I connected with Arielle on the Girlboss platform last month about our love for dance; she, however, had a much different trajectory than I did with the sport, which you’ll learn about in our interview.
Arielle is currently double majoring in dance and health science at Chapman University and naturally, would like to pursue a career in both industries after college. I’d say she perfectly emulates the definition of a Girlboss. And also, yes, I recognize some people have an aversion to the term ‘Girlboss’ and would prefer to simply use ‘Boss,’ but you know what, adding girl in front of any word just makes it sound better.
Can we collectively praise Queen’s Gambit?
Here is where I would typically give you the back story about my relationship with the interviewee, but seeing as we only just met virtually, let’s jump right in. Honestly, I’m over the phrase ‘let’s jump right in, or let’s dive right in,’ but I haven’t come up with a better one yet.
Maybe by the time I’m done transcribing it’ll come to me, at which point, I’ll be happy to circle back.
Leap right in? As a nod to dance? Turn right in?… whatever…
“Hi!” I started once Arielle’s beautiful face popped onto Zoom. I immediately reconsidered my indecision to change out of the maroon Harvard sweatshirt I purchased at the Bradley Airport as I swooned over her chic red sweater vest and a classic white button-down.
“You are seriously the cutest,” I smiled, trying to brush Azey out of the video, “you look like Rachel Berry before she went to college and learned about eyeliner!” I said sincerely.
She laughed and then gasped “your dog is adorable!” quickly muting an alert that came through on her computer.
We both swooned over Azey for too long before I explained the format of my blog, advising that hundreds of thousands of readers will be consuming this content. *insert sarcastic but hopeful smile*
“So, let’s just start with you telling me about yourself,” I suggested.
“Well, I was born and raised in California; my parents put me in dance when I was two and I’ve always felt most comfortable in a really creative space but I didn’t go to school that close to where I lived,” she began with a genuineness that radiated through the screen, “I actually traveled like an hour and a half every day for six years to go to a performing arts middle school and high school….”
Arielle also started photography at six years old and had the support of her parents and four siblings, which continued through her dance career.
“I started dancing professionally when I was ten,” she offered calmly, “and my parents would always take me to LA for auditions…”
Before she could continue, I raised my hand like I needed to be called on in class.
“When you say you danced professionally… what were you doing?” I asked, recalling the packed competitions I went to for RhythMotion, which was the most fun, but I sure as heck wasn’t getting paid for it.
“Yeah, so I got to tour with Debbie Allen in her production of Brothers of The Knight, and I was in Kidz Bop, and Awesomeness TV… stuff like that,” she answered, continuing by explaining the experience with her agent as well as the daunting audition process.
For those of you that aren’t familiar, Debbie Allen is a renowned choreographer, dancer, director, and producer, as well as singer-songwriter, and actress. If you’ve ever watched Dance Moms, you’ve likely seen her… no big deal…
“But then my Freshman year of high school, I dropped everything and had this idea that I wanted to be a film maker,” she explained, and I could tell this girl was Driven with a capital D. “I was researching film schools in my spare time and convinced myself I would be a cinematographer,” she paused as I let her ambition wash over me.
“So my school was a conservatory; they have dance, film, culinary -all the arts- and I thought, ‘I’m gonna apply for the film and television conservatory’ obviously,” she paused again and shined her enchanting smile, “but I didn’t get in and I quickly let that dream go.”
There didn’t seem to be any lingering feelings of disappointment; she simply explained her desire to refocus on dance and her training at school.
“I know we want to place a focus more on the Science side of things, but I’ve gotta know if there’s anything that sticks out from your time dancing professionally,” I urged as I watched her nod politely.
“It was definitely the very first job I booked when I was ten, and I’ve seen a lot of people from that production go on to do crazy things,” she offered. “One of my friends was on World of Dance…”
I cut her off before she could continue.
“Hold on, wait! I love World of Dance!” I exclaimed dramatically, as if it was some sort of secret society. “Who is it?”
Her charming smile persisted, “his name’s Aidan [Carberry] and he was so nice to me. It was just such a fun time. We toured all over the East coast without our parents and performed every weekend in front of audiences with over 5,000 people,” she explained emphatically.
“Okay, so then what happened to make you want to pivot into the Science realm?” I asked, realizing I shouldn’t spend all of our time talking solely about dance.
“Well, I took this Biology class my Freshman year and my teacher was just so good, I immediately had this desire to learn about the human body… I literally thought ‘I want to do Science,’” she laughed.
“Even when I was younger, like eight years old, I broke my foot and it put me out of dance for like four months and I remember being so impressed with my orthopedist.”
She went on to astutely recognize how everything just comes together to shape what you want to do with your life.
“And then I had a dance-science teacher that taught me everything, from physics to psychology to biology to anatomy, which gave me an idea about how I wanted to shape it into my career,” she expressed confidently.
Arielle is currently filming and editing all concept videos for that teacher / mentor who is the Head Director of the dance program at Mater Dei. Talk about a cool-ass title.
To be clear, guys, Arielle is going to college, filming and editing concept videos, choreographing dance routines, and doing photography on the side.
“So, talk more about what you’ve learned during your exploration into science,” I asked unintelligently as I recalled my experience dissecting a frog in high school.
“My sophomore year, I got really into physics,” she started and shifted in her cushioned white chair (bold choice), “quantum physics, specifically, and I was like ‘what the heck is this stuff?’ quantum gravity is so interesting and Planck’s constant and time travel…” she stopped briefly. “I was definitely not the normal high school student that wanted to go out and party; I was the nerd of the school and I was just so interested in learning about everything.”
This is what they mean when they say, ‘these are our future leaders.’
She explained that she’s been going to physical therapy more recently and is very interested in taking that route, along with the incorporation of orthopedics.
“I don’t think people realize how much physics relates to dance, like with kinematics, rotational dynamics, and all these different things that are so important. Even when you look at Newton’s three laws; an object in motion stays in motion unless acted upon by an outside source. Think about how much you can turn when you have that new pair of dance shoes on a slick surface,” she smiled at the thought, “and then what happens when they start to get worn down and more sticky?… we can’t rotate as easily. I just think we overlook it a lot as dancers, especially when we get injured.”
I reveled in the way Arielle lit up as she talked through the different aspects of her scientific interests.
“It’s just so clear that everything we do is connected. I hurt my foot recently and I know it’s because I put too much pressure on it and now it’s reverberating up into my knee, or ‘oh my knee is hurting… it’s because I’m rotating it in when I walk,” she expanded. “I kind of went all over the place with that, but yeah, it’s so fascinating to me…”
“Totally,” I agreed, “and I know we’re kind of sticking to the dance-science arena, but this same logic obviously applies to any injury… and you hear different experts talk about best practices. I watched that documentary HEAL on Netflix and they go full send on the power of the mind… literally saying the mind itself can fix everything. Then people often advocate for a plant-based diet… and some people still subscribe to taking opiates to heal… I guess I’m asking what your thoughts are on the general recovery process,” I concluded.
She nodded politely.
“I actually have early on-set osteoarthritis; best thing for wanting to be a professional dancer… highly recommend,” she rolled her eyes. “But yeah, I can talk about it because most of the population actually has some level of arthritis and I really do buy in to the fact that if you don’t want to get well, you won’t. When I was diagnosed, I convinced myself my life was over, and I lived that way for months.”
She brushed the smooth collection of hair strands away from her eye.
“But then when I got to college, I told myself I wasn’t going to live that way and I’ve worked hard to make sure I’m not limiting myself,” Arielle continued to talk about her treatment planning and how important it is for every individual to have a treatment plan they actually feel positive about.
“Right… I fully believe in the powers of the mind, not only with how it impacts our body, but with all aspects of life. When people dwell on the fact that they don’t have money, or will never have money, or resent those with money, that’s what they bring in… NO MONEY,” I voiced in agreement.
“Obviously, I don’t believe that if we just think about healing, we’ll heal. But I do believe it sets the vibration and allows us to seek out modalities that will aid in the recovery process,” I spouted as if I actually knew anything about the science of the human body.
She agreed, so we good.
I asked her to talk a bit about the aging process and the supposed natural deterioration of our joints and bones, and if she had any thoughts on the slow down, because from where I’m sitting, getting old just doesn’t sound like a fun time.
“I would say two things,” she started. “I would say listen to your body and do something you love every day, because honestly, there will come a point when you won’t be able to do it, or you’ll just have to modify like I did during my rehab. So, I would use my arms to dance, and then I would choreograph routines, but if I couldn’t walk one day, I wouldn’t push it. I would stay home, ice my back and roll it out.”
Arielle conveyed her deep love for her foam roller, explaining that’s how she listens to her body.
I legitimately took that as confirmation that I shouldn’t push myself to long-distance run. I’ve never liked it, yet I’ve always felt it’s something I should do. Same with yoga… I’ve never left a yoga class and thought, ‘man, I can’t wait to go back!’
I love being out in nature, either on a walk or a hike. I enjoy resistance work, a dance workout, even weights I don’t mind.
“I also meditate a lot,” she said, “whenever I have a stressed mind, I can always feel the effects it has on my body.”
Doesn’t it always come back to meditation, guys? If you’re not doing it, join the club – it’s v special.
“Can you talk at all about any beliefs you have surrounding what food we put into our body? I know with dance, the topic can be pretty touchy, since we’re meant to be very thin… at least that’s how I remember it,” I voiced.
“Yeah, the dance community can be brutal; you want to have small waist, broad shoulders, small legs, and a thigh gap… at least that was the ideal image for me for a long time,” she explained. “Body shaming is definitely a thing and I definitely remember being so excited when I lost ten pounds because I was only eating one meal a day.”
We looked at each other and shrugged with sadness, but also with hope that the up and coming generation will be more inclusive and accepting of everyone. Yes, we said all that to each other simply with our eyes.
“But I really don’t subscribe to one way of eating. I think diet culture has been so damaging, and really the same food can affect people so differently. My boyfriend can eat a whole tub of ice cream and be totally fine, but if I did that, the bloat would be unreal,” she laughed.
“Girl, same! My boyfriend can eat a whole block of cheese, but if I have a dash of milk in my coffee, my skin’s like, ‘bitch, no,’” I commiserated.
“Yeah, that goes back to listening to your body… I just think everyone has to figure out what works best for them which takes practice, and you don’t know until you try things and it doesn’t work.”
I thought about the training we’re doing with Azey and how we must continue putting her in situations to fail in order to succeed. She must’ve sensed my typing about her – she just woke up and looked at me then fell back asleep.
“So, I know we’re talking about different aspects of the body, but I assume you condone the fact that there’s got to be a symbiotic relationship between your physical health, mental health, spiritual health, and emotional health to be truly thriving,” I stated in the form of a question.
“For sure. I feel like I put a decent amount of time towards everything. It’s definitely not equal but journaling really helps me keep track of where I’m at. Also, if my back is hurting, I always prioritize that ahead of class, because if I’m not doing well physically, there’s no way I can focus on anything else.”
She continued on about how it’s much easier to incorporate certain things if that’s how you grew up, like going to church, or eating well; meditating is not something that was prioritized in her house, so she’s had to really work to keep that a habit.
“I know we’re limited on time, but I always like to ask about big picture dreams, which I suppose is just another way of saying, ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’” I questioned intently.
Arielle responded modestly at first, “I don’t even know, because I once said I was gonna go to MIT and study physics and work for NASA and be the first person on Mars, but then COVID hit and I was like ‘what the heck was I thinking?’”
“Why would you ask ‘what the heck were you thinking’ just because of COVID?” I probed.
“Well, I just took a step back and recognized that I shouldn’t plan out every single step of my life… I realized I was never living in the moment. There’s one thing to have goals, and there’s another to always live in the future,” she expressed with poise.
“Buuuuut, if I did have to answer that question, I’d say I kind of have a three-step system planned out. I’d want to choreograph for music videos and television shows, grow my photography business, which I would always have, shooting big artists and collaborating with them on a deeper level, and then once I’m done with school, become an orthopedic surgeon for dancers at collegiate and professional levels, helping them recover from injuries.”
I smiled as she listed out how she envisioned her future, recognizing that some people just have such palpable ambition; even if they want to be more care-free and in-the-moment, they’ve got plans… big plans.
Of course, we concluded with our thoughts on different World of Dance contestants and winners, half of which she knew (amazing) and I preemptively congratulated her on the inevitable presidency win she will secure in 2060.