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“Dancing is my organic Zoloft. It’s my antidepressant, anti-anxiety mood enhancer—it literally lifts you up physically AND mentally. You come out sweaty, like you’ve been baptized, and you get back to ground zero where you can operate.” Katia Pryce is the founder of DanceBody: a high-impact, cardio-driven dance fitness class that leaves you feeling like Beyoncé (even if you can’t quite move like her). I’ve tried a ton of fitness classes in New York and there are very few I am loyal to: DanceBody is one of them. She’s also a fierce leader (once, she called me out in a 7:30am class for yawning—kind of joking, but kind of not) and has the best butt in the business. I wanted to know how she’s turned her passion into a profession, and, let’s be real, how she looks like that.

“I didn’t go into this thinking, ‘I’m going to be an entrepreneur.’ I think it’s in my DNA. Even as a kid, I was restless—I always felt like I could be doing more, could be doing better. Once I began working professionally, I had this deep urge to do something myself. I don’t think that’s something you just decide one day. I think it’s either in you or it isn’t. So I grew into this role of being an entrepreneur, and I’m still learning what it means because I don’t always know. Who really knows what it is? It sounds very glamorous–certainly with millennials–this whole idea of being self-made, self-funded, and having your own business. But in the daily grind there’s really not much glamor about it. Unless you’re willing to be in the trenches and work every job that you’re going to assign in the future, you’re going to struggle. I didn’t have a perfectly laid-out plan for DanceBody in the beginning. It grew organically from my private training clientele, and from dancing melded with fitness–this idea that I loved and really believed in. I was training privately, one-on-one, and those grew into semi-privates, which grew into ten person semi-privates, which grew into classes, which grew into ten classes a week. Once I’d reached that stage, I realized, ‘Oh shit, I need help.’ I think I went about being an entrepreneur somewhat backwards. It took me a while to learn how to ask for help, even when I desperately needed it—I come from a place where everyone is very self-sufficient. I always thought, ‘I’m just going to do it on my own, I don’t want to bother anyone.’ What I didn’t realize was that often people are happy to share their wisdom. It’s a gift people can give when they’re ahead of you.

If you have the same fears year after year, you can’t grow.

When I moved to New York, I didn’t have some grand plan, but I was always drawn to this city. I moved here with a one-way ticket, one suitcase, no place to live, no job, and about $800 in my bank account. But I knew I had to be here, and I had to be here now. I started working a million odd jobs and was really lucky to fall into the fitness scene, which I’ve always loved. I think that when you have something inside that needs to come out, it will find its way. You get to decide which way it’s going to go. You know that saying: “You don’t need to see the entire staircase to take the first few steps?” That’s exactly what it is. A lot of the time I’m feeling around in the dark, driven by instinct and some intelligent guessing, when suddenly things start to come to light. I think your fears need to evolve in order for you to succeed.

This year, for example, I decided I wanted to face new fears. It’s not that I’ll ever stop being afraid completely, but I want to be afraid of something bigger and more frightening. That’s how I’ll know that I’m moving forward. Something else that’s really important to me is attitude. My most hated response to ‘How are you feeling today?’ is: ‘I’m tired.’ You’re going to start with ‘I’m tired?’ Everyone’s tired! Come on! Just say you’re fine—and then maybe you will be. Don’t start with saying ‘I’m tired,’ because guess what: I’m tired, you’re tired, everyone’s tired—and guess what? No one cares. Don’t announce that you’re at twenty percent—I don’t need twenty percent battery on my phone or in a human being. I need someone at full percentage. My team knows that when they come into work they need to be ready. Because that’s fair—that’s fair to your team, that’s fair to your friends, that’s fair to your spouse, that’s fair to everyone in your life. If you’re operating from a place of ‘I’m tired, I’m sick, I’m overwhelmed,’ you have now selfishly put that on someone else. If you need to take a day off, take a day off, because no one wants to see you at half-mast. Suck it up and get it together.

As a dancer, your body is your product. There are some really negative ways to go about that, and I’ve passed through them and thankfully have not lived in them. I’ve gone through body hatred, and have employed several unhealthy strategies to get my body looking as perfect as possible. And wow, what a bitch it made me. Luckily, I started to recognize this behavior in myself, and decided to take a different stance. I started saying positive mantras to myself about my body like, ‘I am so strong.’ As soon as I started to change my thinking and how I spoke to myself, everything started to come together. When I was training with a studio (prior to DanceBody), I was working out a zillion hours a day and my body looked nothing like it does now. I was bigger, and far less fit, yet I was working out more. It didn’t make any sense. It was like my body was actually holding onto the body hatred. When I left, got healthy, stopped doing weird shit, started eating normally and mindfully, everything changed. I think when you’re connected to how you’re feeling you know what’s going to feel good before you eat it. When I’m eating along the lines of a Paleo lifestyle, my body feels holy. I know I’m doing the best thing for myself and I have more energy. And listen, I love cheese, I love wine—I follow an 80/20 eating rule, 80% of the time I’m clean eating, and I save 20% (approx. 3 meals a week) for ‘open’ eating, meaning I can go out to dinner and don’t have to be the un-fun chick eating plain salad. Not fun for anyone!

In terms of what I eat during the day, my first workout is typically at 7 or 8am. I don’t eat before that first one because it will upset my stomach. If I’m famished: a banana or an apple. But that’s really it. And coffee. I’m a die-hard coffee addict. Either that or if my stomach is feeling a little bloated, like I ate too much the night before, I’ll have water and lemon to create an alkaline starting point to reset digestively for the day—plus it’s an eye opener! After my first workout, I love to have a Fountain of Youth smoothie at Juice Press or their gladiator cookies. Totally natural, no wheat or dairy, and some healthy sugars to revitalize and replenish myself—those are phenomenal. If I don’t naturally replace my sugars in the morning I’ll start to get migraines because of the amount I’m typically working out each day. Throughout the day I always make sure I have a healthy snack on me, like pumpkin seeds, pistachios, or a Lara Bar. In the afternoon, I fuel-eat with my trainers. We’ll go for eggs, chicken, kale salad, and chickpeas. If I’m not feeling my salad—like, ‘Ugh, salad, I hate my life’—I’ll add a little truffle salt to it, so then I feel more satiated and don’t compensate with something else. For dinner, I’ll have a lean protein, like chicken or fish—I don’t do a lot of red meat. I’ll usually eat it when I’m on my period because I can feel like I’m losing iron, or when the weather gets really cold, but otherwise only once or twice a week. If I’m teaching a night class and I’m wiped, I love chicken curry with carrots and yams, and I’ll add brown rice to that. I don’t believe in totally depleting yourself after you’ve worked out really hard. Trust me, I’ve tried it, doesn’t work! On days I don’t work out, I do mitigate my eating since I won’t be revving my metabolism up. Particularly if I have meetings all day, I’ll do my best to stay away from grains and cheeses.

I think a lot of people are totally unaware of how food affects your body. Especially processed sugars: people can unconsciously intake massive amounts! Even this orange juice I’m drinking—this is probably 16 oranges. Who the hell sits down and eats 16 oranges? I had a client who recently lost five pounds in a couple of weeks. When I asked what was going on, she said, ‘I’m not having my daily huge green juice anymore. It’s taken out half of my sugar content!’ I don’t believe in juice detoxes for a long period of time. You think you’re ‘detoxing’ when really you’re amping up your sugar intake. What’s the point of that, exactly? If you want to do it for a day maybe to help with digestion, sure. But for a week, doing our workout? You’re going to die. I would suggest eating mindfully, with less sauces, oils, and add-ons—plus cook it yourself so you know what you’re ingesting!

It’s a mistake to look at a woman who you think has it all, and think that she actually has it all.

Food affects everyone’s body so differently. You owe it to yourself to start paying attention to how it makes you feel, instead of going blindly on someone else’s advice. Food is personal—start the relationship already. I think you can only transition through body image issues when you’re truly ready. An outside source can make you feel better in the moment, but ultimately, it’s down to you in the dark. It’s an internal switch, and there’s nothing and no one on the outside that’s going to switch it for you. Forcing yourself to do what makes you feel good is one way to start that transition—like eating well, or dancing daily in my case. It’s similar to how you force yourself to smile at people when you know you have a bad attitude. It’s a start to undoing a negative trajectory. Honestly, it can be so hard for women—there’s a lot going on for us and it’s different day-to-day. Look at our cycles; look at our bodies; look at what we go through in a month! Even though someone might look at me and be like, ‘I would die to have her body, blah, blah, blah.’ Guess what? I still woke up today feeling bloated and thought, ‘I can’t believe I’m getting my picture taken, am I really going to wear a crop top? How does my butt look in these pants?’

Because I guarantee you, she has the same issues and insecurities that every other woman does. I was in a changing room once with a famous actress. This is a woman who’s touted as having one of the best bodies in the biz, and is observed as having an amazing mentality towards her well-being, so much so that she wrote a book about it. She was looking at her butt in the mirror, then looks at me and says, ‘What I wouldn’t do for your butt.’ Now here’s someone who thousands of women might look at and think that her butt is the best…but she’s looking at mine. The grass is greener concept does apply. As women, we all have worries about ourselves and our bodies and it’s ALL relative. Regardless of what you look like, if you’re confident, people will see that through the physical. People want to connect with someone who believes in themselves—women in particular can smell that. Energy is palpable; you can read it like a book.

I know my worth, I know what I want, I know how I want to live and how I want to be.

We all know what we need to do to make ourselves feel better. It’s so simple. You don’t necessarily need to read another book, or article. You know intrinsically what it takes to get yourself feeling good, so the real question is, how are you going to inspire yourself to get there if you can’t on your own? Everyone’s looking for that magic pill, that magic cure, that easy way to make themselves feel better about their body—of course it doesn’t work like that. Finding an inspiration to feel better, look better, do better—that is where the search is–and it’s not a one time thing, it’s life-long. For me, it’s DanceBody. It makes me feel happier, more confident, connected to those around me. It lifts me up.

Whatever you’re doing every day is what you’re doing. If you’re in tune with your body, your health and how you feel—you have one less thing to worry about. And we have so much else to worry about! So many women workout because they hate their bodies. I want women to work out because they LOVE their bodies. It’s the awesome empowerment of being so in touch with your body and being 100% good with it.

Women are beyond burning bras. We know we can do anything, and now we need to learn how to harness that power as opposed to steamrolling those around us (as so many of us know we have the ability to do!). What I love is a woman who knows when to be kind and when to be assertive. Who knows her power, and knows how to use it to hold herself up, as well as those around her. You can be strong as a woman, but if you stand alone, it means nothing. To be a powerful woman with people who want to stand around you: that is inspiring to me.”