Today we’d like to introduce you to Bri Norris.
Bri, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
My story is multifaceted and both parts are of equal importance. Since I was quite young, I wanted to head West for my college education, however due to circumstances at that time, I decided to stay closer to home for my undergraduate degree. After receiving my Bachelors from Bethany College in West Virginia, and with a lot of encouragement from friends, family and professors, I applied to USC for my Masters in Social Work. Everyone encouraged me to chase my dreams. From the time I got my acceptance in May of 2018, I had only three months to plan a cross-country move. It was overwhelming at times, and I often questioned if I was going to be able to do it. Between packing my entire life to fit into a very small car (which I drove 3000 miles), working and saving as much as possible waitressing at a local Yacht club, and finding time to spend with family, as well as a mid-summer trip to tour USC, find housing and at least see L.A. before moving there, it was hard but entirely worth it. One of the reasons USC appealed to me for my MSW was their acceptance of expressive therapy for behavioral modification, which is the premise of my long-term goals and aligns with my journey.
As for dance, I started dancing when I was 2 1/2 years old. I soon began training regularly in Ballet, Jazz, Modern, and Acro at Simply Nikkis Dance Studio (Jeannette, PA) and was a student teacher there for many years. In middle school, I added Hip Hop to my training. I even took instruction in Irish Step Dancing and Native American Fancy Dancing for a time when I was little. Any style of dance was a passion for me and still is to this day. Dance was very much a daily part of my life and one I was determined not to let go. After taking classes at many different places in and around LA, through a new friend, I got to meet MOB company dancers whom I had been following on Instagram for years. In November of that year, I auditioned for MOB and found my dance home.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It was anything but a smooth road, though in retrospect, it could always have been worse. Back home, my entire family lives within 15 minutes of each other off of the only major highway in our area. Even when I was at Bethany, it was only a two-hour drive to see my family and friends. Now it’s a flight, with 1-2 layovers at different airports. That’s been very hard for me, and I once flew home on a red eye landing on a Saturday morning to attend an afternoon wedding, was home a total of 18 hours before hopping a flight back to LA. When people say grad school is tough, they aren’t exaggerating. It’s hard and trying to find a work/life balance to ensure mental health and wellbeing is a constant struggle. It’s also hard being in an environment where you know so few people. Sleep becomes something to cherish and stress is never far away. And of course, my last semester, the Pandemic happened creating chaos with both of my internships, our classes, graduation, everything. Dance went to remote zoom rehearsals, and gyms, which I go to 3-5 times a week were now closed. I think everyone faced a different reality during Pandemic times, and still are, but it most definitely was and is a struggle.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
Currently, I work in the social work field for a local non-profit agency awaiting my ASW while preparing to take my CBEST exam so that I can gain employment as a Psychiatric Social Worker in a school district. That will allow me to use my Pupil Personnel Service Credential while working toward becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. It’s imperative that I make continual progress so that I can obtain my long term goal of opening a non-profit agency for at risk youth utilizing expressive and artistic therapy (including but not limited to dance, writing, painting, fitness, boxing, photography, culinary arts, etc.) to assist in providing positive coping mechanisms as well as incorporating therapy and tutoring services,
In the last year, I’ve also begun portrait photography and am in the process of developing a brand and will hopefully soon move forward in that industry.
I am also a company dancer for the MOB Dance Company (San Fernando, CA). I am focusing on all opportunities the company offers. We rehearse regularly and through our director Jay Chris Moore and Sara Ro, I have been given the opportunities to train under and perform with top names in the industry, including Jay himself. Since auditioning and making the company 2.5 years ago, I have performed in Carnival, exhibition performances, various videos including the MOB’s InviteOnly 2020 which is available on the website, and we are currently in preproduction for MOB InviteOnly 2021 which will drop this summer. I’ve been blessed to have the support of Professors, Field Instructors, my bosses at work, and the MOB directors. Without their support, I wouldn’t be able to chase both dreams. I have to say that it’s more than just dance at MOB, they became my family, and while struggling with transitioning from Pennsylvania to California, they became my home away from home.
Is there something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
Something most people don’t know is that, while dance is my passion, I have had successes in other avenues. I trained and competed in Tang So Do when I was younger, winning 1st in Breaks, 1st in Form, and 2nd in full contact Sparring. I began cheering competitively at four years old through my freshman year in high school and cheered in both middle school and high school as well as my freshman year in college) and hold 14 National Titles, with seven being for dance and 7 for cheer. I also trained for bodybuilding then switched to powerlifting in 2017 where I competed in a push/pull with a deadlift of 300 pounds and placed first in women’s category and second overall for PR.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/bri.norris/
- Facebook: www.facebook.com/bri.norris.5