It’s a huge pleasure to introduce Ava Bernstine as our #FEMMEFEATUREFRIDAY this week! Ava is an outstanding artist and activist, and she also happens to be a dear friend of ours. This woman is incredibly talented, highly caring, and forever evolving. She truly believes that it is important to continuously learn and perfect your skills, and we admire her dedication to constant growth. Not only is she an amazing teacher, but she is also strongly involved in our dance community and uses her voice for good. These are just a few of the many beautiful qualities that make Ava such an incredible role model for our YGTGirls.

Ava, who is native to Los Angeles, is one of the industry’s most sought after dancers. She has toured the world on Justin Timberlake's 2007 FutureSex/LoveShow under the direction of Marty Kudelka as well as Britney Spears’s Circus and Femme Fatale tours. Some of her other credits include Usher, Chris Brown, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, and Nicki Minaj. She was also a principal dancer in the feature films La La Land,Step Up 3D, and Fame. On top of that, Ava has worked alongside the one and only Debbie Allen since 2001, assisting her on multiple projects and teaching at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy, too.

On top of Ava’s neverending resume and busy teaching schedule, this badass lady finds the time to be fully involved with Dancers’ Alliance as one of the main board members. She has been fighting for dancers' rights and the community for quite some time now, and Ava is always one of the first people to stand up for dancers. She is undoubtedly making a huge difference in our generation and for the generations to come, and we are so grateful a soul like hers exists on the planet. Ava never ceases to amaze us, and we are thrilled that she was able to share so much important knowledge with us all. Thank you Ava for being YOU!

Artwork by Chloe Bruderer (@chloeheartsart)

Artwork by Chloe Bruderer (@chloeheartsart)

What does female empowerment mean to you? 

It's being encouraged, encouraging and supporting one another, honoring and understanding the gifts and powers that come with being  female. 

What do you believe is one of the greatest challenges that women face in this industry? What do you believe is an effective means to overcoming such obstacles? 

One challenge is being objectified and over sexualized. Women are sexy and being sexy and feminine is a part of who we are, of which is also open to interpretation, but that facet of us is abused. How we overcome this, and something I'm very passionate about, is teaching women and girls from a young age that they don't have to sell themselves sexually to be appreciated, liked, or noticed. Inside and outside of dance. I see it A LOT. We as adults and educators don't realize the influence  we have, what they see, what they listen to, but they are so impressionable. Fifteen is too young for a girl to be exploiting or exploring her sexuality. We can mature in so many other ways and develop so much character before doing so. When the time comes, then you learn the difference between sexy and slutty, for a lack of a better term, but the lines get blurred when you aren't mature or educated.  I feel this way out of complete love and adoration for the youth, young girls in particular.  I mentor and teach a lot of adolescent girls so my feelings on the matter are notpresumed but come from very real encounters.   

You moved to Los Angeles after completing your studies in Journalism and have found such incredible success. What are some tools that you have used to define your own individual voice in both your dancing and in your journalism?

side bar: I am from Los Angeles (Claremont CA) and went to college for journalism while I was actively dancing. I left school with one year left to go on tour. Just incase this misinformation was going to be printed :). I'm still finding my voice as a journalist. I'm doing that by just writing, writing, writing. With no particular means to an end, just to keep creating and finding myself. I do plant for a future in writing but my goals have not yet been dreamt up mapped out or prayed about.  I'm getting to it. :). In my career as a dancer and teacher I don't recall trying to foster any individuality.  I just was myself. My experiences have been unique. The gift God has given me, the person I was brought up to be, hard work, dedication, and the fearlessness it takes to learn, were what I believe all the tools I needed.  I had great mentors and teachers like Debbie Allen who saw something in me at just age sixteen that I had not yet even realized.  She instilled confidence in my as an artist and challenged me always as so many of my other mentors did. 

What is a piece of advice that you have received that you felt shaped your journey? 

Years ago when the incredible Tiana Gandelman (Brown) and I were at an audition together, she said to me, Don't watch other people audition. It psyches you out. Just do you and don't worry about anyone else. She proceeded to stay in her corner going over the routine and went out to live her life when it was her turn.  FOR ME, that was revelatory and pivotal.  It resonated with me viscerally. For someone who is their own biggest critic, who furtively cares about what people think of her, and lacks self confidence, it changed how I auditioned for the rest of my career and transcended my profession. I believe this moment was divine and no happenstance.  I share gleanings such as this with people or mentees so as to make their journey a little more comfortable.  

What is your definition of a YGTGirl? 

A girl, a woman, female, who amidst the challenges of life, the bad days, insecurities and setbacks, pushes through and moves forward with intention. A YGTGirl rises to the occasion, using "You Got This Girl" as a fleeting pep talk, an expletive and self affirmation. A tool of empowerment with altruistic intentions.