Student Spotlight: Dance Day Volunteer Extraordinaire

Our next “Student in the Spotlight,” Danielle Gray, has been a loyal Philly Dance Fitness member for half a decade! You might recognize her from class, since she pretty much takes them all, but you might not have known she’s also the creative mind behind our programs for Philadelphia Dance Day! Read on to learn more about Danielle, Dance Day and what has kept her coming back to PDF all these years.

PDF: What is your background with dance?

DG: I grew up in Arizona and took classes when I was little, and then I picked it up again in high school. When I moved to Philly in 2007, I was looking to meet people and be more active in general, so I started Zumba. I actually took classes with Maya (PDF Zumba & FierceFUNk instructor) at a different studio, and she told me about Philadelphia Dance Day. It was the first year of the event, and when I went I completely fell in love with Philly Dance Fitness!

Danielle Gray performing a Cardio Belly Dance routine at Philadelphia Dance Day.

Danielle Gray performing a Cardio Belly Dance routine at Philadelphia Dance Day.

Can you tell us more about Philadelphia Dance Day for students who may not have heard it?

Sure! It’s part of National Dance Day, which was created by the TV show “So You Think You Can Dance.” It takes place on the last Saturday in July every year. The concept is that there are different dance programs going on in different cities all over the country, and in Philadelphia PDF organizes the whole event! There are free workshops at different studios all around the city, and in the evening everyone gets together for a giant dance party! It’s always a great event and a wonderful way to meet people. You can check out the website for more info. (Note from PDF: We’ll be posting the full 2016 workshop schedule shortly!)

What has kept you coming back to PDF classes all these years?

When I first started five years ago there weren’t nearly as many class options as there are now, so I was mostly taking Zumba and ballet. But as more classes were added I started trying them and on a really crazy week (I don’t do this too much anymore), I would take two classes per night. I’d take ballet, jazz, Zumba, Frisky Fridays, Power Stretch & Sculpt, and more. One of the things I love so much about PDF is that there’s so much variety and you can get such an amazing range of classes with your membership.

If there’s ever a week I don’t make it out to a single dance class, I feel tired and down. When I get back to class, see all my friends and get some exercise, it makes me feel better in every way. Philly Dance Fitness is one of my absolute favorite things about living in Philadelphia.

Which class do you find the most challenging?

I think the most mentally challenging classes are jazz and ballet, because you have to focus on retaining choreography. But I find the most physically challenging to be Dance Party Boot Camp and Power Stretch & Sculpt – both of which I adore because they totally kick my butt!

What changes in your body have you seen since you started PDF?

Canon EOS Digital Camera

Philly Dance Fitness member Danielle Gray

I’m in way better shape than I used to be — my cardiovascular endurance has gotten a lot better, and I’m much stronger. My size hasn’t changed too drastically but my energy levels certainly have. I actually went to a wedding last summer where I danced for six hours straight. Everyone was asking me how I wasn’t tired at all, and I just said, “Oh, I do this every July at Philadelphia Dance Day!”

What do you do when you’re not dancing?

I like to read, hang out with my husband, go for hikes, and I love going out to brunch! I’m also the director of marketing and development for the Schuylkill River Development Corporation, managing the Schuylkill Banks.

Any fitness goals for the rest of 2016?

I don’t know if I’m going to get there by the end of 2016, but I want to be able to do a full pull-up. I’ve been going to a lot more Dance Party Boot Camp classes where we do a lot of push-ups. I distinctly remember getting a B in P.E. because I couldn’t do enough push-ups, so I want to prove it to myself that I’m strong enough now to do a pull-up!

Interview by Lani Assaf, spring semester intern

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