We had the good fortune of connecting with Danika Pramik-Holdaway and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Danika, how does your business help the community or world?
The San Diego Civic Youth Ballet is a place where students can discover their passion for ballet, and families can find a supportive community. As a parent, I know how incredible it is to see your own kids discover an activity, sport, or art form that they truly love, and as a dancer, I remember the pure joy that ballet brought me each day when I was young. It is so important to have something to look forward to each day, and a way to discover your own expression and voice as you mature into a young adult. Our teaching staff works to make sure that each and every student is excelling with their ballet training, while at the same time learning time management skills, and how to interact with others in a respectful and supportive way. Having the experience of performing on stage also provides our students with a sense of accomplishment and confidence. Students and parents alike at the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet have made lasting friendships here, and when we all come together for our full length productions, like The Nutcracker each December, we can all feel an amazing sense of camaraderie and accomplishment. Raising children is no easy task, and one of our goals is to provide a fun and healthy place for children to learn ballet, and potentially even make a career out of it. Providing the world with the beauty of ballet is something we plan to do for a long time to come!
Please tell us more about your business. How did you get to where you are today business-wise. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way.
As many dance instructors do, I began my career dancing professionally with several ballet companies, while teaching as a side job. As my career as a professional dancer was winding down, my job at the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet was slowly building, and in 2009 I officially became the Artistic Director for the school. Our student body was growing from around 150 students when I first started, to the nearly 500 students we have now, and my goal was to really transform this school into a complete, professional program.
One of my first challenges was showing our families the importance of having a more rigorous class load – ballet is certainly not an easy skill to learn, and many of our students were just not taking enough classes to truly succeed in this field. Over time, we raised the level of the program and the skills of our dancers, who are now finding their way into excellent college dance programs and professional careers. At the same time, my goal was not to create an over-stressful and over-competitive environment. The world of ballet is harsh, and can be unaccepting of different body-types. I truly believe that we can have a program that is accepting of anyone willing to put in the hard work that ballet requires, and supports our students, while still pushing them to reach their goals. Our dancers don’t all decide to go into a career in ballet, but those that see their training through until graduating high school are all dancing at a high enough level to be accepted into strong college dance programs, and to pursue careers if they so desire. If you truly love ballet like I do, you understand the dedication and hard-work it takes to get to the necessary level to keep ballet in your life, and I want the world to know that we can accomplish this feat with a healthy mindset, and that anyone who wants to dance, really has the opportunity to do so.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
One of the things that I love the most about San Diego is our diverse climates. I like to take visitors to the Torrey Pines State Reserve – I love the beautiful hiking trails and of course the beach! I would then head East, perhaps to Julian, to see the mountains. Especially in the fall time, there are so many incredible fall activities like apple-picking and visiting pumpkin patches and farms that someone might not typically associate with San Diego. We really have it all here – even snow if you are willing to go for a little drive! And of course, as someone who gets to be in Balboa Park every day for my job, I would have to take friends and family to the park. Having lived in New York City during my college years, I strongly believe that Central Park has nothing on us – Balboa Park is so full of beauty, culture, and incredible activities for kids – the perfect place to spend a day (or two :)).
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would like to send a shoutout to my fellow teaching staff at the San Diego Civic Youth Ballet: Kerri De Nies, Justin Flores, Leila Gardner, Jessica Reed, Rebecca Seiley, and Annie Skaggs. This group of incredible people show me every day how much they care about our students, and we wouldn’t be the program we are without them!
Ira Bauer-Spector, Kel Casey, Marshall Williams