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Rising Stars: Meet Haley Smith

Today we’d like to introduce you to Haley Smith.

Haley, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
My mom enrolled me in dance class after she caught me tap dancing on the coffee table in our living room. I was watching Singin’ in the Rain with Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds and mimicking their movements, essentially teaching myself how to dance. I have been dancing ever since. My formal training started in North Carolina where I studied all genres of dance from ballet, tap and jazz, to hip hop, modern, pointe, and more. At a young age, I balanced competing in gymnastics and performing at our annual dance recitals. Eventually, I could no longer do both and knew even as a ten years old that I wanted to dance professionally. I attended Loyola Marymount University and received my Bachelor of Arts in Dance and Spanish. Graduating during a global pandemic derailed many of my career plans. Despite this setback, I am in LA, pursuing my career as a dance performer and dance teacher while supporting my passion for health and wellness as a fitness instructor.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Even though 2020 halted many people’s lives, my biggest obstacle came in 2019. While dancing, I dislocated my shoulder completely tearing my labrum, ligaments and damaging nerves throughout my entire upper arm. The incident of the injury was traumatizing as my shoulder was dislocated for 1.5 hours before I arrived at the ER. Not only was I unable to dance at full capacity for months, but I had to heal from the trauma and build back my physical and mental strength. I believed my chances at having a career in dance were ruined. I lost confidence in my abilities as a dancer, a performer and an artist. Anytime I moved my body, I suffered from disassociation. Despite losing my sense of identity as a dancer, I also couldn’t stay away and retrained myself to dance with my arm strapped to my waist. Slowly, I built back my physical strength, I reconnected my body halves after dancing with the right side only, and I worked hard to beat my fear of dancing freely again.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am pursuing dance as a career, with a focus on performing. I specialize in jazz, ballet, contemporary and heels while continuously training in all styles of dance. In addition to that, I am passionate about teaching. I teach and choreograph all styles of dance for the new generation of dancers. Recently, I’ve found my newest adventure in the fitness industry. I am an instructor with The AKT Studios, where I guide fitness classes combining dance cardio and strength intervals for a full body workout. My goal post 2020 pandemic year was to find a way to incorporate my passion for dance, teaching and fitness in a way that would supplement my career goals and fill my soul. I’m proud of myself for doing it and I’m reaping the benefits because I genuinely love what I’m doing every day.

Where we are in life is often partly because of others. Who/what else deserves credit for how your story turned out?
No one will compare to my ballet teacher at LMU, John Todd. He impacted my life in so many ways and unfortunately, I was never able to tell him how much he meant to me as he passed away unexpectedly from cancer my senior year. To demonstrate his dedication to teaching, he taught us on Zoom the week before he passed away. I had taken his ballet class every semester since the start of college. My first class with him I almost threw up, it was so hard. Yet, I was addicted to the rigor of class, the challenges he gave me, the standards he set for me. The fight I needed to impress him made me the best and strongest dancer I’d ever been. He reignited my passion for ballet which I had lost in high school. He was the type of teacher that was extremely hard on you, only because he believed in you. John Todd was magic. He managed to convince every single person who took his ballet classes that they could do anything they set their mind to. We had similar backgrounds growing up and I connected with him immediately. I knew he loved me like a daughter and I looked up to him like a father. My success, I can’t give him credit for because he wouldn’t allow me to. He’d insist my success was my own, and it is. However, my journey here and my journey moving forward would not have been the same without him. He continues to inspire my teaching methods. He continues to inspire my dancing. Every success, small or big, I share with him and I will always thank him.

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