Episode 16 - Promoting Body Positivity Above All Else

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Today on the show we have Katrena Cohea, owner of Different Drummer Dance. Her studio promotes body positivity above all else in a lifestyle where your body structure defines your path. Katrena has devoted herself to teaching strategies for incorporating body positivity into her curriculum while allowing her students to learn and express themselves.

IG: @diffdrumdance

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Dan:                                             Hello to all of our lovely listeners and welcome back to the fitDEGREE podcast. I'm Dan Berger, your host, accompanied by my trusty cohost, Nick Dennis. We're all about positivity and today, so is our guest. Katrena Cohea is the owner of Different Drummer Dance, a studio that promotes body positivity above all else, Katrina has devoted herself to teaching strategies for incorporating body positivity, inter curriculum while allowing your students to learn and express themselves. Welcome to the podcast, Katrena, how are you today?

Katrena Cohea:                        Hi Guys. Thank you so much for having me. I am good. Thank you.

Dan:                                             Of course. Thank you so much for being here. Take us back a little bit. You could start when Different Drummer started or at the beginning of dance, whatever you want to tell us about, give us a little intro to yourself and how Different Drummer came about.

Katrena Cohea:                        Okay, great. I've been dancing like many young girls do, starting at a young age. I danced all through elementary and middle and high school and into college. Danced professionally for a few years out of college. And along that time in my high school and college years, like a lot of other dancers and athletes do, I started teaching, kind of got into it just as like student teaching through my studio. And then just kind of ran with it. I really loved working with younger kids and just really enjoyed it. After college and after dancing professionally, I dabbled in teaching at like community centers and for both private and nonprofit schools and ran several different programs in the San Francisco Bay area.

Katrena Cohea:                        And it was really probably in about 2011 when I started kind of flexing my entrepreneurial chops. And I started a business called the Ballerina Birthday, which focused on bringing dance parties to kids around the bay area. Since at that time I didn't have my own studio, I thought this was a great solution to still get myself out there and start my own little side hustle. I would travel around and bringing these two two's that I had handmade to different people's homes and do a little ballerina birthday party and then later that turned into like hip hop dance parties and musical theater. That was kind of my first introduction to being an entrepreneur in the dance world.

Katrena Cohea:                        And since then I've kind of transitioned the Ballerina Birthday into different Drummer Dance which incorporates more weekly classes as well as like you mentioned a lot of work and body positivity. I teach workshops for teachers both online and in person on how to burn body positivity into their dance classrooms. I sell a curriculum online. I do coaching one on one in small group stuff. Specifically to talk about body positivity in dance. And then also kind of just more generally for teachers who might be new or feeling like they're needing some support with their curriculums or their studios. Different Drummer is a pretty multifaceted business and like a lot of entrepreneurs, I'm sure you guys do, you wear a lot of different hats, but I enjoy it. It works for me.

Dan:                                             And that's really interesting. We're hearing, mostly through this podcast, but just through networking and talking to people, more in dance than any other industry that it's going digital. It's going online. We've all, I'm sure read in some magazine or another about the online personal trainer, the video chat, this and that and how people make it work. But I don't hear about that so much. Certainly not in things like crossfit bar and rarely in Yoga, but I'm hearing about it a lot in dance. Do you find that, that's been a good market for you and do you talk to a lot of other people who are like, "Yeah, I do the same thing." Or "I'm somehow running my dance business in an online way?"

Katrena Cohea:                        Yeah, definitely. It is a really interesting point. And I know personally for me it works really well because right now I live in an area in upstate New York that's super isolated. It's kind of happened by necessity just that there's not a ton of people around for me to connect with. That was one of the things when I was building Different Drummer that I was like, how can I expand my reach and my audience? And I think a lot of other dance professionals are probably thinking the same way.

Katrena Cohea:                        They are looking for ways to reach more people and connect with more students and maybe reach those teachers and kids who might normally, they might not be able to have any access to but suddenly because we have the inter webs, we have access to kids and teachers on the complete opposite side of the world from where we are. And it doesn't matter what time zone you're in, you can just kind of hop on and record a video and send it over. And it's great. It's really cool to see dancers and dance teachers and students connecting that way.

Dan:                                             Yeah, for sure. Why do you think it that it's working for dance where other people aren't doing it? I'm certainly more ignorant to the practices and training of dance and many other things, but I would imagine that's somewhat of a hands-on training and at the very least, the in-person feel and being in a studio, things like that would play a great impact. Why do you think dance is able to go digital in a way that a lot of other group fitness is or instructions or disciplines are not?

Katrena Cohea:                        That's a great question. I'm not sure I totally know [inaudible 00:06:30]

Dan:                                             As long as it works. Right?

Katrena Cohea:                        Yeah. Because you're right, it is very hands-on. But I think there is something about dance that has become more accessible to a lot of people in recent years. Probably with things like, So You Think You Can Dance and all these kind of TV shows that have been capitalizing on kind of giving dance a spotlight, I think-

Dan:                                             I just want to clarify, did you say accessible or assessable?

Katrena Cohea:                        Accessible.

Dan:                                             Okay. Gotcha.

Katrena Cohea:                        Yeah. I think that dance has gotten a little bit more of a spotlight in the sense of it's being seen more on TV and social media. And I think dance is one of those things that, I mean, a lot of people might not feel this way or believe this, but I think to a certain extent, we all come into this world knowing how to dance. Like we all move.

Nick:                                            I could argue with that.

Katrena Cohea:                        [crosstalk 00:07:28]

Dan:                                             My next question was going to be, so do you think everyone can dance or is there a [inaudible 00:07:35]?

Katrena Cohea:                        I Totally do. Yes. I am a believer that if you have a body, you can dance. One of my slogans for my work with Different Dance is dance is for anybody who has a bodies. It doesn't matter to me if you've got your quote unquote typical kind of ballerina body or you have different abilities where you might be in a wheelchair.

Dan:                                             On a rhythm.

Katrena Cohea:                        You might have, right, prosthetics or you feel like you don't have any rhythm at all. It's not to mean that you don't have rhythm, you just hear it differently from other people. I am a true believer that anybody can dance. I mean I think there's certain aesthetics of dance like Ballet and Jazz and Tap where it, when you're performing, yes it should look a certain way. But beyond that, like I was saying earlier, dance, I mean we come into this world dancing, we come into this world moving, like everyone has their own unique sense of movement and mine doesn't have to look like yours and it probably won't because we're two completely different people. But that doesn't mean that my way of moving is right and yours is wrong.

Nick:                                            I guess that kind of segues into what your differentiator is or your secret sauce is right now, is that you're bringing body positivity into this industry. Do you feel like you're paving the way? Do you feel like you're on the shoulders of giants with that? How did you find this body positivity direction and how are you getting the word out?

Katrena Cohea:                        One of the things that was modeled for me when I was starting to come up with the idea for Different Drummer dance and think about all the things I wanted it to be was I had somebody tell me to create the work that needed to be created when I was young or that I wish I had when I was a young teacher or a young dancer. That's really what I have tried to do with body positivity. That's what I still try and do. Anytime that I'm dreaming up a new product or a new service. My personal experience is that I could've really used help with growth mindset, with affirmations, with body positivity when I was young. And I think so many people do. I think especially in dance, that's my world.

Katrena Cohea:                        That's where I feel most comfortable talking about. But men, women, boys, girls, it doesn't matter. We all go through this phase where we don't know what's going on with our body. We're comparing it to other people and especially like if we're in sports or if we're in dance, we are comparing ourselves all the time to other people or we see ourselves in the mirror. And I wish that I had, had tools to kind of zoom out and see, "Okay, you're getting a little bit caught up in this comparison game or into my new shot of how you look in this aesthetic." Let's zoom out and let's really think more about like, you as a whole, not about like this body part or that body part.

Katrena Cohea:                        I'm creating from where I see I had holes in my own kind of training and upbringing, that's the space where I like to try and create from. Because I know if I had a need for it then there has to be other people out there who also have a need for it. And I think body positivity is becoming a little bit more mainstream and people are starting to understand what it is and be a little bit more aware of it. It's kind of one of those terms I think now that's a little trendy.

Nick:                                            I was gonna say, I think your definition, and this is why I wanted to get your definition out here of body positivity versus what I think we're seeing today in trends. You're talking about body [inaudible 00:11:35] don't let that insecurity hold you back from getting started. Don't let that think you can't get on stage. You're still promoting, be active, get in the dance room, show up. Don't-

Dan:                                             Be healthy.

Nick:                                            Yeah be healthy. I think body positivity is turning into, you can do whatever you want and you should still be proud of yourself. That's not what you're saying here, you're saying don't let that hold you back from taking your first dance class, just because you saw the movie Black Swan and you saw what they look like. Just 'cause you don't look that way doesn't mean you can't be a great dancer too.

Katrena Cohea:                        Right. Yeah, I mean the whole concept of body positivity is, I mean there's so much for beneath [inaudible 00:12:18] it depends.

Dan:                                             There's a big spectrum right now.

Katrena Cohea:                        Absolutely. Yeah. I mean you're talking about race, you're talking about politics, you're talking about feminism. And I mean it's a whole thing, but my definition of body positivity is that all bodies are good bodies. I'm trying to take that concept into dance. And it can get tricky because there are certain aesthetics in ballet where you do quote unquote need to look a certain way in order to audition for companies and in order to perform professionally. I understand that, but I also think that the dance world in general could use with some updating about how we treat dancers who are coming in to present themselves.

Dan:                                             And not everyone needs to be a professional dancer. Right?

Katrena Cohea:                        Right.

Dan:                                             You could still dance for years and years and years, but not be a professional. There are beer leagues. I look at some of the guys that play pickup soccer at the fields where practice rugby on Wednesday. And let me tell you, none of them are trying out for a Serie A premiere international team, but they're still having a great time and they're still being active.

Katrena Cohea:                        Yeah, absolutely. And I think ballet especially is one of those things that has kind of been like on the fringes of art or culture because it can seem so, going back to accessibility, it can seem so inaccessible to people. All they see is these dancers up on stage wearing tutus and tights and they're like, "I don't understand that. That's not me." But it's so much more than that. And that body positivity is part partly too about being more accessible to more people. If we can make dance and ballet seem more human, then it will be so much more better understood by humans, by everybody.

Nick:                                            No, that makes a lot of sense. I mean, would you think that because you keep bringing up this image that people see when the people do ballet? I'm not super familiar with the dance industry, but I know there's more than just ballet out there. Do you maybe steer people towards what niche dance their body might do better in or is that even a thing?

Katrena Cohea:                        Well, I think that's something that's incredibly personal and I think that's something honestly that should be left up to the dancer.

Nick:                                            Okay.

Katrena Cohea:                        I think absolutely as educators, it's our job to give kids a little bit of ballet and a little bit of jazz and a little bit of tap and a little bit of hip hop. And I mean most times kids will gravitate towards one thing, but that might change like five years down the road. That's part of why it's important to me to lay a really strong foundation just technique-wise and then introduce lots of different options and that way you're creating a well rounded dancer who then has the ability to say, "I really love hip hop, I love the music style, I love the history. I just love everything about it and that's the direction I'm going to go."

Nick:                                            Now tell us a little bit about, you mentioned a lot in your intro, how you were in the bay area.

Katrena Cohea:                        Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nick:                                            But then I heard that when you started the Different Drum Dancer you moved to upstate New York.

Katrena Cohea:                        Yeah.

Nick:                                            What was that like? Where did you grow up? Where did you move to and what started that change or that move from the bay area to upstate. And we're not talking New York City, we're talking upstate New York which is a little bit more wilderness and a little bit more isolation.

Katrena Cohea:                        Yes. I am a California girl, born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area. I grew up in a kind of like wine country area. Northern California and I lived there up until about two years ago. My husband, now husband, then my fiance, is from upstate New York and we're in a tiny little town called Speculator, which like you guys said, is inside the Adirondack Park. I would have never known that there was any place on earth called Speculator, had it not been for him.

Katrena Cohea:                        But he grew up here, and it's a beautiful area and he's always had a dream to come back to his hometown and start a business, which he did about two years ago. Two years ago we moved up here and he started his business. And at that time I was actually right at the very beginning of starting Different Drama Dance and I had like branded everything and I had my website and everything was rolling. I had classes going in California, and then we made this move. And I was like, well, I wonder if it's possible to be a bicoastal dance studio to like keep my business going in California and try and do it in New York.

Katrena Cohea:                        That's what brought me out here and it's still a little bit of a puzzle trying to figure out how to be in two places at once. I have some team members in California who still run mostly dance birthday parties since that is how I got my start with Ballerina Birthday Parties. So I've got some awesome teachers back in California who hold down the fort for me with birthday parties and things like that. And then I teach classes up here in New York once a week. And then I also teach workshops once in a while, I get to travel around, which is great. I love that part of my job. I get to travel around and teach workshops on body positivity and I also teach the online class. I'm still a little bit bicoastal. It's a pretty cool job.

Nick:                                            That is exciting. You were able to maintain that business that you built up in San Francisco because I'm sure you had clients and referrals and all that, that are like, "Wait, please don't leave."

Katrena Cohea:                        Yeah. And that's one of the, there's so many, like we were talking about just a minute ago, scary, like beautiful and terrifying things about running your own business and being your own boss. That was one of those moments for me where I was like, "Ah, but I've been here for ..." I've been teaching in this area for like 15 years. I want to just up and leave, but it's one of those moments where you just kinda gotta, you just got to trust and go for a ride and see where you come out on the other side.

Nick:                                            Yeah. Well I'll say you came out on top it sounds like, that's pretty cool.

Katrena Cohea:                        Thank you.

Dan:                                             When you started teaching in a new place, did that influence the way you taught, were the people different? Was the culture different? Did that change anything for you?

Katrena Cohea:                        Yes and no. I haven't found that it has changed my teaching or any of the fundamentals that I incorporate into my classes. It has definitely changed my perspective on marketing and reaching out to new clients and pitching and sending emails and stepping outside of my comfort zone as a business owner. I will say in that sense it has definitely challenged me and made me kind of change things up a little bit because when you're in a town where there's 300 people you only have kind of, I mean you only have so much to work with so you start thinking outside the box and really challenging yourself to reach out to people who can help you and give you resources. In that sense, yeah, it's definitely been a good way to challenge myself and take some steps that I maybe wouldn't have otherwise.

Dan:                                             Since you started doing more online stuff, was that something that you kinda at first went, "Ah, dances, it's personal, it's about feeling, it's meant for in person. I don't know how I'm gonna like this." And then you started doing it and you loved, or was it different from what your expectations of it would be?

Katrena Cohea:                        When my idea with like virtual classes and videos and being online, I think that lands itself so much better to like to younger kids with dance. I don't know that I would feel comfortable or even recommend that for older dancers like teenagers or anybody who's at a point in their training where they really need that hands-on kind of one on one specific guidance. But with young kids, it's such a great introduction. I mean, number one, because kids love technology, right? Like you give a four year old an iPhone and they're like Steve Jobs. There's that part of it.

Katrena Cohea:                        But there's something about also, I think just the energy of working with young kids that translates really well to being on video and being on the computer. And I know for myself personally, I know I have to bring that energy and that excitement if I'm recording a class because I know that, that's got to translate to the other side of the screen. It challenges me to really be on my game and bring the energy and keep it high. Keep the energy levels high. But yeah, it's one of those things that I think there's a line that has to be drawn. Personally, I'm sure there's other coaches or teachers out there who might have a system in place for working with teens and young professionals that works virtually. I just for dance, don't know how that would work, but I'm sure it's not outside of the realm of possibilities.

Dan:                                             Not at all. How are parents with that idea? 'Cause if I put my, I am not a parent. I can't even say I'm close to being a parent, but I would imagine you ... I remember when I was a kid and I was acting, my parents would pick me up, take me here, do this. If all my kid had to do was log on to a computer and boom, dance class started. That convenience, I'd have to imagine that they'd love it.

Katrena Cohea:                        Yeah, I think you're totally right. I think the convenience factor is really attractive to a lot of parents, because today's day and age kids are here and there and they're everywhere and they're driving, they're being chauffeured. To just be able to have like 30 or 45 minutes where your kids like, I mean, they're being instructed, but they're also like engage. It's not like they're just sitting in front of a television not using their brain or they're actively engaged and they're listening to music and they're responding and they're moving. And I think that's a huge bonus for a lot of parents. And it's nice because also translates outside of the home too.

Katrena Cohea:                        You've got preschools or daycare centers or any places that have kids in group settings. It's great for that too because you give the educators or the teachers access to your videos and bam, there's your PE classes or your yoga, whatever for three times a week or once a week, whatever. And it's just a nice, easy resource for them.

Nick:                                            Now walk me through as one of the last things we talk about, you started with these birthday parties or parties in general. What does that look like? What age are people asking you to come in? What kind of venue do they need to get set up? How does that go about?

Katrena Cohea:                        What I found was there was a lot of interest in the really young age group, three year olds, four year olds who love dancing around the house, but who maybe hadn't been to a dance class yet. There was a lot of interest, parents emailing and saying, "Hey, my kid loves to dance. I would love to know more about what you do with dance parties, how do you incorporate it, how you get the kids moving." And because the initial interest was for a really young age group, what I ended up doing was creating this kind of framework around the party where we start with a story because again what kid doesn't love stories? We start with a really simple story. Maybe it's Angelina Ballerina or one of my favorite kid's books is called Brontorina. It's about this brontosaurus who wants to be a ballerina. It's an amazing-

Dan:                                             Children's books are great.

Katrena Cohea:                        They really are. They're the best.

Nick:                                            As we wrap this episode up, is there anything else that you want to say to the listeners that you didn't get across in that conversation?

Katrena Cohea:                        I don't think so. I think-

Nick:                                            I think we covered a lot.

Katrena Cohea:                        Yeah, I think we did. It was a good convo.

Nick:                                            Awesome.

Dan:                                             If someone wants to keep the conversation going with you, learn more about your online consultor or even your online dance classes, where should they go? What should they look up? How does someone do business with you?

Katrena Cohea:                        Yeah, you can find me on all the social medias. My website is www.differentdrummerdance.com. And then from there, of course you can go to all the social medias. My Instagram and my Facebook handle are at diffdrumdance, it's just a D-I-F-F and then drum and dance. You can find me on Instagram or Facebook there. You can email me at any of those places or direct message me and find all of the different hats that I wear and all of the different kind of products and services.

Dan:                                             The entrepreneur you are.

Nick:                                            It's a very well laid out but very busy website. You got a lot going on.

Katrena Cohea:                        Thanks yeah, I know you guys know too, the website is like the clean version, right. And then underneath it's the duck paddle, like furiously paddling [inaudible 00:27:03] just to stay afloat. You're right. I've got 10,000 ideas going on, but I'm only going to put five of them on the website so people don't think I'm insane.

Nick:                                            Yeah, exactly. I like that duck analogy that's a good one.

Nick:                                            Alright. well thank you so much for being on the show today, Katrena.

Katrena Cohea:                        Yeah thank you.

Dan:                                             It was a great episode. Thank you so, so much.

Katrena Cohea:                        Thank you guys. I had a really good time talking with you. I appreciate it.

Dan:                                             If you like this episode, be sure to go and leave us a review. Your feedback helps us make better episodes every year. If you're a studio fitness owner who wants to streamline processes with a studio management software that's actually affordable, check out fitDEGREE. Go and find us @fitdegree.com. That's F-I-T-D-E-G-R-E-E.com to talk with a team member today. We'll see you back here next week, same day, same time for another podcast episode featuring amazing studio fitness owners. See you later everyone.

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