2 words that will boost your creative power

I was in a session with one of my amazing dancer clients earlier this week. She was struggling a bit with solidifying the solo dance piece she is in the process of choreographing.


To paraphrase her dilemma:


“I don’t know what moves should go where. I don’t know if I should wear shoes or go barefoot. I’m playing around with different song ideas….”


Whether or not you’re a choreographer, maybe you can relate in some area of your life?

Is there a place where you’re just not sure what should go where and so you hang out in wishy-washy land?


It’s easy to stay wishy-washy.


It’s easy to avoid making a decision in hopes that it will just be made for you.


It’s easy to defer your power to something outside of you: an authority figure, your astrological forecast, your partner, etc.


Believe me - this is one of my biggest downfalls and easiest trap to fall into.


But I learned something extremely powerful in the last week -


It’s actually MUCH easier to simply decide.


Repeat after me - these are the 2 simple words that will boost your creative power big-time:


I decide.


When you make a decision and commit to it - whether it’s with a piece of art you’re creating or within a relationship or career decision - you free yourself.


You also free the people in your life.


Contrary to the typical fear that you’ll be cutting off so many other amazing potential choices, by zeroing in one thing, you actually expand your potential.


Suddenly the world opens up.

In the example of my client session, I coached her into the remembrance that this is HER piece and HER choice -  no one else’s. There’s no wrong decision. She let herself dance into exactly what she wanted and afterwards felt more powerful and free than she had in awhile.


And isn’t that a mirror for life?


Boldly choose your path and stick to it. Things might change down the road, but if you don’t commit to SOMETHING, you’re stifling a whole lotta energy and creating confusion in the world.


Let’s say the words one more time:

i decide 600


It’s your life, it’s your art. Take the reigns and dance with them.


to the power in you,


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Are YOU ready to take your power back and initiate creative change in your life?

Let me lovingly kick your butt into action this fall.

jesstutu5 spots are open in my calendar next week for a 30-minute Creative Guidance Session. I’ll help you identify exactly what’s blocking you, what your bigger creative vision is (it might not be what you think!), and how I can guide you step by step through the process of making lasting change.

Click here to claim your spot.


how one woman quit her job & made dance her career

There comes a point when you have to stop blaming your job, your relationship, your health, your family, your crap-that-only-happens-to-me, and you start taking charge of your own life.


You dance because you want to. You create the life you desire.


I’m not saying the outer circumstances or roadblocks aren’t real - oh boy, are they real!


And I’m not saying that the change will happen overnight - very often transitions are convoluted, challenging, and not black-and-white.


But I am saying that it starts with a moment:

a commitment to oneself to gather all the power you can muster, to bring in support where needed, to take responsibility, and to make the first tiny step.


One of my joys in life is to be the midwife for this kind of creative emergence - helping people take back creative license on their LIVES. It’s not just about making art, it’s about making your life what you want it to be.


The story I’m going to share with you today is of one of my clients Aimee who successfully quit her 9-5 job and made dance her career.

It involved letting go of the fears around disappointing her family (it was a family business) as well as her fear that her new path would be a failure (it’s not).


In Aimee’s words:


“I have accomplished A LOT with Jess.


“I have quit my job (!!!), I have my own dance company that performs, I teach dance workout, I have my own class where I teach my own choreography each week, I am dancing in multiple companies, and have noticed a new respect from peers within the dance community.


“A lot has shifted for me. I feel like I am on my life path and it feels so good and I am not only one who gets to enjoy this shift, everyone around me gets to enjoy being around a happier, more loving, more creative and thoughtful me. It’s awesome!”


Want to know more about how it happened?


Watch her Showcase video below where we talk candidly about:

  • Aimee’s transition out of her job

  • what it’s like to make dance your career

  • AND get a peek at Aimee’s debut dance video that she created as her final project in the Thriving Artist’s Program.

Please comment below with your questions or takeaways that you want to apply to your own life!

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Are YOU ready to take your power back and initiate creative change in your life?

Let me lovingly kick your butt into action this fall.

jesstutu5 spots are open in my calendar next week for a 30-minute Creative Guidance Session. I’ll help you identify exactly what’s blocking you, what your bigger creative vision is (it might not be what you think!), and how I can guide you step by step through the process of making lasting change.

Click here to claim your spot.


There’s a creative world in you waiting to dance it’s way through you.

Don’t stop the flow.

Let it go.

It’s time to grow.

I told you so.




supporting the most expressed, fulfilled version of you,


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Here's Aimee's awesome dance video that she choreographed and produced:

"The project I am presenting for the showcase is called Vampire Teeth and is an original choreography created by me and filmed by my good friend Mallika Prakash.

"Vampire Teeth, by the reggae/dancehall artist Busy Signal, was a song created for revenge against another dancehall artist Movado (I think) who was talking shit. The song it’s self is all over the place lyrically but the beat is strong, dark, and menacing so I tried to create a work that had those qualities plus more literally gangster and warrior like. This piece incorporates movements from dancehall, Afro-Haitian, and Afro-Cuban dance to tell a story of anger, death, and remorse. This is not a happy dance but more darkly expressive. For me it was a healthy way to express my anger for whatever reason."

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What will YOU create?

Let's talk and find out.

jesstutu5 spots are open in my calendar next week for a 30-minute Creative Guidance Session. I’ll help you identify exactly what’s blocking you, what your bigger creative vision is (it might not be what you think!), and how I can guide you step by step through the process of making lasting change.

Click here to claim your spot.


creating when you don’t really have anything to say

Do I actually have anything profound to say?




Will anyone care?


I don’t know.


What if I say something wrong or piss someone off?


You might.








This week’s post is really as simple as that.


Because I don’t have anything earth-shattering to share with you, but I made a commitment to Creative Fridays and here I am.


Where are you?


Have you been holding anything back?

Or holding yourself back from creating because you don’t feel like you have anything to really say?


Sometimes we just need someone to hold us accountable or hold space for something to come through.

Please share below if you are needing accountability or empty space in which to express yourself. 


Not everything you create will be profound. And that’s ok.

What matters is that you show up.


dancing anyway,



how to find your true calling

For a long time I struggled with finding my "true calling."

Ballet felt too restrictive, as did traditional psychology or other professional fields.


I would write pros & cons lists about taking a certain path.

I consulted advisors and psychics and friends.

I still felt lost, and not quite at home in myself.


Even up until recently, I thought I had to get really clever about what I called myself. I thought I had to “market” myself as a coach in a certain way. I thought I had to get a certain kind of degree or title to truly find success.


JessGrippo_Day1-739-PROOFAnd then I stopped thinking and I started dancing.


When I look back, thinking never really got me anywhere.

It was in the moments that I followed the impulse of what I needed to do for myself - to heal a wounded part of me or to fulfill a deeper longing - that I was steered in the right direction.


In short, I made it more simple. I danced and I shared that dancing with people.


Now, when others seek me out for help - to get back into dance in their own way, to develop their self-expression and artistry, to connect to their bodies - I’m in awe.

"Is it really that simple?"

And then my inner voice goes, “Duh, Jess. Yes it is.”


I’m nowhere near having it “all figured out” and probably never will, but I am committed to keeping things simple so that I can serve the world in the best way I know how.


How about you?

Where in your life are you over-thinking or over-complicating things?


Pretend you’re talking to a 5-year old and tell them what you do (or what you want to be doing). I’ve found that’s the simplest way to cut out the bullshit and get to your essence.


If you were 5, here’s what I’d tell you:


I’m Jess. I dance and help other people dance their own special kind of dance.


Who are you? (If a 5-year-old asked)


Tell me in the comment box.


And for anyone out there who does want to dance more, click here for a really special opportunity to work with me next month.


To the simplest version of you,


feeling lazy & hazy?

Ever have those days where you don’t feel like doing anything productive? Where you physically and mentally feel like you can’t do anything productive?


That was me on Monday. And despite what I know about the cyclical nature of emotions and creativity, I still got really frustrated with myself for not getting more done. By the late afternoon, I surrendered and decided to just enjoy the rest of the evening, see friends, and not do “work” that day.


On Tuesday, I woke up at 3:30am and couldn’t relax. I’m normally a sound sleeper, so it seemed strange. I checked in with my heart and felt a mix of fear/paranoia and... excitement. I did some writing to reflect on the previous day, feeling somewhat stuck and unproductive in my work day, but excited and giddy in other places.


When meditation and willing myself back to sleep didn’t work, I thought, “why don’t you move your body, Jess.”

If my heart was nervous and anxious maybe moving it through my body would be helpful.


I put on Jason Derulo’s latest hit “Want to Want Me” (obsessed!) and boogied around until I had an idea...


I started piecing together all of my 15 second Instagram dance videos since March and strung them together to make a piece of choreography. (So freeing and healing to do this since the last few months have been a huge rough transition.)


And then ideas for my new dance program came through loud and clear, and I wrote out the plan for it.


I did more between the hours of 4am and 8am than I had done the entire previous day.


It was a good reminder that if I try to force my creative flow, it feels off and doesn't accomplish much. And really, I don’t have control of the timing of things.


So if you’re out there feeling stuck, blocked, or lazy, don't force anything. Go with the flow of your body and stay open to magic.


Be lazy and hazy if you need to.

Trust that it will flow again.


Not being “productive” is probably just your subconscious saving energy for the next great thing.


to not trying so hard,


p.s. Here's some video footage from my dance rehearsal in the park at 7am that Tuesday morning!

your creativity is not a luxury

wassupToday’s message is short and sweet:


Your creativity is not a luxury to reserve for the moment when everything is perfect again.


Your creativity is your savior right now. Right in the midst of all the tough stuff and your busy schedule.


Your creativity is what will help you pick up the pieces, smush them back together, and present them back to the world in a new and unique way. In a way that is purely, genuinely, vulnerably you. In a way that will elicit emotions and connection from other human beings, inspiring them to feel something long tucked away.


It has the potential to change lives. To save lives.


Do not forget this.


It’s time.


Come home to your creative self.


If you don’t know how, just start somewhere. Do a dance. Draw. Sing. Make something.


(And if you feel lost,  I have an awesome GPS system that can help you find your true north.)


When have YOU experienced creative or artistic expression as a life saver or life changer? Has it ever helped you get through a rough time? Please share below!


you have arrived,



p.s. There's still time to apply to the Thriving Artist's Program. Did you check it out yet?

p.p.s. In honor of Father's Day coming up and the reminder that creativity is not a luxury, let my dad remind you to dance in the rain:

how do you know if you've lost your rhythm?

8 years ago, I started a word doc called “Rhythm.”


 I was fascinated with the concept of rhythm -

how it’s in us, physically in our bodies,

how we recreate it through music,

how we dance to it,

and how all that is a microcosm for our daily lives.


At the time, I imagined that I would someday go to grad school and write a thesis on rhythm, using those notes as the foundation.


I didn’t end up in grad school, but I did somehow come full circle with this concept of rhythm, as I study, teach, and live it on a daily basis.


For the most part, I've kept my rhythm - in my body while dancing and in my life - but there have been many times when I felt out of sync and lost it: the times when I wasn't dancing or in my body as much, the times when I wasn't living in alignment with what I truly wanted.


You might be wondering -


What is MY rhythm? How do I know if I’ve lost it?


On an intuitive level you just might KNOW because you feel that internal gauge not quite being in sync. You might feel off-kilter or like a hot mess.


Here are a few other external markers of being out of rhythm with yourself and your life:


  • the way your schedule flows doesn’t feel good and isn’t in line with what you actually want to be doing

  • you feel uncomfortable in your body and often fight against it’s fatigue, weight, or how you “should” exercise more

  • you’re always on the go and don’t have much time to pause, rest, and take care of your basic needs like eating healthy meals or sleeping properly


The list could go on.


Can you relate?


The good news is, YOU have the power to change your rhythm and get in alignment with what truly feels good to you.


I created a video for you to help you get there and I’d love to share it with you now.


I’ll talk a little more about the external markers of being out of rhythm, and then take you through a physical exercise to help you find it again. It’s a really valuable tool that you can use on a daily basis - and I highly recommend you do so!


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[button link="http://jessgrippo.com/find-your-rhythm/" size="large" color="aqua" window="yes"]Click here to watch![/button]

Don’t procrastinate on this one. The rhythm in you is craving its flow, so let’s get to it!


keeping the beat alive,



p.s. After you watch the video there's a special invitation for something I'm doing that starts on June 9th. Be sure to watch and read NOW so that you don't miss it!


have patience in your process

“Being an artist means, not reckoning and counting, but ripening like the tree which does not force its sap and stands confident in the storms of spring without fear that after them may come no summer. It does come. But it comes only to the patient, who are there as though eternity lay before them, so unconcernedly still and wide. I learn it daily, learn it with pain to which I am grateful: patience is everything!”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from Letters To A Young Poet


Patience in the storms of spring…


I read those words and suddenly the tides of emotions I’ve been feeling, the inner struggles I’ve been facing, all made sense.




spring flowers and sunLet’s not forget that spring can be tumultuous. Yes, there’s green growth happening and pretty flowers blooming on trees around us, but think of the work that transformation takes! From the dead of the winter when much is dormant, new life arises. Don’t expect it to be smooth. Growth is messy.


When you commit to an artistic life (i.e. when you realize that calling deep down that it’s in you, whether or not you’re actively making art), you’re also signing up to feel the cycles and seasons of life - magnified!


You are an artist. You are more sensitive to the world around you. You feel things deeply. You long to express that energy inside, you long to paint the world with your colors and strokes.


And so your body tunes in to everything around you - especially the changing seasons and moon cycles.


You can choose to numb out to all of this. And many do.

You can cover the feelings and cycles with a whole range of things: from booze to Netflix to overly “busy” syndrome. You can pretend the creative impulse is not really there and instead just live a “normal” life.


But does the straight and narrow path really work for you?


Rebell against the status quo! (quoting my dad Gerry Grippo on that one ;)

Make waves, paint your strokes, choose your colors.

And don’t be afraid of a stormy spring.

The summer WILL come.

The sap will flow.

Without having to push or force or try,

you will channel something beautiful into the world.

It will come together.

Trust this emergence.

Have patience with your delicate process.

And while you ride the storms of spring, don’t forget to dance through the rain.

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If you’re feeling the storms of spring deeply,

You don’t have to ride them alone.

Dance into your answers with me on June 10th in NYC:


or online on June 9th:



with surrender to spring and faith in my heart,


hit the refresh button

Is it Friday already? Since last week, I’ve been to an island and back, I turned 32, I cried on the floor, in bed, in a restaurant, in the park, and I danced into yet another year.

photo by: Hanna Agar

In honor of the cycles and seasons of life, I wanted to pause this week and I encourage you to do the same.

If you have too many ideas floating around that you don’t know what to focus on,

If you’re feeling confused and uncertain about your next move,

If you’ve been moving so fast that you just want to slow down,


Take your time.






Hit the refresh button - in whatever way feels appropriate.


The more time you take to slow down, rest, and refresh, the more energy you’ll have for your next building and growing phase.

Too much output and too much trying will lead to burnout.


So that’s all for today.


Oh! - and one quick birthday request -


If you’ve been getting value from these weekly posts, I ask that you share one of them with someone in your life today who could use it. Email it over or share on social media and encourage them to subscribe to Creative Fridays.


I’ll leave you with my annual dance compilation video that my friend Kevin edited together so graciously. Enjoy and dance on, my friend!

all love,


didn’t get your “work” done? oh, that’s living.



I didn’t get everything done on my to-do list.


I had to reschedule that appointment.


I didn’t “work” enough today.


(“work” is loosely translated as sitting in front of the laptop pecking away at something that seems really important.)


If any of these words have come out of your mouth lately, GOOD!


It’s a sign you’re actually living life.


As I went through my week, I noticed how anxious I was to get this blog post and other writing done. I did not plan the topic in advance. I did set aside time to write, but the time kept getting moved or pushed aside because of other things.


The frustration and anxiety rose -


But why was I feeling that way?


Really, it came from a place of fear of not having enough time and wanting to just “get it over with” so that I could not worry.


Then on the B train on my way to visit a friend, it hit me and I pulled out my notebook to scribble:


The balance of living life vs. documenting it.


Your experiences lead you to the truth meant to be spoken (or written).


Your experiences - with the world, with other humans - are what bring you to your truth. Sitting in front of a laptop trying to think about what to write is not always the way in.


I thought about how much richness and learning were embedded in the experiences and conversations I had been having throughout the week.


Monday was an example -


Stuck at an airport for 8 hours, I put a lot of expectations on myself about how much time I should spent writing and getting that very important “work” done. I took a break in the yoga room (yes, SFO has a yoga room!) and it led to a dance break which led to making new friends and making a dance video:

I’m so happy I didn’t sit in front of my laptop, which seemed like the easier, more responsible option. Instead, I followed my impulse to move my body and connect with people and it was so fun.


So what if I didn’t get ahead of the game with “work?”


Maybe my “work” is in the moving my body and connecting to people. Can it be that simple? I think it can.


And I’ll say the same to you:


Follow the impulse and desire inside of you. The work you’re meant to do will reveal itself that way.


There’s a time to integrate and document your experiences - and that part is so necessary! But don’t force it or rush it. The more you LIVE, the more natural the documentation process will feel.


And one more thing -


If you’re not sure if your impulse or desire is aligned or the right thing to do in the moment, here a few questions you can ask yourself. I got these questions from an amazing teacher of mine, Amy Jo Goddard:


  1. Is it something I want to be, do, or have?

  2. Does it create more life for me and others?

  3. Does being, doing, or having it take me closer to my goal?

  4. Does it limit anyone’s freedom, choice, or well-being?


If you can answer YES to the first 3, and NO to #4, then it’s pretty safe to say that your desire is a GO.


Trust that impulse. Ditch “work” for a day if you need to. Be messy. Be truthful. Be connected.

And then take time to make art out of it all.

from the field of experience to you,


thinking vs. doing: carolyn's story of transformation through dance

If dance is a mirror for life - which I happen to believe to be true - then one of the things I’ve learned is that you have to start moving your body if you want to make stuff happen. You can’t just think things into reality.

vision boardIf you’ve ever learned about vision boards and the Law of Attraction, you might be familiar with the concept of visualizing things in an effort to manifest them in your life. For example, you want to make more money so you visualize your bank account with more money in it every day until it happens.

That’s kind of a simplified version, and I’m sure there are Law of Attraction experts who can give you more details, but you get the gist.

If you take it a step further, you might have learned that just visualizing things isn’t enough. You have to FEEL them to make them happen. Thanks to the work of Danielle LaPorte and her Desire Map, we see how this is possible.

What if there were a third layer?

The movement layer. The dance layer. The move-it-through-your-body-til-you-lose-your-mind layer.

I’m really interested in that layer.

The more I’ve challenged myself to get out there and dance - anyplace, anywhere, but also just in the privacy of my room - the more I’ve felt confident to take actions in other areas of my life. I’ve seen this to be true with my clients, too.

Don’t just visualize what you want. Feel it in your body, and then move it through your body. Dance it out. Let ‘er rip.

jessandcarolynIn a moment you’ll hear more from my client Carolyn, who just completed the Thriving Artist’s Program with me. In 9 months she went from “living a life paved by others” to stepping into her truth and full expression as a dancer, choreographer, and coach. So much of our process together was helping her break through the crap that was in the way of her taking action. Step by step, dance by dance, her life took on the shape of what was inside of her.

I want the same for you. I want you to dance into your truth and stop getting caught up in your head. This is how we’ll collectively make a positive impact on this planet.

If you happen to be in the NYC area, I’m teaching classes and workshops that you can join - a perfect way to get that action flowing! You can also check out Carolyn’s classes on the West Coast!

So continue reading to check out Carolyn’s Showcase interview and dance video and share in the comments below how it inspires you to take action with your own dreams and passions.

through the body and into the world,


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Thriving Artists Program Showcase, featuring:

Marie Carolyn Gatus, Dancer/Choreographer, Life Coach

Learn more about Carolyn's work here at her website and check out her Meetup Group: Movement Reflective


“I feel so much more connected to Who I Am and am a thousand times more clear in expressing my truth.”


10644773_1481095585483658_6376553881062989654_oBefore working with Jess, I was struggling with allowing my creativity to flow.  I wasn't even acknowledging that I was creative at all.  I was suppressing it consciously and unconsciously always being too busy or feeling like it wasn't important enough to give time for.  I was living a life paved by others and I thought I would be living that way for the rest of my life.  And yet, my Creative Self kept calling, yearning to come out.

It had been 10 years since I danced from my heart at the time I met Jess, and it seemed like such a distant memory.


I still can't believe and yet I DO BELIEVE IT, within 9 months I choreographed 2 pieces that were near and dear to my heart and performed these two pieces in front of a supportive audience on two separate days.  I also created a Meetup group that meets every few weeks, where men and women can gather in person or virtually to express their souls through free movement dance.  I loved the fact that I was able to meld my interests in spirituality with my love of dance.  I never thought that would be possible for me, and yet it became so.


I also launched my work as a coach during the TAP program. I conducted a teleseminar which I had never done before and a class at Whole Foods that included using Movement for Beauty.  After the class, I was booked for another class and will be doing more workshops locally and online regarding the meaning of having movement in our lives.  I am also in the process of creating a course on Reflective Movement which I hope to release very soon.  It's all been such an exciting journey and has opened a whole new world of possibilities for me.  I couldn't have done it all without Jess.  I am so truly grateful.


Jess is an amazing guide.  She understood all my fears about making a living dancing, about being accepted, about being creatively stagnant, about giving value to my passion, about navigating through changes in my relationships because of choosing to live from the heart.  She has been through it and knew the exact words to say to keep me focused and creating as well as to be gentle with myself when I'm not feeling creative...to still be open to inspirations.  She understood the cycles creative artists go through and lovingly guided me through it.  I trusted her and valued her support and guidance.


Most importantly, she helped me release so much of the pain and conditioning that blocked my creative flow and challenged me to connect deeper with my feelings and voice them through my art of dancing.  I feel so much more connected to Who I Am and am a thousand times more clear in expressing my truth.  The creative well was tapped open and will forever continue to flow.

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Does Carolyn's story inspire YOU?

If so, I invite you to check out the Thriving Artist's Program and apply here. Imagine what would open up in your life if you were expressing your truth and connected to the creative well inside of you.


dancing through loss, love, & everything in between

I spent Sunday with my best friend at her home in the Jersey Shore, sorting through closets full of the gorgeous, petite-sized, vintage clothes of her late mother.

When Allison’s mom, Cecilia Joy (aka Diane Leslie), passed on last August, it took everyone by surprise. The magical creative muse who seemed ageless to most had suddenly left us. I did my best to be there for my friend and help her cope through the most painful time of her life.

(You can read more of Allison and her mom’s story below.)

swan canal allisonIt happened during the final month of rehearsals for the premiere of Swan Canal, the first dance show I had ever created and choreographed, in which Allison was part of, preparing to perform for the first time in 10 years. (She is a doctor by day, dancer by night :) ).

Allison took her mother’s mantra of “The Show Must Go On,” and decided to continue rehearsing and perform with us.

As painful as it was for her - for many reasons - she also recognized how extremely important it was to continue dancing through it.

Allison told me a couple of months ago that one night in her living room, she had started choreographing a dance.

It worked through her complicated relationship with her mother, and despite all the therapy she had been engaged in, this seemingly simple act was incredibly healing and transformative. She asked if I would help her develop the piece and bring it to a performance space. I said yes, of course.

And so on our drive back from Jersey, the backseat full of salvaged furs and floral print dresses, we talked more about that process and I got the nudge from the universe that it was time to make this an experience that more people could benefit from.

And such was birthed:


a dance lab for creating through loss, love, & everything in between


Over the years, I’ve worked with many clients who have dealt with the loss of loved ones  in the past, and I’ve seen how so often unresolved relationships cause blocks in their experience of full creative expression and happiness today. I’ve witnessed clients start dance companies, start singing again, and get on stage for the first time in years through our program together. And while the work I do is not therapy, it is the art that helps them work through these deep wounds.

So I’m creating a new dance workshop series which is for you if:

  • you have a complicated or unresolved relationship that you sense is weighing on you, such as: you’ve lost a loved one, lost your home, stopped talking to your mother, broke up or got divorced, etc,
  • you identify as a dancer - even if it’s been years since you’ve actually danced
  • you sense that self-expression through dance and creating a movement piece are what your heart and soul are craving right now.

Click here for more details on the 2 upcoming intro classes in NYC and NJ.

If you are not in the area but still interested, send me a note, because there are other ways we can work together in this capacity. 

I'm curious to know -

Has creative expression ever helped YOU cope with a loss?

I encourage you to share your story in the comments below.

And, I’ll leave you with a beautiful piece written by Allison in honor of her mother and their dance through this lifetime. The pictures and music alone are worth a thousand words…


all love,


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From Allison:

My mother was the epitome of creativity. She devoted herself to creativity, to art, to expression.

She was born with perfect pitch, which my grandparents, Ida and Norman, realized when my Mom – born Cecelia Joy Notov on November 26 - was just five years old. She never forgot to remind me about it. “Did you know that’s in D flat minor?” she’d say when I was 12 and we’d watch old black and white movies over ice cream sundaes on Saturday nights (which I’d label with “A” for Allison and “M” for “Mom” in Hershey’s syrup) and listen to the orchestrations accompanying the credits. I had no idea it was D flat minor. My pitch is relative at best.

Diane Leslie 17By the age of 14, Mom was a soloist with the Pittsburgh Symphony, playing the Grieg Concerto to a sold out audience at Heinz Hall. By 17, she was booked on dates in NYC, Canada, and cruise ships as a concert pianist, singer, performer….a creative genius. She was “Cee Cee Joy,” the newest sensation from Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. And she was GORGEOUS.

Soon after, she moved to NYC and took a stage name – “DIANE LESLIE” – less Jewish, she was told. But in recent years, just 8 months ago in fact, in summer 2014, she told me she wanted to go back, “I think I’ll be more successful as Cecelia, what do you think?” (Notably, when I was 6 and got my first professional gig on stage with the Dallas/Fort Worth Ballet I was given the stage name “Allison Joyce” and kept it throughout my dancing career. Perhaps I should go back?).

After college at NYU where she studied Music Education, Mom made it big as a concert pianist, singer, composer, actress, and TV anchor in NYC.  And lucky for her, she met her prince charming (and the most amazing dad in the world) in a recording studio, where she was recording a hit for Warner Brothers Records, and he was heading up the music department. As she tells it, she saw my father and told her best girlfriend, “that’s the man I’m going to marry.” And so she did.


Over the course of her career, Mom concertized across the world, Alice Tully Hall, Heinz Hall, Steinway Hall, the list is endless. She wrote music for stage and screen. She was a creative director behind and television anchor for the News Center 4 show, “Kids Stuff” for years. She wrote the theme song to the show Small Wonder.  She played the “Snow Queen” on ABC’s Pinocchio’s Christmas. She played guitar. She sang. And excuse my language, she played the F*** out of the piano. There was no piece that she couldn’t master. Greig concerto? Done. Layenda? Got it.

And composition? She composed her own music. And she was creative with the works already out there. She took all of Schubert and made his themes modern. Bach? Scarlatti? Brahms? All of them. She was dear friends with Helga Sandburg – the daughter of the great poet, Carl Sandburg – and months before her passing put all of his poems to music (an album I am confident is going to sell, just like her first album, which can be found here: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/dianeleslie ).

But, like most artists, Mom also struggled.

The career is not an easy one, especially as you age. “What’s my age range?” was a daily question. She wanted to be eternally her 17 year old self. And I believe she is at this very moment.

Rachmaninoff Roof

My Mom was on the adjunct faculty at NYU, teaching piano to students worldwide. She was also my first and most difficult piano teacher. Most importantly and dear to her heart, she was named a Steinway Artist in 2010. The title allowed her to go to Steinway Hall weekly and practice the piano in her beloved Rachmaninoff room, as it was called (interestingly, the Hall closed a month after my mom left this space-time).

My mother was a musical genius. She never really learned to use a computer keyboard, but made up for it on the real keys. She never really learned to manage her finances, but she could somehow understand the math behind the rhythm of the music.

A month before she left, she told me “If I cannot play the piano, I don’t want to live.” Her death was untimely. Unnecessary. Unfair. It had nothing to do with her capacity to play. She died while getting ready for a gig, putting her makeup on. She wanted to go to the studio. I know with all of my heart that she did NOT want to leave. She yearns to still be at her baby grand, playing the F out of those keys.

Professionally – as Dr. Applebaum, and not Allison Joyce – I work with families dealing with chronic illness and the possibility of death and dying. But sudden, untimely death is a different beast. On a scale from 1 – 10, with 10 being the worst emotional pain one can feel, I’d say this was a good 5,000 for me, and still is. The world lost a creative genius, a good 20 years too early. But much more importantly, I lost my Mom.

My Mom left at the worst moment in our relationship. The days of ice cream sundaes were long gone in August 2014. But they didn’t have to be. I wish I could have been more creative emotionally, to allow more of the good to remain when other things were hard. I don’t have one recorded voicemail from her. No recorded conversation. And most devastating, no recording of her annual happy birthday message to me, which would be her classical rendition of the Happy Birthday song, played loud and clear on her Steinway baby grand, after which she’d say “Happy Birthday, Baby.” I’ll never forgive myself for erasing that last message. While I don’t have a verbal conversation between Mom and myself recorded, I do have a recording of our playing the Schubert Fantasie in F minor. I was about 14. We were recording it for my grandma Ida to hear. I played the bass and she, the treble. We were a bit off, she was showing off, I was trying to keep up. A musical conversation, perhaps resembling our life-long relationship.

We never know when we will leave this world. We can anticipate it for years,  fear it for years, prepare for it for years, but in cases like mine, my 93 year old frail father is still with me, and my “forever 17” mother is gone. Much too soon. What I’m left with is her music. Her CD’s. Hundreds of them. Recordings of every one of her piano lessons. Recordings of her in the studios. The musicals she composed. Her unpublished work. Literally hundreds of notebooks with sheets with the letters “a” “d” “g” and so on written (my mother wasn’t one for writing notes on the musical staff). Beautiful songs the world may never hear.

I’m hoping to use creativity to help me cope with the vast emptiness left by my (incidentally just 5’1 and 92 lb) mother’s absence. She left on August 25, 2014. Two weeks after her passing I got back on stage and danced for the first time in 10 years. It felt awful and wonderful. It felt deceitful and right. And I’m getting back on stage this coming month. Always and forever in honor of my Mom. I also have promised her and myself that I am going to learn Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu. I’ve started working on it on her Steinway baby grand. It’s like re-learning a language I learned years ago. Doing it is frustrating and painful, but connects me to her. I want to learn it. And I want play the F out of those keys like she did. Perhaps even someday to a small audience.

I’ve also promised myself to be more creative, generally. To create new spaces for me to express what is so painful. To be more creative in the work I do professionally, and more creative in how I care for myself.

Clearly, nothing is for sure in life. What I do know for sure is that there is no amount of creativity that can bring our deceased loved ones back. But creativity can bring the possibility of good things to accompany – note, not fill – the void. I’m looking forward to a creative life. To telling my closest girlfriends about my prince charming, and to engaging in the greatest creative act when I’m ready – to create a new life, and hopefully have a daughter, who will be named Cecelia Joy, after her grandmother.

Until those happy days, I will do what I know is healthiest and most painful: listen to her music, cry as she plays, and create a new way of life. Learn to get off the elevator and not hear her playing down the hall, not have her millions of once-bothersome texts and calls, but somehow learn that she’s sitting with me, leaning on my shoulder, living my life with me, in her own new creative way.

Joy and Joyce

2 ways to move through change

If you’ve been feeling stuck in the shadows,

If you’ve been in the dark and the pain for too long,

If your passions and dreams have been seemingly eclipsed by life’s tough stuff,


Please remember that the sun is coming soon.


Today happens to be a pretty significant day - the Spring Equinox combined with a New Moon Solar Eclipse. The Equinox initiates us into Spring, and New Moons are the monthly time of renewal and starting fresh - highlighted even more when an eclipse is present.


Astrological omens aside, can’t you just feel it? Change is palpable.


We are teetering on the cusp of a new phase…. not quite out of the old, not fully into the new, which can be a painful process to move through.


2 tactics I’ve been using to get through it are:


  1. Dancing

  2. Cleaning out stuff




Because when emotions are heightened and your mind can’t figure things out, the best thing to do is to get in your body and the physical plane.

Dancing will help you channel emotions and physical stuckness.

Cleaning out stuff - i.e. going through your closet and donating clothes you don’t wear, sifting through old files or boxes, etc. - will help you make space in your life. Even if you don’t know for what yet.


There will be a time for more words and a more personal post in the future, but for now I’ll leave you with a dance video - because sometimes dancing beats words.


I hope you dance wherever and whenever you can.


dancing on the cusp with you,