Ep 162 Transcript - Dr. Chelsea Pierotti

Ep 162 Transcript

Dr. Chelsea: Welcome to Passion for Dance. I'm your host, Dr. Chelsea, and I'm on a mission to create happier, more successful dancers through positive mental skills. And I'm also someone who loves to be inspired by dancers who are living their dreams but honest about the hard work it takes to get there. My guests today are here to do just that and pull back the curtain on their journey from studio to competitive college team to the Radio City Rockettes.

Caitlin and Courtney Sullivan, known to many of you as simply The Sullivan Twins, are here today to share their journey and how their mental skills helped make it happen. They talk about values, content creation, training plans, and of course, the mindset behind it all. While they are professional dancers and they achieved their dream of being Rockettes, they actually didn't make it the first time. But their story of resilience and being present in high-pressure situations will inspire you to never give up on your dreams.

And before we get into the show, if you are new here, welcome! And be sure to follow the podcast wherever you're listening. Each episode is designed to teach you the mental skills you need to be the best dance educator and most successful dancer you can be. Go to www.chelseapierotti.com/follow. You'll see the link below in the show notes. Make sure, that way you follow along wherever you're listening now, so you don't miss an episode. Okay, let's get started with The Sullivan Twins!


[Motivational Music]

Hi, I'm Dr. Chelsea, a former professional dancer and mental performance coach. I know what it feels like to be a passionate dance teacher who cares about your dancers, but you want to challenge them and help them be their best, and I also recognize that some traditions and teaching practices in the dance world are harmful. So I'm on a mission to change our dance industry by creating happier, more successful dancers using positive mental skills.

When you understand how to help your dancers with their confidence, how to find their own motivation, work together as a team and more, your dancers will unlock new levels of competitive success and happiness. And it's not just about them; you deserve the same. So we'll talk about how dance teachers can use positive mental skills to be more confident, resilient, and motivated as well.

Be sure to hit “subscribe” wherever you listen to podcasts. There are new episodes every Thursday, and each week you'll hear from me and my guests with advice and actionable tips for building mental toughness, covering topics about mindset, motivation, resilience, and building a community. Passion for Dance is a show designed to help dance educators like you have a positive impact on every dancer you teach.

[Motivational Music]


Dr. Chelsea: Welcome, Courtney and Caitlin! Thank you so much for joining me.

Caitlin & Courtney: Yeah! Hey! Thank you for having us. We're so excited to be here!

Dr. Chelsea: Thank you. Well, I am thrilled for you to share and hear all about your journey and the work you guys have done together. Will you share a little about your dance background, where you came from training-wise, and what you're doing now?

Caitlin & Courtney’s Dance Background, Training, and Where They Are Now – 2:58

Caitlin & Courtney: Yeah. So I am Caitlin. I'm Courtney. I feel like we always have to start with that.

Dr. Chelsea: Yes. Good plan.

Caitlin & Courtney: We’re identical twins. We look very alike. We are from North Jersey. We grew up at a studio called StudioL in Waldwick, New Jersey. We’ve trained there since we were 3 through 18 years old, where we graduated, and then we went on to Rutgers University, stayed in New Jersey, stayed in our home state. Jersey girls through and through. Yep.

And we did all four years at Rutgers, and we joined the Rutgers Dance Team. We did the whole dance team experience. We continued to compete. We were competitive dancers growing up and we wanted to stay in that realm. So we chose to do a dance team style and we competed all four years at UDA Nationals, got to keep doing that. We competed in jazz and pom — or let me back up a little bit. We grew up dancing kind of like an all styles. We trained in ballet, tap, jazz, all the things. And then we kept going with the technique route where we did jazz and pom in college. And then that kind of carried us into our post-college professional dance career.

Yeah, so we graduated in 2020. So what a great time to graduate from college with the pandemic. So we knew we wanted to dance. That was something that was really important to us. But then in the midst of the world shutting down, we just didn't know which way we were going to go, and it really took a second for us to figure out what's our next step, and like so many other people during that time, we were like, “Okay, maybe we'll start just like posting some of our dance videos.”

And we were really fortunate to be living at home near our home studio, and our teachers graciously let us use the studio during the mornings when none of the kids were there, and we just started going in and creating things on our own. We started an Instagram and a TikTok page. And it was one of those stereotypical overnight things where some video blows up, goes viral of us doing some partnering tricks, which is something that we were pretty well known for growing up. We had duets from second grade all the way through, and I feel like that was a big part of our dance training because that was like the core foundation of us as a partnership. And we really wanted to hone in on those skills. And every day we were just trying out new tricks or new choreography and filming everything.

So then, from there, it kind of took us into a whole different avenue we never would have expected coming out of college if it hadn't been for the pandemic. So that was really a blessing in disguise for us. And as the world started to open up again and more dancers were able to come back to New York City and start dancing again, we slowly started to get back into classes.

And, for us, our dream job was to always be Rockettes.

So as time went on, the show had been canceled in 2020, 2021. There was no public audition. So finally come 2022, 2 years later of us really training for that job while also doing our own thing on social media, we were able to audition. We didn't make it the first year. We came back. We really looked at where we were at with our training, came back the second year, made it in 2023, and, you know, now we're just coming off our first season and having fun dancing in the city, doing other jobs, and getting ready to go back into our second season. So that's where we really are up to current day.

Dr. Chelsea: That is amazing, and I love the resilience. I'm going to dig into the Rockettes and the resilience there too, because I think that's wonderful. But you have some big transitions that I think are what people would presume to be separate paths, like studio to commercial or, you know, like dance team to dance team. But you've really kind of crossed both worlds, which I think is wonderful, and a lot of dancers might feel like, “I have to make a choice,” or “It's one or the other,” or “I don't have the training for that.” So I'm not sure if you ever did like pom in studio, right? So like those kinds of big — yeah. Shaking your heads. No, right.

Caitlin & Courtney: We never held poms until college. [Laughs]

Dr. Chelsea: Right, and you've been able to really do so many different avenues of that. So I'd love to talk about that kind of journey in the transition because I think there's a lot of mindset work around that kind of transition. So will you share some about that? Both of those big transitions, I think studio to dance team and then dance team to pro in New York and kind of maybe highs and lows of that transition, anything that comes to mind when thinking about those?

Caitlin & Courtney’s Experience with Big Transitions – 7:32

Caitlin & Courtney: Yeah, I mean, I feel like we're lucky that we have each other, and I feel like sometimes when you are facing a big transition or something you've never done before it's easy to doubt yourself, and because we've always had each other we've always looked at things like, “Okay, how are we going to tackle this? We've never done pom before but neither of us have and we can work together on this.”

So I feel like from high school going to college, the dance team world felt like it was a similar path from competition, but there were actually so many differences, like the pom style we just had never done before, but we're the craziest people who are just hard workers where we put in the time on our own as well. So we were very, very dedicated to quickly picking up the pom style as fast as we could. It's like a whole new language. And we would really try to take the time on our own as well.

That summer going into our freshman year, we'd have those summer practices at school and then we'd go home and we'd go into the studio and we would practice and we would try to start learning different — we’d turn different. We don't plié to the corner anymore. We plié to the front and our a la secondes. Just like little differences we were like, “All right, let's take what we've been given, the new tools, and let's work together on this,” and that's kind of how we've always approached things.

For sure, and I think also for any dancer who is looking to make that transition, we've always gone back to our core foundation. If you have that training growing up, you can take that and apply it to anything, so when in doubt, we always knew we had this ballet training. We used to take ballet four times a week growing up, In addition to other technique classes, in addition to every other dance class we were taking at that time. So I think we look at it as, okay, dance team — and this is something I can really say in hindsight. I don't know if I really knew it at that time, but dance team styles are almost like learning a new language. And I think the same thing about now, current day, the next transition into precision jazz. Learning a new language does not happen overnight, and I think we've learned to be more patient with tackling a new style. We may have in the first place the thought, “Oh yeah, we could do this. We've been dancing our whole lives. Why couldn't we? Just apply poms or add heels and do kicks.” It felt like it was going to be easier than it actually was, and thank God it was so hard because I feel like it made us stronger dancers and stronger individuals.

Yeah. You need to know this isn't something that happens overnight. You need to work on it, and I feel like the transition in college was really helpful to then transitioning out of college. We knew what it takes to learn something new. We knew that we needed to push each other. We love to hold each other accountable. So it's like, there are no days off, and if there is a day off, we're taking it together. We're reevaluating things, and when we go back into the studio, it’s like let's push one another so that we can achieve those other goals.

I would say that for people trying to transition into something they haven't done before it's accountability, and we are really lucky that we have each other because it is helpful to have another person going through it. And you can do that with a friend. If someone's going through something similar. But creating a schedule for yourself, I would say we definitely do.

Like, for example, the transition into the precision jazz worlds with the Rockettes. We would kick every day together, and we held ourselves to that. We would go to our studio gym, and we would do our kicks in our sneakers. We’d put on the heels and everything. We would tap every day. We have set things we would do. And then we would — we were doing a lot, but we were doing these things on our own and we would hold each other to that because we’d do ballet classes. We’d do tap classes. We’d do precision jazz classes. We were doing private lessons. We were doing it all, but you can do that a couple of times a week, but really what you do on your own, if you can get up the first thing in the morning or whenever and do those things, hold yourself accountable, I feel like that's what led us to achieving the things we wanted to do.

And so, I feel like we never looked at things and thought — we never really had too much doubt. We're always like, “This might be hard. It might take a while. It might not be the first try that we get this,” but we never doubted that we were going to achieve these things, which is nice, because we just looked at it as, “Oh, it's a journey. We need to keep working. We have to keep doing these things, and if it's not working yet, we need to reevaluate our schedule and how we're organizing and how we're putting certain styles ahead of others.” Yeah.

But yeah, we're very type A. I feel like all dancers are type A. I hope you're not getting this from the [INDISCERNIBLE].

Dr. Chelsea: Right. Well, you're speaking about growth mindset. You're speaking about this desire of like, “Is this going to be hard, but we'll get it eventually,” and that core belief of the hard work will get me there. And I think there's a little bit of a misconception that growth mindset just means think positive, and it’s not. It's exactly what you guys are saying, where it's actually like, “This is going to be hard, but I believe it possible. I'm capable of learning something new.” And so, I love to hear that because, you guys, I mean, your technique is absolutely stunning, but that doesn't mean each style is easy, right?

Caitlin & Courtney: Thank you. Oh yeah, yeah.

Dr. Chelsea: So I think that that growth mindset piece is so amazing to hear. And I love that even when you have such strong technique, it still takes so much discipline to learn the next style.

How Caitlin & Courtney Motivate Each Other – 13:00

You started to touch on a little bit, Caitlin, about motivating each other and accountability. Will you speak to that a little bit and if it’s you have to motivate each other? What happens when one of you really is not in the mood to go to the studio that day or record, or is it really like, “I have to be there for her”? What does that look like for you guys?

Caitlin & Courtney: I feel like — well, I'll jump in and then you can jump in as well, but I feel like Something that has helped us is creating a schedule at the beginning of the week. So we're like, “Okay, here are the things that we want to do,” and when you look at it like, “Okay, I don't have to do everything today,” I can just be like, “Okay, we need to tap this week, but let's set it for Thursday, and that's the end of the week. What other things can we achieve before then? What other styles of dance do we want to focus on?” Because even when you are trying to achieve this dream or transitioning into a new style, whether it's going into college or coming out of college, not everything you do has to be that one style, and that has been really great for us.

I think that's where the social media aspect has helped us more. Our page and all the content we've created has really always been so true to us. Even though we are precision dancers now, most of the content we create is still contemporary or sassy jazz or partnering, and those are the things that were at our core from day one, and those are the things we still love to do the most. So I think that has really helped keep us grounded and then motivate us on top of it to do other things as well. I think having a well-rounded schedule is really important to us, and then we can push each other. I do feel like that helps motivate us, too.

Yeah, if you focus too hard on one thing, I feel like you can burn out really quick. You need to keep things fun and well-rounded. That will help you stay in love with this sport, and it's hard because it's such a high-pressure environment, especially if you have one big goal, and if that's all you can think about, I feel like you lose yourself in it and you lose a little bit of love for it. So we always have been like, “Okay, yes, we're training for this, but can we take a different style class one night this week?” We do something else. We've always been really, really big on that because it's just helped us decompress a little bit, let loose because it's just you can — I mean you get lost. Yeah, and it's so stressful too. We totally get it now that we see what it's like to be in this professional dance environment. It's like oh my gosh, if you focus too hard on one thing, you could combust. You have to be able to let loose, and we're lucky we have each other to help motivate in that way too.

And I think that was what I was saying earlier too about the pandemic being a blessing in disguise. The whole world stopped for a second, and that gave us the time that not everyone gets now to really evaluate what is most important to us? What do we love about dance? What do we want to pursue? If there's nothing to pursue at this moment, we got that time to really just look at the core values that we have for dance, and it was technique and the styles that we love most, and we got to really dive deeper into those. So I think that will always be held closer to us. And if I don't feel motivated to tap or go to ballet one week, that's okay. I can do other things.

One other thing that has helped us the most, honestly, since 2020 is we go to the gym and do a regular workout every single day. And I just feel so much better about myself. I feel fit. I feel happier. And there are some days where it's okay if you don't dance. I can get a good stretch in, a good workout in, and I feel like I could go into an audition tomorrow, and it would be okay because I feel really healthy, honestly, and it's okay that I didn't dance necessarily and do some kind of prep the day before because you are still working on the best version of yourself. It's okay if you're not doing something every single day. Just be active, and your core training will always be there.

Dr. Chelsea: Oh, that's well said. I love that, and I think there's — breaking down into those smaller goals like what do we do this week that leads to the bigger goal is so applicable in every way. It’s the college life of like, “Yeah, UDA Nationals is our goal, but that's not what we're worried about in September,” or “What are we doing now to train for that?” So whatever happens at nationals, you know you've done your best to prepare for it. And I presume, similarly, that happens in the pro world too, where you're like, “I'm going to do everything I can to be prepared, and if it happens, great, and if not, I learned. I can keep growing. I can just adapt to the next goal.”

So does that resonate? You feel like if you don't reach a goal, what happens? How do you approach the reset for the next one?

How Caitlin & Courtney Approach Resetting if They Don’t Reach a Goal – 17:51

Caitlin & Courtney: We have to talk to each other about it. If a goal doesn't happen, maybe give each other a day to — I was gonna say, first, take a break.

Dr. Chelsea: Beautiful. Yes, pause.

Caitlin & Courtney: Maybe more than a day, but just to mourn the loss or be like, “Okay, I worked hard for that, but it didn't work out this time. Take a second, breathe,” and then we come back the next week and we're like, “Okay, what went wrong here? What do we need to work on?” A lot of times, because we have each other, we can usually pinpoint like, “We need to be stronger in this. We need to do this differently. We need to reevaluate how we trained in that area.” We’re big game planners, and like you were saying, we do see things week by week. We like to see the big picture, but we're like, “One day at a time. One week at a time. What are we going to do?” Let's reevaluate which classes, who we’re working with, how we're working together.

And that really is what happened with our first year auditioning for the Rockettes versus our second year. That summer we made it towards the end, so we knew we were very close to our goal, but it wasn't our year. We took a second, and then we really sat down and reevaluated, and we totally made a new game plan, and it worked out. I feel like it was easier for us to look at it, like you said, what's our plan week by week, but then also looking at it in a longer-term sense like we will invest our time and money into a new form of training to achieve this goal. But say it doesn't work out again next year, then we will reevaluate. We are not going to push ourselves through the same kind of process year after year after year. We will always change it and we will always reevaluate.

And knowing, okay, I need to focus on this week, but it gave me a sense of relief knowing, “Hey, I have eight months until I have to worry about this again. Just taking it day by day,” was way more calming for me versus thinking, I don't know, way too long term of like, “Oh my God, this is how much money I'm putting into privates or training. Where am I going to be five years from now if I don't have this job?” You just can't look at it that way, and it was really nice to have gone through it once. I think having a first failure or a first rejection was helpful in a way where I was like, “Thank God I got a little bit more clarity because going into this.” We were so blind, didn't know where we stood. Were we even close? Were we on the right track? I needed that first time to be like, “Okay, we were close. But there are some things that we need to work on.”

Asking for help I think is the biggest thing to do. You won't always get the answers. That's probably the hardest thing about leaving an audition too. They're not going to tell you why you didn't get it. Sometimes they do, and that's an amazing gift that you could receive. But a lot of times you just don't know, so it's a lot of self-reflection. We're lucky, like Caitlin said, we're like looking in a mirror. So, “I assume our situation is very similar, so this is what I see on you. What do you see on me? What do you think we should tackle first?” And asking for help from people in the industry who have either done this job or help train other people or are in it now, like, “Hey, what do you think? Where do you think I should focus here?” Because if you do too much of everything, I think you'll run yourself into the ground, and we were more like, “I think we're close. Love to dance. I want to keep dancing. What are the core areas that we need the most work in? Because I'm really going to laser focus on those.”

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah. That sounds amazing. And you're right. Asking for help and just being able to reevaluate and adjust, that's what goal setting is. It's not end goal and bust. It's how do we get there and that growth mindset the whole way. I love that.

Courtney, I think you were talking about values and that you had a chance to sit in it and decide and kind of learn what really fit you guys. I'd love to talk about that a little bit. One of my favorite topics to ask dancers is to talk about identity, because a big part of your teens and your twenties is figuring out, “Who am I? What do I care about? What do I want,” right? That's a normal, challenging journey for so many people.

So I guess, first, how would you describe yourselves now that you've been able to kind of do some of that value work? Do you know? Can you articulate those values?

Caitlin & Courtney’s Values – 22:04

Caitlin & Courtney: Sure, I think that these are things that we have looked at a lot. When you are creating a page online, I think you are forced to look more at who are we as individuals, as a partnership? What are we trying to show people? And we know at our core the most important things to us are each other. Being sisters, being twins, that is overall our very obvious identity, but there's something really beautiful and interwoven in our relationship that can be seen through our dancing. So us as twins and us as dancers are the core things that could be used to describe us, and we want to show people how amazing that relationship is and how it's really shaped who we are today as professionals. So, that was really the main thing we looked at when we were coming into our professional careers. We are dancers but we're twins first, honestly, and we want to achieve goals together. It wasn't like individual career paths. It was really a chance to be like why are we not taking advantage of this amazing thing that we have that not everyone else does.

Not everyone dances with their sister. Some people dance with their sister, but not everyone dances with a twin, and we want to continue to really lean into that, and I think knowing what styles of dance make you happiest are going to really shine through at the end of the day. So keeping close to us, we love our technique and we want to continue to work on that even as we're getting older and we're tighter and things hurt more. It's not like we're 18 still, but we’ll really hold true to that core foundation and pushing ourselves in the studio and making ourselves record technical dance videos too. We're still wearing the dance clothes we loved growing up, which led to creating our own dancewear line.

There are just so many things that we stayed true to, and I think it led to amazing career opportunities. So that's something that I feel really is like the epitome of who we are, and we'll hopefully never lose that as long as our legs stay on and we'll just keep dancing.

I do think that's the core of all of our values is just what we do together and what makes us happy, and we have just realized over time. I think we always knew that we were stronger together, but I feel like maybe college, post-college is where we were really like, “This is something special that not a lot of people can come by.” Not a lot of people have a twin who does the same sport, has the same passion. So we really were like, “This should be like the base of what we do from here on out.”

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah, you can absolutely see the bond and the passion. It's clear that it's both of you rather than one saying like, “This would help me. Come with me!”

Caitlin & Courtney: Right.

Dr. Chelsea: It’s like you both genuinely — yeah. I love that. Do you feel like you have impacted each other throughout this process?

Caitlin & Courtney’s Impact on Each Other – 25:05

Caitlin & Courtney: Oh yeah, I feel like that's been since day one. We've always looked at one another, and if someone achieves something, whether it was as basic as a pirouette when we were little, the other one would be like, “Okay, well, now I'm going to try that.” We've always, always impacted each other just to make each other better in so many different areas of life. That's just how we felt. We were always stronger together because we just kept looking to one another, and we're like, “Okay, if she can break through that wall, so can I.” It really makes you believe if she can do it, then I can do it.

And it can also just be in the content that we've created. It's been such a beautiful — anyone who's collaborated with someone could probably relate to this, but it's been such a beautiful process in that when we post a dance video and so many people are, you know, commenting or sharing it, it's such a nice thing to see and to know, behind the scenes in that creative process, that video would not have come to fruition if it hadn't been both of our ideas. The way that we're able to build on each other and be like, “Okay, I saw this online. I feel like we could do a variation of that if you try this and I'll try this,” and just building on that.

There has never been a video where one person can take full responsibility for it. It's always been a collaborative process, and that has been so nice to see, “Oh, my God, I never would have thought of that if it wasn't for you,” or “This visual would never have come true if it wasn't for both of us together.” It's really cool, and we have such a great community online that to get that positive affirmation from other people that they love what we've put out has been one of the most amazing things that has ever happened to us, honestly.

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah. Oh, that's wonderful. I want to ask about social media. Let's go there a little bit and talk about what you've been able to create. I am the first to say that social media scares me. It's not my thing, but it's just not something I'm comfortable with, I guess. It's not that it's bad, right? It's just not something that I've ever been comfortable with, but what you two have created is truly special because of, again, you can see the passion and the artistry behind it. It's not just, “How many likes can we get? How many comments — you know, what can we build from this?” But the genuine love of the art shows through in what you're doing.

So will you share a little about your social media journey, how that's kind of evolved and changed what that process is like?

Caitlin & Courtney’s Social Media Journey – 27:26

Caitlin & Courtney: Yeah, I mean, it's so crazy because people always ask how that page started, how these social channels came about, and we always just say it was a COVID thing, and it really was, and we're so lucky for that because we really had that time where we were just in the studio creating and creating and just trying to dance. And everybody can relate to those years and that time where you were just stuck at home, and we were so lucky we could get into the studio together, and I just don't think it would have been the same if we had started now. And we just had so much time to just start falling back in love with dance in a whole different way.

And it truly was for us when we started posting because we didn't have any type of following at all. We really just wanted to be in the studio, and it was for us, and then we started to grow this following where people were just so genuinely supportive. And we were so lucky because we always would say, “Oh, social media can be scary,” like you said, Chelsea. It’s just that you don't know — like people can — yeah, you don't know how people will react. And we always say that we are so lucky. People are so nice. People are so supportive on our pages.

And so, it just pushed us to keep creating and trying new things, and it led to so many amazing opportunities where we still — it's been almost three years now since we started those channels. Almost four years. Oh, whoa. Almost four years. That's so crazy. We have done so many things that we never, ever would have predicted. And it really is because of social media, and we have made rules for ourselves. We handle it in such a different way than I've ever handled social media before. I feel like we were never like the girls always posting. When it was my own personal page, I was on social media, but I wasn't doing all these things. I wasn't posting dance videos. And then when we created this page together, I feel like because you're doing it with someone, it feels less scary or intimidating.

And to that too, I was going to say we honestly view our page more as like a business rather than something so personal just like — that could also just be like a self-defense mechanism like it’s something that people can't even attack. It’s a business. It's not something personal, but it is personal because it really is. We're sharing a piece of our hearts, but we really have viewed it as less of like a talking to our page more of like a dancing for our page, dancing for our followers, I mean, and I think over time, we've shared more and more about ourselves, and people have gotten to know us and our story, which is beautiful, but it really, at the core, has been just a way to share our passion because that's where it started, like Caitlin said, and that's something that we always want to be clear. When people go to our page — and some people have asked us this too. “When people go to your page, what do you want them to know first?” And I'm like, “I want them to know about us as sisters, and I want them to know about how crazy in love we are with dance because that's where it all started.”

Dr. Chelsea: That's exactly what you see too, and I think that's a healthy amount of distance. Like you said, protect yourselves a little bit, but yet, be able to use it to create opportunities that, again, align with what you care about, what you want to do, how you want to spend your time. If it opens those doors, that's wonderful that you want to be able to share that.

Will you share a little about the content creation process? I think you started to say a little bit that you always choreograph together. What does that look like when you're working on something?

Caitlin & Courtney’s Content Creation Process – 31:00

Caitlin & Courtney: Yeah, it's very fun for us. We used to really think of it as a schedule, especially during the COVID when we were still living back in New Jersey and we were going into the studio. We'd be like, “Okay, one Instagram reel a week and a TikTok video five days a week,” and now it's a little bit more fluid like, “What are we creating? What are we working on? When do we want to post?”

But the creation of a dance video for us is cool because we'll go into the studio one day, free, try new things, and I like to view it as the creative day. It doesn't have to be the filming day, so we feel like we're not pressured for time or pressured for how it's going to look in that moment. We’re like it's a workshopping opportunity, continue to work, work, work until we feel happy with the product, and then the next day we usually would go back into the studio and film it. We have either a close family friend or sister or someone like a videographer who would come in and film us. And then we've also done things with tripods and just setting up a tripod with our phone, have a little lighting. We will edit the video afterwards and overlay the music. These are all just things that we figured out over time and kept doing, and it's evolved, of course, but it really has always been in house for us, and that's been like the best way to do it. We have two people who are capable of filming and editing, so that has been really fun for us.

Yeah, I feel like I'll always miss that time in COVID where there wasn't a lot happening and we were just creating videos for ourselves. The creative process was so fun, and everybody else was — we always had one friend, like once a week, come in and film and everybody was at home working online, remote work, so we always had someone around who would come and film us, and that was just a time. And we have all these videos now that we were creating. We've created so much. We still do, but I feel like it's more fluid, like Courtney was saying, or it's a video from class, it's a video from a job we did.

I think that's just life. That's just life. Growing into the professional world, we're doing other gigs. We had a gig yesterday. It's not that, you know what I'm saying, remote world that we were in but I think it's cool, though, that we had that phase of life where —

Dr. Chelsea: Mm-hmm.

Caitlin & Courtney: — we were just literally just creating to create every single day.

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah, well, and it sounds like how much that has fueled your current passion because this can, I'm sure, feel very like “next thing,” we're always doing something, but to have had the time for that foundation of what you love to do together, that's really special. Yeah.

Caitlin & Courtney: Yeah, thank you.

Dr. Chelsea: Okay, I want to circle back to Rockettes a little bit because we went there, and I want to make sure we come back to it. So you said you didn't make it the first time, came back and, you know, decided how you were going to approach it the second time.

So will you share how you prepared for that audition and what that process looked like? And of course it's me, so I'm curious about the mental side of it too. You clearly did the physical work, but being prepared, you know, mentally being confident. Were you confident? What was that like?

Caitlin & Courtney’s Rockettes Audition Process – 34:05

Caitlin & Courtney: Yeah, we’re very good at instilling confidence in each other and coming to that very calm, zen place. Something that's really beautiful about the process too is that we filmed ourselves talking about how we felt right before the audition. The first audition had a three-day process, and every day we were filming ourselves talking about how it went, where we're at, how we're feeling emotionally and mentally. And we're also very big journalers. So I don't know if anyone listening has a bullet journal, but that's how we keep ourselves organized. And we would do a lot of manifesting, honestly. I love going back to my journal from over a year ago, and I would write “Radio City” in big letters or just something about, “Manifest good things. Manifest positive things,” and those were a lot of thoughts like around the March, beginning of April time because April was the audition season.

Yeah, I would write down — I would say, “You will get this job. You can do this.” I would keep saying I just had to keep writing it to manifest, and we are very much like no negative thoughts. Don’t say them out loud. We need to continue to feel and think positive, and sometimes that's just like saying it out loud to each other. Say it out loud to yourself, say it in your mirror. But it's beautiful that we have each other to be like, “No, it's going to be amazing and it's going to be better than last year. We're going to get to the end of the audition.” There are just so many things that I said and said and said until I believed it.

And I always did believe it. But I think if I had to compare the two years that we auditioned, the first year, there were some inner doubts that were like eating at me that I was like, “Am I prepared? Is this the year?” But then the second year I knew that we had done the work that we needed to do that I was like, “No, it is the year. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. It's happening and we're gonna get it,” and we just kept saying it to each other, and it's like a grueling process mentally for everyone. It's just something that everyone wants so badly. You can feel the energy in the room, and you need to be able to just take yourself to that calm place where you can feel very confident but also just calm within yourself so that nothing is panicking you or changing your mindset that you've worked on for so long.

Yeah, I feel like by the end there's a second audition in August for two days, and that's when it really comes to the head of who's going to make it. And I feel like by the time we got to that last August day, we were excited. I was so excited. We were just so pumped, and I feel like all of the mental work we did leading up to that for months I feel like it really paid off because I was not used to that feeling the morning of an audition. I was like, “This is it! This is the last day, and I'm excited. I'm just excited to dance and then walk away and we'll find out when they send out the calls.”

That's the best thing is knowing you did everything you possibly could. Leave it in their hands, and just walk away. Yeah. And we did, and we took a week of relaxation in August, and then we got our calls that we had gotten the job! But that was probably the best thing I could have asked for was walking away and feeling good and positive and just knowing I did what I needed to do.

Getting to that August audition, just the prep of it, that was probably one of the hardest two months we've ever had in that how much we prepared was crazy. We just kept doing everything we possibly could, practicing the combos we had learned from them, practicing like our kicks, just anything we could possibly do, our tap skills. We did it, and I felt stronger than I ever have before because we just weren't letting up. We're just like, “We know that we’re so close,” and if you get to that point where you're like, “I can see it,” keep pushing yourself and then take a break right afterwards.

We were sending each other quotes too, about how the work is worth it too. We were very much manifesting, looking at good things, just all about the positive thoughts and then putting in the work.

Yeah, and just to circle it back to the journaling, in addition to my bullet journal with the organization, I'm also just like a regular journaler as well. That process, we have to do like a five-day conservatory where it's basically like a training camp before you go to the August audition, and both the conservatory and the August audition, I had written about how it was the most present I've ever felt in an audition or a training intensive. I just felt like, wow, every single moment could be a turning point that could convince them that I can do this job, and it could change my life. And I felt like that importance that I held within me was definitely something that made a huge difference.

And then we did get the job and I was like, wow, I feel like in that moment, I was taking every second in and knowing my life could change if I just do what I need to do, do the job, do what will show them that I'm ready. And that's probably one of the most amazing things. I'm so happy I wrote about it because now I'll never forget it.

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah. Absolutely. Well, I'm a huge advocate for journaling as well. And so much of it is also looking back on the journal. And I love that you said that too, like being able to look back at what you wrote before, being able to put the emotions there, being able to read it back to yourself even like the next day and be able to have that. And I love that you kind of did it in the video too, of being able to record it and have that to look at, to remind yourself.

Caitlin & Courtney: Yeah. Yeah.

Dr. Chelsea: And we know so much of confidence comes from just doing the work, right? Like you said, you know you have done everything you possibly could do.

But I'd love to ask about being in the present because I think that is the part that's hard for so many dancers to be whenever you are, either onstage at nationals or auditioning. It's easy to get caught up in thinking about the end, thinking about the call, thinking about awards, or thinking about a performance, prelims before, or last year rather than being in the moment. It sounds like you were able to do that for the second Rockettes audition. Have you always been able to do that? Any advice on how you're able to be present in those high-pressure moments?

Advice on How to be Present in High-Pressure Moments – 40:23

Caitlin & Courtney: I feel like a lot of time passes by. If there's one event, if there's one audition a year that you come back to, or if there's that one competition in college you go to, you have so much time to reset that by the time it comes around the next year, you've probably trained in a different way. You have the time to mentally reset, so by the time you face it a second time or the next year, you're ready. That's how we've always been, I feel like.

And I'm sure there have been times where we've lost ourselves in the prep or the stress of the competition or the audition, whatever it might've been. But those are the times that don't stand out to me anymore. But then there are really, really special moments in our lives that stand out to me. I still think about it. I smile about it. I've written about it, but I'm like, “I want to remember these moments forever,” and those were the moments where we felt super confident and present because the work had been done. And now that I do have some of those special moments, I'm like, “I want more of those!” And I think when you do experience that and you look back on it in such a positive way, you're like, “Why didn't I always live my life this way?”

So I look back at some of my high school memories at some of our duet moments and then I think about how there were also moments where we were stressed, and I don't like thinking about those times. I don't feel like I was as happy if I was ever stressed about a competition or my performance. But then I have really amazing moments where I'm like, “That is where I want to be always. The stress is not worth it.” So I think when you do have present moments and you do have really confident times because you had worked so hard for that, you're going to want to achieve that even more and continue to grow on that.

So really for anyone who is preparing for something major like a competition or audition or a job, think about what you want to look back on, and then I think that will help shape how you approach it.

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah. That's beautiful. It's like what kind of person do you want to be? Who do you want to be? And making sure that your actions every day show that. And kind of back to what you said at the very beginning, that your choices, it's not the one action every time over and over again, but that the collective days add up to the kind of person you want to be.

Caitlin & Courtney: And I’d also just like to add on that too, with COVID kind of reshaping our pathway, there were two years in post-college life that we couldn't even audition for the Rockettes, and those two years really showed us life will go on without that dream job. And we knew what we were up to at that time. We were loving what we were working on. So when we did finally approach the Rockettes in a very realistic way where we're like, “We could get this job,” it felt like even more of a dream because it was such a bucket list item at that point. It wasn't like life or death that we got the job. It was just like, “This would be amazing. Imagine telling your kids one day that you did it.” There was so much more happiness and excitement around it versus like, “Oh my God, I just came out of college, and I'm unemployed, and I need that job.” It just felt like we valued it in a different way where I'm so happy that it worked out the way it did.

Well, I feel like that goes on like putting so much pressure. And we talked about burnout, too, earlier. If you put too much pressure on one thing, I feel like you lose yourself and you lose a little bit of your love for this passion you have for dance. So we had to reevaluate how we look at things like a bucket list or just like, “That would be a dream, but it's not the end all be all,” because if you only look at something that way, it's hard to achieve other things, yeah, and enjoy it.

Dr. Chelsea: It's something I talk about a lot is that reframe of success where that thing would feel amazing and is a kind of success, but it’s not like, “I'm not a successful dancer until I'm a Rockette.”

Caitlin & Courtney: Right, right.

Dr. Chelsea: It’s like you’re a success regardless. That’s just a wonderful part of the journey, yeah.

Okay, I'd love to just wrap up with some other just general wisdom, anything that you would want to share. You have created a life that seems genuinely in line with your dreams, your values. I know you're not done yet. You have wonderful things to keep creating. Any general advice you'd give to that aspiring young dancer out there?

Caitlin & Courtney’s Advice to Aspiring Young Dancers – 44:41

Caitlin & Courtney: I would say one thing that we've touched on just in the last hour with you that I love talking about because it really brings it back to our core values, too, is knowing what made you fall in love with dance? What styles of dancing make you so happy at your core, and making sure you never stop doing those things. And knowing how did you grow up training. Keep that core training really at the center of all that you do. I think that will take you so much further. Don't get away from that.

I think if you look at your entire dance career as something that's being built on rather than like chapters that close, you'll be a way more well-rounded dancer who will be able to adapt to so many other situations because, yes, college was two styles, really, that we focused on but the real professional world is a million different styles. You'll never do the same thing in every single job, So making sure that you are as well rounded and adaptable as possible is definitely going to be way more valuable to any choreographer.

I would say for dancers aspiring to dance professionally, figure out what your dreams are. Write it down. Have these set goals. It's like making a dream board or a vision board or writing things down or whatever form you would like, but figure out what your goals are and what your dreams are. I think revisioning — or what was the word we said? We said reevaluating, reenvisioning your goals and things, like how it's not the end all be all, but knowing what you would like to achieve, I feel like that really helps you strive for things, chase after those dreams. I feel like having a goal is really helpful to really, really push yourself.

I feel like we know which choreographers we would love to work with one day, which choreographers are in our city, and then we go and take their class. Figure out what jobs you would love to do, what stages you'd love to perform on, which artists you'd like to perform with. Really writing that down, having that vision board, I feel like could really help you as well, chase your dreams and know what you want.

And then for any dancer who is doing that, I feel like that was something that we always did, but we were very calm and okay with knowing that's not going to happen tomorrow, it's not going to happen next week. It's a dream for a reason, so keep going for it and reaching for those dreams, but know whatever comes your way along that path will be something unexpected and amazing, and it all came about because you were working towards something eventually, but it's okay to really veer off the path as well and not know what's coming.

Right. I feel like those are some of our favorite, favorite jobs we've done so far are things that we never could have predicted or thought of, but it's because we were working towards a different goal and other calls, other things come knocking, which is really cool.

Dr. Chelsea: I love just the general advice of trusting that process. Like you said, just keep doing the work and the process is the more valuable piece than just that end, and knowing that it's going to take a while. I think that’s hard, for sure, to know that it's going to take a while.

So the last piece, kind of along those lines, most listeners of the show are the dance educators, the teachers, the coaches. And so your work ethic, your growth mindset, your desire to work that hard is evident, and I know some of that is just who you are, what the two of you have built together. But is there any advice to the teachers out there of how to help cultivate that in their dancers?

Advice on How to Cultivate Work Ethic and Growth Mindset In Your Dancers – 48:31

Caitlin & Courtney: I think one lesson we would take from our dance teachers or coaches growing up is the discipline that they instilled in us we carry now with us. So I think it's a whole different generation of dancers, but there are just certain core things that we have never forgotten like making sure your dancers have a good warm up, making sure that — we had to dress in uniforms for dance growing up, and we had to take a certain number of ballet classes every week, and we had to be in a technique class to do an extra small group. There were so many things that I don't think I appreciated in the moment as much as I do now, and letting dancers, then, go off and choose their own path, but for their really influential, formative years, making sure that they had that discipline and teaching them like structure can help them in the long run so much more, and that's something we're super grateful for because clearly we base our whole life lives off of structure and scheduling and discipline. So those are the things that have continued to motivate us. So I would say, please do that for other dancers.

Yeah, I would definitely say discipline is huge and then just showing dancers every avenue possible that you can, keeping new things coming through the doors, keep trying to show them different avenues that they can take is really helpful as well, having those conversations of every way you could go post-high school, post-studio life is really helpful to just show them that dance doesn't have to be over, and it doesn't have to be one thing.

Dr. Chelsea: Yeah, absolutely. So many options. Oh, I love that. Well, thank you both for sharing so much, being so open, and it's been really fun to get to know you and really fun to watch your journey continue to grow. You're both such lovely humans and lovely, lovely dancers. So thank you for being here!

Caitlin & Courtney: Thank you so much. This was like therapy. Thank you!

Dr. Chelsea: [Laughs] Oh, that’s so funny! You're not the first to say that to me, but I love that. And it's the honesty. That's what brings it there is being able to have people share your genuine thoughts and your emotions, and so, we really appreciate it. Thank you!

Caitlin & Courtney: Thank you. We appreciate it!


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Thank you for listening to Passion for Dance! You can find all episode resources at www.chelseapierotti.com/podcast, and be sure to follow me on Instagram for more high-performance tips at @dr.chelsea.pierotti. This podcast is for passionate dance teachers and coaches who are ready to change the dance industry by creating happier, more successful dancers. I'm Dr. Chelsea and keep sharing your passion for dance with the world.

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