Interview with Former Professional Ballerina Turned Health Coach Jess Spinner

I had the pleasure of interviewing the lovely Jess Spinner, the creator of The Whole Dancer. Jess is helping dancers to achieve their best bodies through the programs she offers through her website. Find out more about Jess and her programs in this post, and enjoy!

When did you start dancing?

I started dancing early but it was at a little studio where the training wasn’t super structured and ballet was not a focus. I didn’t start training at a more professional school until I was 12.

You went to college before dancing professionally, how was your experience dancing in college? Also, do you feel that the college dancing experience helped you become more prepared for a career in dance?

I loved everything about my college experience. It was a good balance because I had so many close dancer friends and I had A LOT of non – dancer friends as well. It was good to spend time with people who weren’t super focused on ballet. It gave me a new perspective which was great.

I feel like college certainly prepared me for dancing professionally. I understood the pressure and expectations. It gave me an opportunity to mature as a person which I think can help in handling the stress of dancing professionally. However, in other ways I feel like we could’ve used more of a push to speak up and assert ourselves. I don’t think there’s enough of that in ballet companies. Dancer’s have a lot of fear and I think the college environment would be a great one to foster more bold action.

My college experience was invaluable and forced me to get out of my comfort zone as a dancer which  you need to be able to do if you want to dance professionally.

Tell us a little bit about the programs you offer at The Whole Dancer.

The Whole Dancer offers two main programs : The Whole Dancer Program and The Dancer’s Best Body Program. The Whole Dancer Program aims to help you create a more balanced well rounded outlook on dance and life. You can enroll any time and if you’re looking for a way to increase confidence and take better care of your whole self to dancer longer and stronger then it’s a great option.

The Dancer’s Best Body Program is about reaching your personal best dancer’s body. Whatever your body goals are, this program can help you achieve them. This program is more in depth and as it helps you reach your best body you’re learning how to maintain that throughout your career.

Both programs grant lifetime access so for as long as the programs are in existence you can come back to them and take part however you’d like.

How did you become a health coach?

I was in that scary transition post dance career where you really aren’t sure what you’re doing. I started working various retail jobs and nannying while at the same time I was studying different sciences and taking mental health courses considering a graduate degree in dietetics or nutrition. As I looked more closely at the details of those programs I didn’t feel like I fully agreed with such a food – centric focus.

I believe that our health and reaching our healthiest bodies is about so much more than just food.

That’s when I found the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and began exploring the world of Health Coaching. It was the holistic approach that resonated with me and I just had an intuitive feeling it was the right path.

What is your favorite feature of The Whole Dancer programs?

My personal favorite feature is interacting with dancers on a one to one level and hearing about the amazing progress and transformations they experience through their participation. Weight loss is great (if that’s your goal) but when someone’s relationship with food is completely transformed – that’s incredible!

We love listening to your podcast! How did you get started in creating your own podcast? 

I am so glad you enjoy the podcast!! I have to attribute that to Kimberly Falker and the Premier Dance Network. Without her I definitely would not be podcasting! She has created such an awesome platform and has enabled me to easily share with you all via podcast. Definitely check out all the shows on the Premier Dance Network – there’s a wealth of information!

As you address on your website, unfortunately, the majority of ballet dancers struggle with their body image. Why exactly do you think this is, and how can dancers overcome this?

This body image issue is deeply ingrained. Most of us hear at a very young and innocent age that ballet and most dance forms have certain physical aesthetics. A lot of times dancers get feedback from teachers about specific body parts or that they need to “lengthen” certain muscles. We’re presented with photos of dancers born with “desirable” bodies and we question everything about ourselves. We look in mirrors for much more time than most and we learn to pick out what’s “wrong”.

It takes a lot to overcome body image issues. Radical self acceptance is essential. Recognizing that your beauty is in how you treat people, your kindness and your positive impact on those around you. It’s not easy to get to that place if you’ve been hating on yourself for a long time but I guarantee it is possible. I’ve made that shift personally and I’m starting to see it more and more with the dancers taking part in The Whole Dancer Program and The Dancer’s Best Body Program.

Any tips for dancers who want to make healthy changes in their lives this year?

Start small. We often come up with a list of 50 shifts we’d like to make then get overwhelmed and disappointed when we don’t achieve them all in a week. Go easy on yourself and take one small step at a time. Also, instead of thinking of all the things you’d like to change think of positive additions to your life and the awesome impact they can have on you. I always recommend writing a daily gratitude list (just record 1-2 things your grateful for) or taking a bath. Relax. Give yourself some time to think happy thoughts and unwind.

What is one goal you hope to achieve through The Whole Dancer in 2017?

In 2017 I’d like to impact 1000’s of dancer’s in a positive way. My big goal for The Whole Dancer is to cause major shifts in the dance world and I think starting with individual dancer’s is a great way to do that 🙂

Audition season is upon is! Any tips for our readers for auditions?

I just wrote a blog post on this so I’m going to refer to that :

What is one piece of information you wish every person in the dance industry knew?

This is more directed at teachers and artistic staff – telling dancers they need to lose weight or “lengthen” body parts and then providing them with no resources or mentors isn’t helpful. It is those comments that leads to body image issues, impairs performance and causes major insecurity.

Fun Questions!

Favorite Ballet?

It’s a classic/perhaps a cliche but I love Swan Lake and Jerome Robbin’s Afternoon of a Faun

Favorite Healthy Snack?

Apple and Peanut Butter!

Tea or Coffee?

Both! Coffee in the morning then I switch to herbal tea.
Favorite Dancewear Company?

Deco Dancewear by Casey Dalton and Ashley Ellis’s Rubiawear leg warmers

Adagio or Allegro?

Adagio, I always loved to indulgently feel the music 🙂


Where to Find Jess

The Whole Dancer Website

The Whole Dancer | Instagram

The Whole Dancer | Twitter

The Whole Dancer | Facebook

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