“Ignite kindness and empathy towards all humans.” With Candice Georgiadis & Lindsey Dinneen

If I could inspire people to start a movement, it would be a campaign to ignite kindness and empathy towards all humans. The “pay it forward” movement would occur daily. Each of us would have enough confidence in our self-worth to understand that everyone is going through challenges. Instead of being unreasonable, disrespectful, or unkind, […]

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If I could inspire people to start a movement, it would be a campaign to ignite kindness and empathy towards all humans. The “pay it forward” movement would occur daily. Each of us would have enough confidence in our self-worth to understand that everyone is going through challenges. Instead of being unreasonable, disrespectful, or unkind, we would find daily reasons to pay the love forward. It would promote a lifestyle of empathy, kindness, and compassion. This movement would literally change the world.

As a part of our series about “dreamers who ignored the naysayers and did what others said was impossible”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lindsey Dinneen. Lindsey is an entrepreneur, creator, learner, and dancer. She founded and is the Artistic Director of VidaDance (a professional dance company) and the founder and host of the Artfully Told podcast (where people share stories about their meaningful encounters with art). She loves sharing the joy of dance and wellness with others, and creates online courses to teach various dance styles, stretching/toning, and healthy living. She enjoys dogs, coffee shops, friends, and art.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know you’ a bit better. Can you tell us your ‘backstory’?

Absolutely! Thank you for having me. I have been dancing since I was four years old. After watching a video of “The Nutcracker,” I fell in love with the beautiful costumes, and my mom enrolled me in a ballet class shortly after that. I grew up mostly studying classical ballet, and in college at Mercyhurst University, I branched out to include modern, tap, and jazz while earning my BA in Dance. After college, I moved to Kansas City to dance professionally, and did so with various local companies for five years. I’ve been an entrepreneur at heart for a long time, but it wasn’t until six years ago that I finally took the first steps towards becoming one. I was inspired to start my own professional dance company, VidaDance, not only to affect change in the dance world, but to affect change in the world with dance. Seven months later, I founded VidaDance Studio, with a mission to inspire confidence and joy through dance classes. In 2020, due to COVID-19, I switched gears with the studio to host only semi-private and private classes so that I could personally coach and mentor each student individually. I am passionate about helping women and men live their most successful, empowered, and healthy lives.

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am always working on exciting projects! Most recently, I started a podcast called Artfully Told, where people share stories about their meaningful encounters with art. At Artfully Told, we know that art is a vital aspect of everyone’s lives. Everyone has a story about how art has impacted them — whether they are professional artists, amateur dabblers, or simply anyone who has seen a movie, read a book, attended a live performance, etc. Whether inspiring or humorous, sad or sweet, these stories have the power to connect us, and to transform the way we think about and experience art. We strive to make our podcast accessible and welcoming to people of all backgrounds and involvement with art. Together, we can create a community of people who value art in all its forms, and enjoy having their days be Artfully Told.

In your opinion, what do you think makes your company or organization stand out from the crowd?

With VidaDance, we stand out from the crowd for several reasons. We have always wanted to produce dance performances that resonate with our audiences, whether they have an interest or background in dance, or not! One of the ways we do this is by creating shows that incorporate a wide variety of dance styles, including ballet, modern, jazz, tap, hip hop, ballroom, and world dance. If you’re not as interested in ballet, but you like other forms, you’ll see it all during the show. Another way we’re different is that we create entertaining, easy-to-follow storylines, so you don’t have to be a dance aficionado to know what’s going on. Each choreographer writes a short description about his or her piece so that our audiences know the backstory or inspiration behind it. We are a very inclusive group of dancers in everything from race to age to body type, because we know the power of dance to connect and inspire all of us. We highly encourage collaboration and laughter in our company culture so that everyone feels valued. All of this contributes to making our company stand out from the crowd.

Ok, thank you for that. I’d like to jump to the main focus of this interview. Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us? What was your idea? What was the reaction of the naysayers? And how did you overcome that?

I was in a program for dance education about a decade ago where the leadership was extremely critical of me and my goals. When I lost too much weight due to having mono, I was told that was a “good thing” for my physique. Instead of being encouraged towards performing professionally, they told me they thought that I would be “good at arts administration.” It felt like I had been kicked in the gut. I looked up to these people and would have loved to learn from them and be challenged to follow my goals, but instead I was consistently discouraged from my chosen path because they didn’t see a future for me dancing professionally. It was very difficult for me, mentally and emotionally, to move past their discouragement and continue to pursue my dreams without their support. I had wanted to be a dancer since I was four, and now I was being told it wasn’t my path. The only way I was able to overcome their criticism was to continue on down the road that I knew was meant for me, by auditioning for professional companies.

In the end, how were all the naysayers proven wrong? 🙂

In the end, I was one of only two graduates that year that were offered professional dance contracts even before we had graduated. My hard work, ambition, and determination had paid off, and within just three months of graduation, I had moved across the country and started my career as a professional dancer. Four years after that, I founded my own professional dance company, VidaDance, and we regularly sell out our productions. In the last five years since we premiered at the Kansas City Fringe Festival, we won Best of Festival twice, and Best of Venue three times. Along my career path so far, I have also been invited to perform as a guest artist/company member for multiple other professional companies and productions. Despite the initial discouragement and criticism, I was able to prove the naysayers completely wrong.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

A lot of people have really helped me along the way, and it’s hard to pick just one. However, my husband stands out as my biggest cheerleader and supporter ever since he met me. When I had an unexpected opportunity to produce a show for the Kansas City Fringe Festival, it meant I’d have only a couple months to put an entire production together — and launch a professional company — neither of which I’d ever done. Kevin was my encourager every step of the way, from giving me the confidence to say “yes” to that opportunity, not knowing how much it would take from both of us, to literally coming up with a piece storyline and actually performing in it, due to a last-minute drop-out from a cast member who got injured. He’s always been there for me, through thick and thin. We joke about his involvement, because when I first started the company, I promised him “terrible pay and horrible hours,” and he’s still supported me anyway. He has been a photographer, videographer, lights and sound technician, prop and set designer, performer, organizer, and everything in between. He researched and built our sprung dance floor, designs most of the marketing materials for the company, and is the best sounding board when I’m trying to brainstorm or problem-solve. I could not do what I do without him!

It must not have been easy to ignore all the naysayers. Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share the story with us?

I was blessed to grow up in a supportive family that allowed me to dream big, and encouraged me to hone my skills so that I could follow my passions. One commitment that really helped me to develop my resiliency was by being a part of The Congressional Award program. The program is for anyone ages 13½ to 23 and recognizes the setting and meeting of goals in four program areas: voluntary public service, personal development, physical fitness, and expedition/exploration. It is a rigorous program, with milestones of Bronze, Silver, and Gold Certificates earned before Bronze, Silver, and Gold Medals can be earned. For example, a minimum of 400 hours in voluntary public service, 200 hours in personal development, 200 hours in physical fitness, and four nights/five days in expedition/exploration must be completed to earn the Gold Medal. There were many times I was tempted to give up along the way, because it was hard and took so much time, but in choosing to continue to pursue that ultimate goal, I built up my resiliency, tenacity, and grit. I was awarded the Congressional Award Gold Medal in 2011, and consider that to be one of my greatest accomplishments.

Based on your experience, can you share 5 strategies that people can use to harness the sense of tenacity and do what naysayers think is impossible? (Please share a story or an example for each)

  1. Practice tenacity daily. We all face challenges on a daily basis. Refusing to give up when you don’t feel like doing something, and just doing it anyway can be practiced in little ways all the time. For example, very few people enjoy washing the dishes, and many people leave them to sit in the sink, sometimes for days at a time. Instead of hoping someone else will eventually do them, take the initiative and do the work even when you don’t feel like it (maybe especially when you don’t feel like it).
  2. Establish goals. When you have exciting goals that you’re working towards achieving, it’s a lot easier to develop tenacity. Set measurable goals for yourself and then set aside time every day to work on them. Give yourself realistic deadlines and commit to meeting them. If you’ve been wanting to read more, give yourself the goal to read one new book every month. Schedule 20 minutes every day that is solely devoted to reading. Whether you feel like reading or not on a particular day, do it anyway.
  3. Be bold. Tenacity requires courage. It’s important to be fearless in your pursuit of your dreams and goals, because there will be many times when they won’t feel worth the effort and frustration necessary to achieve them. You’ll be scared to take the next leap of faith sometimes, but you need to do it anyway. When I was interested in working for a local community college to teach dance, I noticed that they were currently not offering any dance classes. I sent an email, proposing the idea of developing and teaching dance courses, even though I wasn’t sure if I was qualified or ready for that step in my career. Not only did they answer my email proposing the idea, but a phone interview, panel interview, and class demonstration later, I became an adjunct professor at the college and created a dance program which is still going strong after six years.
  4. Develop a growth mindset. Having the willingness and desire to continue learning throughout your life will carry you further than you ever thought possible. Be humble enough to admit when you’ve held an incorrect belief, and nurture a culture of continual growth in your life. I love learning and taking on new challenges, and I’m eager to develop my skills in areas in which I’m weak or unknowledgeable. Possessing a strong growth mindset has allowed me to cultivate tenacity when I need to obtain a new skillset in order to be successful.
  5. Practice gratitude. Life gets really tough sometimes and it is easy to complain when things don’t go the way you hoped. Gratitude and tenacity go hand-in-hand. When you can express gratitude for the good that is in your life (and there is always something for which to be grateful), you can more easily move past the frustrations and keep moving forward. My mother always told me to count my blessings, especially when I felt like complaining, and embracing that habit has gotten me through challenging seasons.

What is your favorite quote or personal philosophy that relates to the concept of resilience?

A personal philosophy that I embrace is the concept of laser focus. I have so many examples of times where something I created (marketing material, choreography, idea for a new piece or show, etc.) was copied by someone else. It is so easy to get angry and derailed by people who shoot down your idea only to copy it for their own purposes later. For me, I’ve discovered the best way to handle this is threefold: one, acknowledge that what the person did was wrong and out-of-line. Two, remember that your haters believe in you, which is why you’re on their radar. Three, move on and get right back to your own path. When you do that, you are able to achieve amazing things because you don’t allow yourself to dwell on other people and their paths. You show up every day and do your best consistently.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

If I could inspire people to start a movement, it would be a campaign to ignite kindness and empathy towards all humans. The “pay it forward” movement would occur daily. Each of us would have enough confidence in our self-worth to understand that everyone is going through challenges. Instead of being unreasonable, disrespectful, or unkind, we would find daily reasons to pay the love forward. It would promote a lifestyle of empathy, kindness, and compassion. This movement would literally change the world.

Can our readers follow you on social media?

Absolutely! I’d love to connect with anyone on social media. You can connect with me on Facebook and Instagram with @lindseydinneenofficial.

Thank you for these great stories. We wish you only continued success!

Thank you again for having me!

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