Today we’d like to introduce you to Janai Hines.
Hi Janai, so excited to have you on the platform. So before we get into questions about your work-life, maybe you can bring our readers up to speed on your story and how you got to where you are today?
Oh man, back in 2015 I decided to take a year off from school to just…find myself. I didn’t care about money, status, or even fear. I was at a rock bottom anyways. I just wanted to do what I love while I embark on the journey of rebuilding who I am through self-discovery and dance.
My entire outlook on life, since that decision, changed forever. I began studying personal and spiritual development, my rich history as a black woman, and business. Mind you, I was previously a depressed student attempting to become an elementary school teacher. I practically did a 360 shift on my mindset. I had to, I was desperate for change. So off I went! I applied at a dance studio called Your Soul’s Movement to work the front desk. I got offered the job on my birthday, it definitely was a gift! I learned what it took as a start-up dance studio to make an impact on people’s lives while being financially savvy. Within YSM, I found my true love. Teaching dance in an enrichment/after school setting. I’ve always had a way with kids but this was different. It gave me one of my “why’s.” I taught at DSST: Cole High School and fell in love with the idea of impacting students in a positive way through dance. As I was continuing to heal, I began to learn about meditation, checking-in with self, and journaling. I took these ideas and tried them on my students at Cole and they loved it! They told me that no one has ever taken the time to just let them relax and sit with themselves. It made them more comfortable around each other and me. This sparked a fire. I thought to myself, “if students are willing to meditate and enjoy it, what else can I do?” I began working here and there at local dance studios to build my experience and resume.
I also worked with nonprofits who had built after school programs. There were two in particular that shifted my mindset on exactly how to serve students. I found out that students of color were systematically being underserved due to access, transportation, and cost barriers. The first nonprofit was Creative Strategies for Change. Their idea was to mobilize social justice through the arts. It was very different to learn about implicit biases, racism, and how white privilege has a negative impact on communities of color and their students. The second was Visions Performing Arts College Prep. I was given a role that I was not ready for at that time. The executive director believed in me, poured into me, held me accountable in ways that no one has ever done before, mentored me, and forgave me for messing up and not knowing how to be a director of a dance department. Over time I started to figure it out though. I learned so much about how students of color were being targeted to fail and leaders like us refuse to let that happen. There’s that fire again. The executive director was piloting to open a charter school. We had summer camps that educationally, socially and emotionally, as well as spiritually had an impact on every single student.
Our babies knew that they could come in and be themselves in full form. Their teachers looked like them, loved them, poured into them, and gave them a stage to perform for their families, all while helping them excel in school. Those were the hardest yet best years of my life. I was still struggling financially and mentally, but I also received my true purpose through the trials. After dealing with two deaths in my family nearly back to back, I folded on everyone and everything. It was almost as if I was back in 2015, depressed and lost. This time I began to fight! Being too familiar with darkness dimmed my natural shine. I worked too hard to pull myself out and I refused to allow myself to go back. Time to find more of myself. Digging deeper this time. I began to address the dormant traumas deep within. I began purging. Really sitting with yourself and understanding that life is happening for you and not to you was an extremely hard pill to swallow. I grew up literally being attacked for having joy. How is that happening for me? I’ll tell you. Joy is my superpower, my blessing, my gift, one of my “why’s”, my safety, me. I tapped into that little girl who always wanted to dance with joy, I tapped into those students who love me and will remember my joy that I shared with them forever, I tapped into my previous studies and meditation and I PULLED UP!
I made a promise to myself, my future students, and my fallen family members that I will never go back to the darkness or give up. Bodyisms was born. The idea was sitting in a journal for about a year previously. I decided to manifest distinct practices of mindful movement. I was always that girl that spoke life into others even when mine was falling apart. Since I made the choice to heal and address my life with intention. I began reaching others through dance and mindset. I began working with local artists in the community by choreographing for music videos and live performances. Giving them mindset boosts during rehearsal and right before we go on stage was my main focus. It was exhilarating! I wanted more. I took a hard look at what I was doing and have done. Then it came. It was time to build an afterschool program. I worked overnight on weekends at Planet Fitness. Every single Friday and Saturday, I pulled up a chair with my computer and began studying what it took to run my own after school program. I built my website, curriculum and community class offerings from scratch. Every single time someone saw me or talked to me, I was working. I couldn’t and won’t stop. One of my main drivers was working for an afterschool program that claimed to provide performing arts programming.
In reality, there never was a set structure, it was just teaching dance moves to kids. I was fed up with privileged people making money off of families with mediocre offerings. I knew I could offer more. So I did. More fire burning. Since then, I have been going through approval processes, applying for leadership cohorts, and joining organizations that will help me officially begin after school programming. I’m currently an after school leader for Aurora Public School COMPASS program. I’m applying for a program that gives leaders of color a more in-depth scope on how to combat systematic racism within the education system through after school programs, charter schools and more. In December, I started a dance company with two of my friends called Kosmic Influence Dance Company. This is geared for older students and young adults who need communities of color to provide opportunities and resources to shine in their own way. We operate out of Get Busy Livin’ Studio which is a black/Hispanic-owned multimedia arts company in the heart of 5 Points Plaza. All in all, I’m so blessed to be on this part of my journey of change! I’m looking forward to piloting my after school program this summer.
Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It has never been, isn’t, nor will be a smooth road. No one should expect a smooth road when pursuing personal greatness let alone impacting the community. I struggled and still struggle with making discipline an engrained habit, imposter syndrome, finding mentors, quieting the inner critic, not caring what others think yet needing communal input, and maintaining mental and emotional health while grinding on my daily schedule. There have been times on multiple occasions where I used to plan my day/write out a schedule and never execute, I have a tub full of books that’s taking forever for me to read, I tried to do and learn too many things at once, and just overall lacked consistency, focus, and discipline. As I get older, read more, and find stillness, all of these issues are beginning to fade away by design. Being self-aware of your self-imposed limitations and bad habits is the first step to addressing them to change. Sometimes I still struggle but in a matter of a year, something clicked in my mind and I got to work intentionally with a focused state of mind.
Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I’m your neighborhood dance teacher and choreographer! My career field is performing arts education within schools. Such as enrichment, after school, and summer camp programming. I operate Bodyisms LLC as an LLC and my next venture will be in the nonprofit sector. My current focus at this point in life is getting my after school program into schools and active during the summer. Bodyisms LLC focuses on leadership through the performing arts. The curriculum is based around my personal responsibility model. The Personal Responsibility Model ensures that we are dedicated to the growth of the whole child. The PRM is made up of: Core Teachings: Performing Arts/Leadership Skills Our SEL Concepts: Flexibility/Strength/Endurance/Balance Inquiry-based Learning: Students take ownership of their learning environmentThe world around us is constantly changing. We challenge our students to use critical thinking as well as creativity for problem-solving, establishing community while communicating and growing through life with an active sense of self-awareness and personal responsibility. Students will engage in our Personal Responsibility Model throughout the course of the 8-10-week sessions. Mentally and physically channeling the PRM, students are engaging in distinct practices- defined as “isms”. We factor in Mindful Movement by incorporating movement meditations and mindfulness before or after class. Lastly, inquiry-based learning helps students co-create their learning environment. This is carried out through the 3 E’s: explore, educate, and execute. Each unit is a package of sub-units that are vertically aligned through the backward planning process. With our program being after-school based, the curriculum provides a progressive structure that allows students to explore the arts. Our curriculum is aligned with the 2020 CDE Dance Standards. Each class is goal-oriented with leadership building, interpersonal awareness and physical activity! I’m also known for working with local artists, providing training, choreography, and dancers for their music videos and live performances.
In December, I teamed up with two amazing dancers and started a Hip Hop/Commercial based dance company called Kosmic Influence. We will be providing our members with professional development, resume/portfolio building, focus groups, community, and a safe space to create. I’m most proud of my desire and hunger to grow and play with the big dogs (professional who’ve been in the game for 10+ years). I strive to be in rooms with thought leaders who are molding the community around me so I can become one too through osmosis. I’m also proud of my team and I in KIDC! We formed in December and have had two successful workshops and a Black History Lifestyle event had our first round of submissions for company members and have been generating buzz in the community in the matter of two months! What sets me apart from others in my free spirit and wide open mind. I think about the world in very esoteric ways. I treat anyone I encounter with an abundance of love and respect. My intentions are always pure for everyone, even if they don’t know it, believe it, or care. Lastly, I spend all day every day training my mindset. I do not watch TV, I watch/listen to podcasts, read, train my body, practice intentional rest, meditation, and eating food that gives you life. These habits are becoming my essence. What’s crazy is, I’m just getting warmed up! 95% of what I do is all my personal design.
We all have a different way of looking at and defining success. How do you define success?
Based on my perspective of life, success is designed by everyone individually. Everyone has different experiences, dreams, ideas and comes from all walks of life. Being a great parent, becoming a CEO, becoming physically fit, getting your dream job, beating a serious illness, etc., can all be success. It seems that the main goal for a lot of people I associate with and even myself is to not work for anyone else and obtain multiple streams of income. I also choose to understand that I’m successful even now. The path to manifesting the life you choose by educating yourself, training your body, and/or making discipline become a habitual process is what makes me feel successful. The pursuit of planning out, visualizing, and taking the baby steps towards bigger goals is the rush I get out of life. Just think, what if you could do, be, and have whatever you want in this life? Well, you can. Just work backward from the desires and see what you need to do and become in order to do, be, and have whatever you want.
- Friday Hip Hop Choreography Classes at GBL: $20
- Private Lessons with Bodyisms: $20/hr (Works with budget as well)
- Bodyisms Dance Classes coming in April: $13
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.bodyismsdance.com
- Instagram: bodyisms_movement
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/bodyisms
DeShawn Davis, Connor Ray, and Janai Hines