Meet Jennifer McCamish- Former Rockette, owner of Dancer’s Shape studio in Austin, Texas, and admitted frito lover. Jennifer talks about the ups and the downs of pursuing her dreams. I think you’ll find her story and advice inspiring. And, as a gal who is lucky to call her a friend, I can tell you that she is as nice as she is talented.
Was a career in dance/fitness always your dream?
Dance was something I connected with as a young child. I was constantly turning my living room or backyard into a production of The Nutcracker or a circus for my family’s viewing pleasure (or not). When I went to college, my parents begged me not to major in dance because they were concerned with how I would make a living. Nevertheless, after two years in a Liberal Arts degree I had tried every course under the sun and nothing felt right except dance. I knew then that movement had to be a part of my life – even if I didn’t know how I was going to make a living at it.
Being from a small town I had not been exposed to a wide range of dance and theater, just the local production of The Nutcracker, Oklahoma and occasional traveling circus. My senior year of college I took my first trip to NYC for a dance program and my eyes were opened to Broadway. I purchased a ticket in the third mezzanine of Radio City Music Hall and sat on the very back row and watched the The Rockettes perform at the Christmas Spectacular. I said to myself, “I am going to do this show one day.”
What have been some biggest risks/challenges/mental blocks/fears etc. you have faced in pursuing your passion?
There are a couple of moments that really stick out in my mind as huge obstacles. The first being when I approached a college professor to seek advice about moving to NYC to pursue my dance dream. I was surprised at her response, “New York will eat you up and you’ll never make it.” I don’t think she intended her words to be as harsh as they sounded, and she was most likely trying to warn me about how difficult NYC can be. However, those words stuck with me and made me question my talent and doubt myself. But after some time to think, all I wanted to do was show anyone who doubted me that I had more tenacity than they knew. I was the only one who could dig down deep to know what I was capable of and how hard I was willing to work at something I wanted. I could have let those words keep me home bound, but instead all I could think of is that I would never know what I am capable of until I tried; and that unknown felt worse than failing.
The second was my career transition from a professional dancer into the “real world.” I was petrified of failing at something new because all I thought I was good at was dance. I had to put myself out there in fields that laughed at my lack of experience. I played with many ideas and several jobs that were not suited for me but I learned something new about myself in each situation. While this growth process was humbling, it forged a pathway that brought a stronger, smarter and more experienced me; leading me back to my passion of movement and fitness and allowed me to open my own business
Now you have a successful business, but what was it like in the tough times? Did it ever get to you?
When I first opened the studio it was the most stressful time of my life. I would get up at 5 am, go in to the studio and teach 6 classes a day (sometimes to 1 and 2 people in each class since we had just opened). On my non-teaching time I would attempt to learn accounting, clean the entire studio, train new instructors, and get home around 10:30 pm. I would then proceed to binge on fritos dipped in pimento cheese and polish it off with a huge bowl of ice cream. It was disgusting and delicious all at the same time. I’m just sayin…a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do to get through tough times.
What advice would you offer to women who want to pursue their passion but are scared or unsure about how to go about it?
Be open and flexible to the change and failure it takes to find your path. What you think you want to do might not pan out exactly the way you envisioned it. However, in the process you may find a different path that is a much better fit. Don’t let your failures discourage you from trying. Let those failures teach you invaluable lessons while building a smarter, resilient you.
If you could give some advice to your 22 year- old self, what would it be?
Trust yourself more, you are wiser than you know.
And, last but not least, why should someone check out Dancer’s Shape?
The workouts will change the way your mind and body looks and feels and the community is very special – warm and supportive, no matter what your goals are.
Click here to learn more about Dancer’s Shape!