Author, speaker and Huffington Post contributor Heather Reinhardt shares her story of how her dance coach, David Norwood, helped her identify, define and pursue a more epic life.
As a child, I spent my Hotlanta summer days alternating between the neighborhood pool and dance camp. This was pretty much how summers were for me from ages seven to seventeen. My youth was consumed with my love for dancing and performing.
Marietta, Georgia has produced an incredible amount of talent and creative ambition throughout the years – we have had New York Times Best Sellers, Broadway stars, Rockettes, Miss America contestants, So You Think You Can Dance winners, recording artists… the list goes on of different creative outlets that some of my peers have found themselves in as adults. During my childhood, that town was a hotbed of kids being strategically groomed for artistic success.
In 1998, there was buzz around our competition studio about a teacher from LA, David Norwood, who was coming to teach for summer camp.
“Purple leotard – what’s your name?”
I felt a bit timid around new people at the ripe age of thirteen. “Me? I’m Heather.”
“Heather, come up to the front, stage left. That’s where you’ll be for this piece.”
I waddled on up and took my spot.
“You love to dance, correct?”
I smiled and nodded, “Yes.”
“Okay then. Next time, leap with joy and enthusiasm to your spot.”
Even at age thirteen, I got the message. If I was going to do something, do it with vigor.
The following year, David uprooted from LA to take over the Atlanta dance scene. He became the senior company teacher at our studio. The first year he was with us was a learning experience for everyone. While his resume was filled with some of the crème de la crème (you can find David in a few Michael Jackson videos), he was new in the southern competitive scene – otherwise known as rhinestones galore. Our scores that first year led to many of our company members jumping ship to other studios.
The first day of senior company my sophomore year of high school, and David’s sophomore year of Atlanta, instead of starting out with his warm-up, we started out with a discussion. He went right for the pulse of the giant elephant in the dance studio.
“This company is much smaller than it was last year. For you guys, the ones who stayed – I will not let you down. We will win.”
He kept his word. Nine months later, we won a perfect score. It was the first perfect score our studio had ever won. We’d had close calls with scores in the 290’s, but never had we received a 300.
What does it take to win a perfect score? There are so many variables that add into the equation. Dedication, determination, belief in oneself, accountability, integrity, passion, practice, practice, practice. Fifteen years later, David and I still recall the perfect score and what it took. Of all the ways we achieved that 300, the bottom line came down to this –
“You guys wanted it.”
I remember this line often, especially when I’m in the pursuit of something. We wanted it. The rest of the blood, sweat and tears aren’t actually the main ingredients – yes, you do have to take action steps to achieve your goals. What initially matters is the desire.
Desire is the seed of manifestation. David calls me an expert manifestationalist (that’s not technically a word… yet…). When I moved to LA at age 22, my ways of thinking began to shift and change drastically. And while the fruits and nuts of California do exist (I’ve met more than my fair share over my last decade residing in SoCal), what I have learned from the culture and people of Los Angeles has been more substantial than just magical thinking. I have learned that you can manifest what you desire – and it’s essentially the same equation as winning that 300.
Recently, I said to David, “You know, I really have to pay homage to the fact that my experience growing up dancing gave me the backbone that I have today.”
He laughed, “Yes, your backbone and your stubborn competitiveness. Sorry about that, that’s partly my doing.”
I knew I had a tendency to be far too competitive in all arenas of my life, but for whatever reason, I hadn’t pieced together that it was because I was raised in a competitive environment. Of course I want to win at everything! I was part of Team 300!
The year after 300 was not easy – the pressure to repeat was high. One night during company rehearsal, while we were still learning the choreography of our new piece, I rolled my eyes at David’s correction to me. I was sixteen, had a perfect score under my belt and had the best back vertical in the room (my ego was as giant as The Big Chicken – whose eyes also happen to roll).
He saw my attitude. “In this room, we are a team. I know in your other competition company, you and your back vertical are the leads, but not in this room. It’s teamwork. Are you in or are you out?”
Tears started to well up in my eyes.
“Do you want to be the star or do you want to be epic?”
My throat choked up, “…epic.”
“Okay then, stand here.”
I went home that night and cried. Truth be told, I needed to be put in my place.
In 2008, I switched my Facebook city from Atlanta to Los Angeles. A little red message notification popped up.
David: You’re in LA? That’s my hometown! What are you up to?
Heather: I just moved here – I’m working in the entertainment industry as a make-up artist.
In 2012, I got another message.
David: I moved back to LA. Let’s grab a coffee and catch up.
That coffee turned into a daily check-in, friendship and mentorship (with the mentor position swapped between us – depending on the day and the situation).
In mid-2014, David and I both found ourselves in life changing situations. I was right smack in the middle of my Saturn Return – I had broken up with a boyfriend I thought I was going to marry, which prompted me to move out of the house we shared together. I knew myself well enough to acknowledge moving into a one-bedroom completely alone post break-up was not going to go over well for me. I knew I needed a drastic change – one with a bit of adventure.
I packed my belongings tightly into a storage unit while I opened my heart wide open to explore what the future held for me. I called it my nomadic adventure. I housesat/petsat/subletted/stayed with friends – I lived in other people’s houses, drove other people’s cars, seemingly living other people’s lives while fully embracing my own. In doing so, I got a sense of how others lived, which encouraged me to create more out of my own life. Most of my friends didn’t grasp what the heck I was doing, as it was so unconventional, especially for my character – I am a Cancer sun sign; home is where the heart is, after all.
David, though, not only did he grasp it, he joined in. I got a call from him when I was about two months into my nine-month nomadic adventure. (Coincident that it was nine months? I literally re-birthed myself – which is precisely what Saturn Returns force you do – whether you’re conscious about it or not).
“I’m getting a divorce. I’m moving into a dance studio. I need to find a place to stay for about two weeks in between the transition.”
The news of the divorce was not surprising. What was surprising was how the two of them remained the best of friends and amazing parents to their three children. His now ex-wife (I have known her just as long as I have known David, as she was also a dance teacher of mine) credits their friendship post divorce as a conscious choice. Mimicking much of my own experience in my last relationship that lead to a break-up, they are both great people – but great for other people.
I chimed in, “Why don’t you come stay with me?”
David arrived a few days later at what we now refer to as the Lakshmi house. Lakshmi is the Goddess of Abundance in Hinduism and at this particular house I was occupying in Venice Beach, her presence was for sure abundant. There were statues, blankets, magnets – basically all gift shop items had been Lakshmized.
One evening after I finished a yoga class (which is where I found my center, my balance, my home, while on my nomadic adventure) and after David had taught a dance class, he picked up a meal for us from California Chicken Café. We had dinner on the Lakshmified back patio.
He said, “I’ve pretty much hit rock bottom.”
I said, “You know what that means right?”
“Plenty of things… but what are you referring to?”
“The way J.K. Rowling referred to it – rock bottom allows you to build from a new, solid, steady foundation. This is a gift.”
He said, “Isn’t that what you’re doing on this nomadic adventure of yours? Starting anew?”
“Alright. I’m in. Let’s burn the ships.”
I smirked, “I’ll grab the lighter fluid.”
What we both learned at our time at the Lakshmi house was that abundance is a way of thinking. If you begin to recognize the little things, then you have no choice but to receive the bigger things. Our ships are still burning with no opportunity to go back – giving us only one option. Be epic.
Here’s the thing that no one really talks about when you decide to go down the path of epicness – it requires all of your dedication, determination, belief in oneself, accountability, integrity, passion, practice, practice, practice. Most importantly, you must desire to be epic. Ahh, these are the exact qualities that got us that 300. Except now we took all the ingredients and placed them into every single arena of our lives.
Being epic has a different definition to everyone. For me, epic is to wake up every day choosing to be genuinely happy, with it exuding from my very being. For me, epic is expressing myself by writing and speaking – sharing the stories that changed my life with others. For me, epic is taking care of my body – feeding it healthy, organic foods and making sure I make it to my yoga mat often. For me, epic is acknowledging all of the beautiful and wonderful things I have in my life – from my job that helps keep the roof over my head to my friendships that provide deep and meaningful conversations. Somewhere there’s a Lakshmi statue rolling her eyes at me thinking, “Finally, she gets it.”
I asked David what epic meant for him. In his typical metaphor-meets-artistic form, he replied, “Epic is the habitual practice of taking the ordinary and catalyzing it into transcendent beauty. Epic acts are the bricks and mortar that lay the foundation of an extraordinary life. An extraordinary life is an epic act of selflessness to pave the way for others to achieve that which they want. Therefore “Epic” is the only religion. The only meditation. The only act we should do.”
Atlanta, you’re lucky – David is currently teaching classes at Dance 101. He has recently created a new company, Underground Ballet, and you can see their show, Kaidan, premiering spring 2017.
Follow David at –
Instagram – @triphopdavid
Twitter – @triphopdavid
Facebook – @triphopdavid
Meet Author Heather Reinhardt
Heather Reinhardt has her fingers in many pies (both metaphorically and IRL – she loves pastries). She is an author, speaker, make-up artist, Angeleno, yogi, yerba mate addict and expert manifestationalist.