Welcome to Project Fabulous Femme! Once or twice a month, I'll introduce you to a Fabulous Femme who's inspired me. I invite them to share their perspectives on being a modern woman and other vital corps topics. Please be kind, curious, and open-minded.
Meet Sarita Allen.
Honestly, the first time I met Sarita I wanted to punch her square in the nose. Ok, maybe just trip her. Either way, it’s pretty weird to daydream about assaulting the woman who would become such a generous, inspiring and patient mentor to me. In my defense, it was during my first ever Pilates class. While I was a sweaty, red-faced, inflexible pile of limbs on the floor, Sarita captivatingly glided around the room.
Even though I fucking hated that first Pilates class, I went back for two reasons:
- My ego - I wasn’t going to let that class get the best of me.
- I just wanted to watch Sarita move around the room all fierce, cat-like and powerful.
Had I known everything that really made Sarita so very, well, Sarita that day, I probably would have psyched myself out of returning to any Pilates class ever again. And I wouldn’t have trained to become a Pilates teacher for 3 years. And I wouldn’t have realized exercise alone can’t fix everything as a Pilates instructor. And I wouldn’t be doing the transformative work I do with women today if not for her encouragement at a pivotal time of transition in my life.
Naïvely, I thought Pilates was what allowed Sarita to move like that. Au contraire! The reality is Sarita is an artist. By title and experience, she is Artist-in-Residence with Complexions and a former principal dancer with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (for three decades!). All the while, she was studying Pilates (from grand dame Kathy Grant) and Gyrotonics (from founder Julio Horvath) in tandem to become the masterful, intuitive fitness instructor she is today.
Beyond all of the obvious wisdom she imparted to me, she modeled how to show-up in the world exactly as you are and fiercely own it. (More on that from Sarita herself below.) She also demonstrated being wildly creative, yet disciplined, within a discipline. For all of that, I’m grateful. May her words below inspire you even 1/100th as much as she’s inspired me.
Q + A
How would you define being a modern woman in 2015? I define modern femininity as multi-faceted, complex and layered. Gloriously so! In my opinion, the beauty of modern womanhood means NOT allowing oneself to be defined, but instead embracing your individuality and owning your uniqueness. I’ve never heard men asked to define themselves — likewise, women don’t all think, act, or vote alike, etc, etc. Isn’t that, in fact, the power of modern womanhood — granting yourself the freedom to “do you” and not allowing others’ opinions or definitions of what you should be like dictate your behavior. ALWAYS keep them guessing is how I define us!
What would you like to see modern women give more of a shit about? I wish that all women would put themselves first more often and care more about their own physical, emotional, spiritual and financial well-being. Most women who I know are consumed by taking care of others' needs (their partners, children, parents, colleagues, etc.) but actually spend a fraction of their time tending to their own needs and desires. I firmly believe that you can’t truly be there for others unless and until you are healthy and content on your own.
Conversely, what would you like see modern women give less of a shit about? I’d like to see modern women care less about what society and me think about them and focus instead on what motivates them to be the best they can be!
What is your superpower? In other words, what can you do on a superstar-level without even thinking about it? I’ve always been adept at coaching and teaching others. Even as a very young professional dancer I recognized that I had the ability to assist others with learning choreography, movement coaching and technique. Helping others to broaden their horizons by learning new things has always been a passion of mine and I find that when I’m in “instructor mode” I am often at my happiest and most productive. Today I channel my passion for teaching into many projects such as fitness instructor (helping others master pilates, gyrotronic and yoga techniques) and artistic coach for other professional dancers in need of support with embracing new genres or choreography. The joy that I receive from using my “superpower” to help others achieve their goals and reach their personal best is immensely fulfilling.
What advice/quote/prayer/mantra/book/whatever keeps you going when you're feeling down and out? “TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN, MUCH IS EXPECTED.” I remind myself of this on an almost daily basis! To me this bible passage means not looking over your shoulder while counting others' blessings and not dwelling on what you don’t have. But instead focusing on the many blessings and special talents that we each possess while recognizing that with possession of the gifts in our lives comes a responsibility to share those gifts with the world in our own way. Likewise my dear mentor, Alvin Ailey, was fond of saying, “Dance came from the people and should always be delivered back to the people.” To me, both sayings reflect the necessity to share one’s talents with others as a noble display of generosity and love!
Is stress necessary on the path to success? Why or why not? Throughout my entire career as an artist before every performance I feel stressed! Some of my best performances have followed bouts of fairly serious anxiety. This has taught me over the years that stress is a fundamental way of life and can actually be a positive thing. Instead of viewing stress as negative, I choose to equate it with energy and evidence that whenever I’m feeling stress it is actually because I am striving for greatness, searching or reaching for something — all good! Physically, a certain level of stress is necessary for the body to build strength and to flourish. After all, out of the stress of childbirth comes a living human being. So, in my opinion, the path to success is paved with many stressful moments that can be transformed into wonderful opportunities and experiences. In any event, it’s impossible to shield oneself completely from stress so it’s best to realize that stress is largely all about how you choose to embrace it — trust me, it’s less “stressful” that way!
Who’s a fabulous femme inspiring you? What makes her so fabulous to you? Fortunately over the years I have been surrounded by many fabulous women who have each inspired me in various ways with their unique talents and skills. Some of the women who I now coach inspire me daily and fill me with awe. However, the woman who has consistently never failed to lift me up is my mother. My mother is the personification of unconditional love and acceptance. She literally taught me to dream big without allowing others to set my goals. She is an artist, a musician, an AIDS activist, a civil rights advocate and a tireless supporter of her children, including this renegade daughter who left home at the tender age of 16 to pursue a career in dance. Without her strong love and encouragement, I could not have achieved some of the successes and accolades that I’ve been blessed with over years.
Did something Sarita said resonate with you? Did it make you think? If so, you can learn more from other Fab Femmes. Please do share.
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