While working in the music industry in New York City, Jami Stigliano signed up for a beginner hip hop dance class at the famed Broadway Dance Center. Even though she had years of dance experience underneath her belt and "a healthy self-confidence," the DivaDance founder tells Organic Authority she left the studio "feeling defeated, isolated, and frustrated that the experience was so inaccessible."
While Stigliano says facilities like Broadway Dance Center are "incredible," they're more geared toward helping professional dancers hone their craft than providing classes for people who just want to dance.
"I walked out and decided there needed to be something for 'regular people,' so I just decided to teach the kinds of classes I wanted to take," she says.
And DivaDance was born.
With nine locations across the U.S and expanding -- they'll launch their tenth city this spring -- DivaDance, which was founded in 2015, is quickly becoming a sisterhood for "grown-ups" who just want to dance.
Stigliano's motto for her company is clear on its website: “My passion for girl power is second only to helping others reach their full potential."
"My whole life has centered around strong bonds with women," she says. "I was a Girl Scout, captain of my high school dance team, and a sorority woman. These relationships have transcended every chapter of my life - the long conversations, the inside jokes, the trips, and experiences. This is really what life is all about: connection to others. We don’t just create a space for that to happen; we facilitate it before, during, and after class."
What is DivaDance?
"DivaDance is all about inspiring confidence and building community," says Stigliano. "So everything we do is centered around achieving those outcomes."
Classes start with "community time," which Stigliano says is a chance to get to know the people around that's prompted by a fun question by the instructor.
"For example, if you had hot sauce in your bag, what kind would you have?" Stigliano says she started doing community time as a way to melt the ice, create energy in the room, and help form that “squad” mentality. "It’s just a couple minutes that not only emphasizes our values but also helps the clients have a separating line from their day and start to be present in class."
From there, dancers have a warmup and stretch. "Then you'll get sexy and sweaty while you learn a dance choreography routine to one song each class," Stigliano says. "Every class is a new routine, so you’ll never feel behind or out of place."
To the tunes of everyone from Backstreet Boys to Jay Z, students learn original, "fierce" choreography designed for dancers of all levels with no experience being required. Stilettos are optional for clients who want to wear heels or boots.
At the end of class, students are encouraged to cheer on other dancers as well as capturing your routine on your phone. "We are big on supporting other women, cheering them on, and not taking yourself too seriously. It’s non-competitive, and so much fun."
Why Dancing is a Great Mind-Body-Soul Connection
"When you’re learning choreography your brain has to stay present and focused. This is why we prefer DivaDance over the 'follow-the-leader' style dance fitness where you can easily check out due to repetition," says Stigliano. "It's challenging enough that you have to really engage and get into a flow state, but it’s not so difficult that you get frustrated. It’s a sexy, moving meditation."
Stigliano says dancing is so important to our wellness because of what it does to the body. From the chemicals it releases, like endorphins and serotonin, that tell your brain “I feel great right now!" to the constant movement of your body.
"It's a fun cardio option that never gets boring and constantly keeps you engaged."
How DivaDance Inspires Confidence
Stigliano says DivaDance is all about inclusion and body positivity.
"Our clients have every body type (and skin tone!) under the sun," she says, while adding that the community is "ageless."
"While most of our clients are 23-40, age isn’t even discussed in classes or in our community. Dance is for everyone, at all ages." Additionally, she says that clients are welcomed to wear whatever they feel most comfortable in whether it's a baggy sweatshirt or cropped top, which encourages body acceptance and love.
A theme that extends to DivaDance's instructors, too. "A huge thing to me is also diversity of instructors. I want our instructors to be accessible and radiate positive energy," Stigliano says. "We aren’t just looking for great dancers, people with big Instagram followings, or people with 'hot bodies'. I am obsessively focused on client outcomes - making sure we deliver a champagne quality experience that truly achieves confidence and community."
Why Empowerment and Wellness are So Entwined
"Empowerment is all about confidence, which is where our hashtag comes from: #slayingismycardio," Stigliano says. "When you slayed something, you brought your best self to the table and it shows. Confidence translates to every part of your life. When you’re confident, you communicate more effectively, you have more energy to live your best life, and you begin to magnetize what you want for yourself."
As for the wellness mantra that Stigliano sticks to herself? "'Progress not perfection' is one of my personal mottos and a guiding principle on our headquarters team," she says. "As long as I’m making progress toward my fitness goals and maintaining my mental health, that’s wellness."
Related on Organic Authority
3 New Dance Workout Routines: Bust a Move with Bokwa, Tabura and Werq
4 Dance-Inspired Workouts to Get that Ballet Body
Falling in Love With Food Helped Heal Former Ballerina Sassy Gregson-Williams