We interviewed another beautiful and empowering woman this week, and we are happy to introduce to you Dani Vitale as our #FEMMEFEATUREFRIDAY. Dani is an extremely talented and influential dancer, performer, and teacher in the entertainment industry. She is extremely passionate about the arts and is continuously invested in the dance culture and community. In this line of work where speaking up for what you believe in can be scary or difficult for most, Dani is an inspiring and strong voice for herself, her peers, and the next generation.
Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Dani Vitale grew up at Spotlight Dance Center dancing competitively, and she also trained extensively in ballet at Cleveland City of Dance. In 2008, she ventured out to Los Angeles and was asked to be a part of the EDGE Performing Arts Center scholarship program. Upon graduating, she signed with BLOC Talent Agency and has been working ever since. She's danced with some of the best including Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Beyoncé, Rihanna, The Jonas Brothers, Rita Ora, and Snoop Dogg, and she has performed on The Grammy Awards, Billboard Music Awards, Dancing With The Stars, American Music Awards, and the VMA’s. She's also danced on world tours for Rihanna, Eminem and The Jonas Brothers, and she worked on the projects GLEE, Shake It Up , and 90210.
On top of dancing for all the biggest names in the industry, Dani balances being a teacher, a dance ambassador for Under Armour, and works as a full-time blogger, too. How badass is that?! She's living proof that with passion and dedication, you can do it all! She has worked really hard to create so many different avenues for herself, and she's done it all with a positive mindset and a kind heart. We are thankful for the advice she has shared with us today, and we know it will inspire all of our YGTGirls! Thanks Dani!
It is so empowering for us and our YGTGirls to continuously watch you speak up to help and educate others. Have you always been this comfortable with using your voice and speaking your truth in this industry?
I’ve always dreamt of having someone to look up to when I was younger, but no one ever fit the bill or had enough courage to be completely transparent. So as I got older, it became my mission to be able to disrupt the norm of “talking to please” audiences and actually say what girls want and need to hear! I have always been comfortable speaking what was on my mind, and addressing things that deserved attention, but it wasn’t until I started teaching regularly and building relationships with students did I start really being more open in my voice. Seeing how I have helped certain students of mine, friends online with my writings/posts, and just giving girls someone to relate to has given me such joy that I can’t even explain. So I guess, seeing the positive impact I do have has made me more comfortable in speaking my truth, because there is so much unknown in this industry.
What does woman empowerment mean to you and how is it important specifically in the dance world?
Woman empowerment means a couple different things to me. The first thing that aggravates me about the statement “woman empowerment” is the word “empowerment”. There are two definitions: “the authority or power GIVEN to someone to do something” which many women believe that someone has to GIVE them their power which is not right. Then the other definition is: “The process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling ONE’S life and claiming ONE’S rights. THAT is the one that I wish more women would focus on. Not waiting for people to empower us, that it is up to THEM to do it to themselves and other women.
In the dance world, women and men that are outside the industry are not knowledgeable about what we go through to have the careers we have. The constant battle of looking like high fashion models but that perform like Olympic athletes. Having to be business savvy, the ability to perform, keep up relationships, put our ego aside or completely leave it at home, and to be talked to like a 10-year-old 98% of the time… it gets difficult. So as a woman, it is a constant battle of putting up with what is the “norm” and to take a stand on what is NOT.
I get so excited when I have the ability to work with a female artist, director, creative director, choreographer etc. To break that Hollywood “tradition” of it always being men is really exciting to me. Female dancers get thrown into stereotypes so quickly and easily, “Oh here is your tutu or your stilettos”. No... I can do it all and watch me ;)
You teach a lot of young girls on a weekly basis. What is one lesson you are hoping your students will retain, that you had to learn the hard way?
I learned and applied so many valuable lessons from teachers in my life that I used in and out of the studio, and still do to this day. My overall goal is to impact my kids individually, in a specific way, that they too will carry with them forever.
They get so many things jammed into their brains all day, at home, school and in other dance classes, that I try to be that breath of fresh air to them when they are in front of me. I speak to them as humans and not like “students”. The way I teach is approachable, yet they know who is boss haha. I always reiterate that I was in their exact place at one point in my life, and that working hard will always get them somewhere, and that what they are learning from me they can take on whatever path they decide to go down in life and will be successful if they apply themselves.
I think that relate-ability is important to them, because they do put me on a pedestal due to the work I do outside of teaching them, so I always try to constantly remind them that they too can go and achieve what they want, if they really put that work in.
Dancers are one of the most hard working athletes out there, yet the majority of the population would never guess or know that. What does it mean to you to be an ambassador for Under Armour and get the change to show the world how strong and perseverant dancers are?
It is so frustrating to me when I can’t get someone to understand how I feel or what I go through lol. So as a dancer and now having a voice for our community it has been my mission for a while now to open up people’s eyes into everything we endure as professionals. Mainly, my focus has been main stream companies that don’t see us dancers dancing as a “sport”. I had sat down on so many calls and in front of so many people trying to explain why us dancers deserve recognition in the sports category, the responses where overwhelmingly dehumanizing. It made me upset, because these were companies I used to support daily. It made me rethink a lot and then all of a sudden Under Armour came out of nowhere so impressed with my journey and wanted to be on it with me, helping in any way they could. It is so amazing to be on a team with Olympic champions in so many different sports, then also, alongside Misty Copeland. Every day, I am so thankful that Under Armour wants me to show the world what being a dancer is like, all of the ins and outs. So many companies try to bring dancers on their teams, but then hide their true colors with trying to brand them as runners or trainers. Yes, we do it all, but at the core, we are DANCERS. I want to show young girls that being a dancer doesn’t just mean dancing behind someone or in a huge group, it can be so much more than that. The platform that Under Armour has been giving me lately, with the Dicks Sporting Goods campaign was something i will never forget. Having pictures of me dancing in Dick’s stores across the globe for young girls to see when they go purchase back to school gear is everything I wish I had when I was younger. and THAT is my overall long-term goal. To be who I wish I had when I was younger.
YGTG is all about unity and community. In your personal opinion, what action could our community take to strengthen our bond?
To strengthen our bond I believe it should be steering away from just “talking” and “posting” about things. We have moved forward in finally discussing things that needed to be talked about and bringing things from the dark into the light. But now, we need to take actions on things. It’s like that old saying, “actions speak louder than words”.
In the simplest of terms, let’s say we all agree that our day rate should change, well then, STOP accepting under the set rate? It’s literally THAT simple and people really don’t understand how important and strong unity is. No, it’s not going to be easy or not scary, but those uncomfortable feelings are what you have to endure to see change, in all aspects of life. I also think just educating ourselves more, taking more pride in our “business”. The more you know, the less people can walk all over you.
This year I have taken a lot of jobs in choreographing and creative directing. Yes, I love it, but what I love more is being in a position where I can put in place correct rates for the dancers. The mind boggling thing to me has been that NO ONE has ever questioned it, so it baffles me why this is such a difficult thing for our industry to change. SO I also believe, that people have to start using their power and voices in better ways, when they have one, and being confident in it. At the end of the day, our community is a competitive one, so if we can honestly put that aside and make changes for US instead of I, it would make such a difference.
What is your definition of a YGTGirl?
My definition of a YGTgirl is someone who is confident in and on her journey. Things are never crystal clear as to where we are headed in life, so when she has a positive mindset, goals and perseverance anything she puts her mind to, she can achieve. No matter how big or small the goals & dreams are, she should constantly remind herself that “She’s GOT THIS” and it is up to her to take control in her own life and make shit happen :) no one is going to do it for her.