accepted to dentistry school right after. “I didn’t know it at the time, but my fear had masked my love of dancing,” Stenta remembers.
During college, Stenta worked a part-time job at Lululemon. “We had to listen to a podcast called ‘The Psychology of Achievement’ by Brian Tracy,” Stenta recalls. “It was all about your mindset and reaching your goals. I was like, ‘Why did they never teach us this in school?!’” To her family and friends’ surprise, Stenta turned down dentistry school, packed her bags, and moved to Australia. “I was trying to find myself…literally,” she laughs. Stenta kept her gig at Lululemon while in Oz, and revisited Tracy’s podcast. “I was ripping back the layers,” Stenta says. “I realized that I had disguised my fear as practicality when all I ever wanted to do was dance.”
Once again, Stenta followed her heart and made a leap—this time to Los Angeles. Throughout her time since college, Stenta had been practicing and teaching yoga as well as cultivating her own spiritual practice. “The more I learned about spirituality, the more I saw how all these concepts are related to science and the biochemical systems of our body. I began to research neuroscience and neuroplasticity, and how these concepts relate to mental wellness and our endless abilities as humans.” Her love of science and love of dance were more compatible than she had realized.
“I truly believe that my newfound mindset and wellness practice have had a tremendous effect on my dance career,” Stenta says. “I had been creating my own program for over a year. I was about to launch it when COVID-19 happened. While I was scared at first, my friends convinced me that this is the time when wellness and self-care are most needed.”
“Aspire with Alessandra” is a 21-day wellness program for dancers and non-dancers alike. The e-book has three parts:
1) Reason for Being: A chapter of self-inquiry and discovery where you are encouraged to turn your focus inward, set goals for a well-balanced life, and visualize your deepest desires becoming reality.
2) Morning Ritual: A regular practice of journaling and meditation that starts the first 30 minutes of your day.
3) Wind Down: An evening ritual to calm the mind and body with a gratitude list and agenda/to-do list for the next day.
These three parts aren’t boxes to be checked off. “The practice of working through the e-book is very revealing,” explains Stenta. She revisits the questions and exercises in Part 1 at least twice per year and encourages readers to do the same.
The program is for everyone, but Alessandra knows from her own experience how dancers can benefit from the practice. “For a dancer, your mindset is extremely important,” she says. “Whether training, auditioning, or performing, dancers are under a lot of stress and pressure.” A mindful self-care routine is imperative for optimal performance on and off stage. “Manifestation is real,” Stenta adds. “Focusing your energy toward your goals primes yourself for success.” This Stenta has experienced first-hand. “I was in a rut a few months ago,” she remembers. “Instead of sitting in that negative space, I turned inward…I dreamt of a month-long job that paid $10K. I meditated, journaled, and put all my energy into this goal. 4 days later, I booked the perfect gig.”
In Stenta’s wellness practice—and in dance overall—it’s all about the balance of hard work and surrender/self-trust. It’s empowering and liberating at the same time. “I still don’t know why this isn’t taught in school,” Stenta remarks. “My dream would be to implement a program like this into our educational system and dance studios.”
“Aspire with Alessandra” includes an e-workbook with engaging exercises along with a 15-minute guided meditation. To learn more about “Aspire with Alessandra” and to download the 21-day program, visit www.alessandrastenta.com.