There’s something about being around people who act on their passion. It’s as if they shine just a little bit brighter, you can feel their energy through the phone, and they electrify you when you’re around them. People who are plugged in to their source of passion simply zap you into attention. Enter Vancouver’s latest firefly: Suzy Kaitman, founder of Ballet Lounge and the spark behind the new craze of physical movement and expression: Ballet Fit.
You’ve probably heard this, but it’s a keeper:
Do you light up the room when you enter it, or does the room brighten as you leave?
No doubt, Kaitman brings her lightening bolts with her when she enters the room or takes the stage. I caught up with her at this past weekend’s 24th annual Wellness Show in Vancouver.
What is Ballet Fit?
It’s a workout inspired by the principles of classical dance that tones and sculpts your entire body. It includes elements of barre work, cardio, core and flexibility and we offer three levels to choose from.
Who is Suzy Kaitman?
Suzy has been dancing since she could walk. When ballet found her, it was as if a part of her clicked into place and she simply took off. As a young student dancer, she was always the keener, “give me more classes”, she said, “I want to do them all”. As many young dancers who have been claimed by the fire of movement, she immersed herself, upholding visions of a professional future in the form she loved. When her teen years arrived and her body lost its willowy childhood form and she emerged as a young woman of strength with curves and muscle and form, her dream of becoming a professional ballerina was dashed. “I don’t have the perfect ballet body. I’m not all legs with a long neck. My back doesn’t want to flex the way it needs to in order to make it in competitive dance”. She confessed that once she realized that her dream would never be her reality, she was so crushed and her heart so broken that even shows like So you Think you can Dance, were painful to watch.
We know this, but we like to pretend that it’s not true: through the course of our long life most of us will experience intense disappointment, the heart ache of broken dreams, or worse, the resignation of shattered beliefs. It’s unavoidable. Life happens. When we are children we frame anything is possible as if the rules don’t apply to us, only to discover at the tender stage of adolescence that whether we like it or not, sometimes our story is meant to change. It’s in those pivotal moments that our character is formed.
I’m almost finished David Brooks’ book, The Road to Character and it’s filled with centuries worth of history makers who chose character over complacency, their values over comfort, and lived audaciously by their passions. He gives us the story of George Eliot, which was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, a Victorian novelist and poet, to teach us about how character can come through the tumultuous path of love. He introduces us to Jewish psychiatrist, writer and holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl to show us how our character reveals itself though the happenings of how we live, and George Marshall, soldier and Nobel Peace Prize recipient whose story of consistent confrontation is what deepened his commitment to self-mastery. All of Brooks’ examples are true tales of adversity where each person’s struggle expanded the reach of their calling and developed layer upon layer of character along the way.
From my perspective, passion is the antidote to emptiness and it is the fuel that drives us to walk (or dance) courageously through our deepest grief. Suzy Kaitman’s journey to Ballet Fit was born out of a broken dream, yet what came next was even better than she could have imagined.
Kaitman was yearning for what ballet brought her so she continued to search for another way to express the passion that fires up her spirit. She kept looking for a career that could challenge and fulfill her the way that ballet did, and as it happens, as if by accident, she stumbled into the world of fitness and studied as a personal trainer and then began teaching. Her background in the often hardcore, serious and highly competitive world of ballet became her personal invitation and inspiration to turn it on it’s ear by breathing FUN into ballet. “When I discovered that I could teach ballet to house music, I would dive in so fully that I felt almost high after. When I’m dancing it’s as if nothing else matters. I’m in the moment and it’s like dance therapy.”
With that, Ballet Fit was born, which is different from the now popular barre classes happening around town. Ballet Fit blends a cardio workout with core strength, ballet positions and poses and it focuses on FUN and physical expression – just like dance.
When Ballet Fit clicked into place, Kaitman was living in Calgary, so I asked her what brought her to Vancouver? To which she chuckled and replied “Too many winters in Calgary I guess. Oh yeah, that and love”. Once again passion ruled for Kaitman and lucky for us, she followed her boyfriend here to the wild wet coast of Vancouver. She began teaching her Ballet Fit at the YMCA and quickly filled her first class which turned into three, which then grew to seventeen full classes happening at various venues around town. Figuring out she’d struck a cord in Vancouver, she solidified her decision to open up a new facility, Vancouver’s Ballet Lounge.
She goes on to tell me about how she’s not like those scary ballet people (think Natalie Portman in Black Swan), and after experiencing her in person, I can whole-heartedly vouch for that. At the 24th Annual Wellness Show she inspired a floor full of umbrella wielding wellness enthusiasts. Vancouverites kicked off their shoes and happily followed along bending, reaching and lifting. Kaitman reminds us that in her classes, you’re joining in to her “happy family” where she “celebrates you”. She adds that “people walk in to class so exhausted after a long day but after an hour of music, of oxygen and movement, they leave feeling alive again”.
I asked her what advice she would give someone who may be going through a similar dream-grief experience?
“The universe works in mysterious ways. Time heals all things so take that time as a separation to see your life from a different angle. Maybe there’s another calling for you.”
It takes takes passion to chase a dream.
To be a ballerina
To excel at what you do.
It takes courage to embrace the realities of a situation
To grieve a loss
To give time and space to a shattered dream.
It takes trust to answer a new calling
To try something new
To follow love.
And it takes the audacity of passion to follow the call.
Here’s to you Suzy Kaitman – Danceprenuer and Passion Enthusiast. Happy opening. I can’t wait to get my point and sweat on with you later this month.
TinaO is a writer, speaker and the founder of TinaOLife – a hub for all things worth living for, the workshop Live Your Best Story, and her coaching practice: Tall Poppy Living. She’s also a professional network marketer with a decade in the industry. She teaches: selling isn’t slimey and marketing isn’t make-believe. You can be yourself and be successful in Direct Sales.