Dance has been a part of my life as long as I can remember. So much so that it is at the center of my very being. It's not just that I like to dance or love to dance; it's that I have to dance. The movement of ballet is embedded in my bones and woven into my muscles. It sparks a creative drive deep within my soul. This journey to my love affair with dance has not always been an easy road, but it's one that I'm so thankful I chose.
Like so many girls, I started dancing when I was four years old. I loved everything about ballet— the music, the costumes and the stage. Also like so many little girls, I had a dream to grow up and be a professional ballerina. I continued dancing all the way through high school and college and eventually found a job dancing professionally with the San Diego Ballet. It is difficult to put into words what it meant to fulfill this lifelong dream. I had finally arrived, and my years of sacrifice were paying off. The intense daily work of technique class and countless hours of rehearsal were all worth it when I stepped onto the stage. There I felt that I could truly be myself, or rather a better version of myself. Those years spent dancing professionally, living out my dreams in California, were some of the best years of my life. During my fifth season with the company, I experienced a major setback when I fell during a rehearsal and broke my foot in two places. I was able to rehab and come back for the remainder of the season, but I was constantly in pain. I had to ice the swelling down after every performance, and the daily grind started to take a toll. I had to make the extremely difficult decision to retire from the professional stage and wait to see what the next chapter of my life would hold.
For me, the end of my professional dancing career became my time to focus on building a family. I married my soulmate, moved to Richmond and began my teaching journey. It seemed only natural to share my love of dance with others. A year later, I discovered life’s biggest treasure and gave birth to our precious daughter. I found happiness and fulfillment outside the stage, as I had the most wonderful husband and a baby girl. I taught ballet at a local studio part-time and founded my non-profit performing company, the Stavna Ballet. Life seemed perfect again. Then in May of 2011, my brother died tragically from a brain aneurysm. My family was struck with this news of his sudden death. In the months that followed I found myself once again turning to dance, as it seemed that my only relief came within the walls of a dance studio. It was then that I decided to open a studio and expand my non-profit company. I realized that everything can be gone in the blink of an eye and that you truly must follow your passion while you have the opportunity. In the darkness I found light, and I used my brother’s kind spirit as an inspiration to spread the joy of dance. Building the Stavna Academy has given me the opportunity to impact so many children's lives positively. I have created a home where kids have a safe place to dance, create and love. My hope is that all children who pass through my school leave standing a little taller, not only having learned the technique of ballet but also ignited with a fire deep in their hearts. Now, having given birth to my adorable son I realize that he was the missing puzzle piece that completes my family. Creating this life in Richmond, Virginia has given me the chance to find the perfect balance of my two worlds .
Dance has always been an outlet for me. A place to go when the chaos of life becomes too much. A place where my soul feels free and everything makes sense. A place where I can become a creature, a princess, a swan—anything I want, if only for that fleeting moment. Once you experience this bliss of performing, there is no turning back.