Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Interview with Professional Dancer, Ingrid Graham: Happiness is a Direct Result of Our Actions

November 25, 2014 by  
Filed under Body Image, Dance, Featured, Role Models

Please tell us about yourself and what you do?

I am a professional dancer, choreographer and teacher. I also sit on two nonprofit boards and help procure funding and publicity for the causes close to my heart. I love working with children and founded a mentoring program for young aspiring dancers in the community.

Can you tell us a bit about any upcoming projects or events that you are working on?

I am currently working on a documentary that explores the issues of race, elitism and body image in the ballet world.

Do you find the pressures of working in your industry significant with regard to feeling the need to have a “perfect” body?

As a young dancer and model I struggled with body image. I find that I no longer feel pressured to attain an unhealthy ideal. I am very comfortable in my skin and know that my value is not measured in inches and pounds. I do believe it is important to be the best version of yourself possible. I eat well and take care of my body, mind and spirit.

To follow up with that question, how do you deal with bullying or people talking negative about you? Can you give any examples of bullying in your personal life and how you handled it?

I have never experienced bullying personally but my students have. My advice is to always remember that bullies are insecure people who belittle you to feel better about themselves. They are vulnerable, frightened and misguided. If someone speaks negatively about you, do not allow yourself to become reactive. People will have their opinions and if someone is unkind to you it is not about you. Another person’s opinion has no relevance or impact on your life and the goals you set for yourself.

What made you want to get involved with Mental Fitness, Inc. and what it is about the mission of Mental Fitness that speaks to you?

Jacob reached out to me personally and I can appreciate that. I also have a passion for helping children reach their fullest potential through education and mentoring. I believe that our greatest contributions are achieved when we are helping others. I had wonderful mentors growing up and my mother was a guiding force in my life.

How do you define inner beauty?

I don’t make a distinction between inner and outer beauty. Inner beauty stems from kindness and empathy. When we care for our fellow man and promote positivity our true beauty shines. I always encourage people to speak the truth and make wise choices. In doing so you will harness your power and confidence. All of these attributes will add to your inner and physical beauty.

What is happiness?

Happiness is a direct result of our actions. It’s funny how people think it is an ethereal quality that magically appears and disappears at will. When we find peace in our hearts knowing that we are living a purpose filled life we experience happiness.

How do you manage your stress levels in daily life? Do you use music/art / dance, etc. as a coping tool? Are there other things that you do to live mindfully? How do you find a work-life balance — as a woman, relationships, a professional — what are keys to balance? Other thoughts/ reflections?

I enjoy listening to music, meditating and spending time in nature. I am very fortunate to be able to dance and exercise every day. Ideally, I am dancing to music in my studio and then find time to meditate in my garden. This is an excellent way to reduce stress. I find balance by always making time for my family and personal needs. We live in a society where people are extremely career driven and forget the importance of family and service. Career is wonderful but it is no substitute for a balanced life.

 

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Ingrid Graham is a performing artist, choreographer, mentor and educator. She performed and presented choreography at the Edinburgh Festival, Merce Cunningham, Dance Under The Stars Choreography Festival, California African American Music and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. She danced with the Pacific Northwest Ballet and as a guest artist at Stephen Sondheim’s Gala Benefit in NYC.

Her commercial dance clients include Victoria’s Secret, Pharrell Williams, Latin Grammy Awards, Nike and Saks Fifth Avenue among others. She produced and choreographed several dance films that have received honors and screened at Lincoln Center, Dance:Film in Scotland, ADF International Screendance Festival at Duke University and the Los Angeles Movie Awards. Ingrid has also appeared in Vogue, Glamour and Vibe Magazine.

Teaching and mentoring are a huge part of her life. She serves as a mentor and coach for the NAACP ACT-SO competitions. She is also on the dance faculty at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in Hollywood. Ingrid developed the “Start Today” program for young dancers aspiring to be professional performers. The program focuses on creating a vision for your career and life and implementing the necessary steps to make your projects a success.

Graham started her dance training at the LaGuardia HS of Performing Arts in NYC. She trained on full scholarship at San Francisco Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and the David Howard Dance Center. She is a former Hadar Foundation scholar and ballet award recipient from the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. She graduated with honors from Hunter College in NYC.

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