The Evolution of Jillina – 062

Belly Dance Superstars Choreographer Jillina Carlano on courage, contribution, and marinating yourself in music. From performing in prison, touring the planet and stumbling forward through the reckoning in the dance community. This is an amazing podcast interview.

Jillina Carlano is a world-class artist who produces dance shows and creates experiences for dancers and audiences all over the world. I have heard numerous stories from dancers in this podcast about Jillina’s incredible positive energy and creativity and compassion, and now we will have the pleasure of hearing directly from Jillina!

Jillina was the artistic director and main choreographer for Belly Dance Superstars. With her latest projects Bellydance Evolution and BDExperience, she generously shares her visionary production process with dancers from around the world. She has influenced so many of the dancers we know and love. 

She creates a colorful Middle Eastern fusion repertoire while still maintaining her passion for the roots and heritage of the art form. Her work also includes collaborations with some of the world’s leading instructors and performers. 

In addition to her productions, she proudly leads outreach programs like BDEmpower, which brings dance to girls at risk, women’s homeless shelters, and women’s prisons. Her unique #2getherWeMove & Paso x Paso (Paso por Paso) programs supported over 100 bellydance teachers in over 30 countries during the lockdown and continues to help support the belly dance economy around the globe.

Jillina has traveled extensively creating productions and teaching seminars that embody her unique style of dance and dance education. Jillina also advocates a local dance community by owning the creative hub Evolution Dance Studios in North Hollywood, California.

Jillina’s vibrant ability to connect with people on and off the dance floor continues to influence dancers and entertain audiences worldwide. And you can see the schedule for Jillina’s online classes and instructional videos and so much more on

And now, here are highlights from the podcast interview with Jillina Carlano and Alicia Free…

Alicia: You inspired Eshe Yildiz’s danceable ritual from your workshops in episode 56: “Breathe in all the love and gratitude. Breathe out all your fears and doubts. Breathe in all the things you want and desire. Breathe out all the things that aren’t serving you.” Do you have a Danceable Ritual you would like to share? 

Danceable Ritual: Breathe together and keep your dance space sacred

It’s about breathing together. If we can breathe together, we can live together.

I keep my dance space sacred.

When I’m getting into the space, I keep that space sacred. I keep my dance space really clean and organized so that it becomes a sacred for me.

Before I perform in a theater, my ritual is to put on my costume and walk through the whole space.

I walk between every single wing. I go into the audience. I go up and down the stairs. It’s part of getting familiar, and it’s also a safety check. I’m preventing injury. I’ve crashed into so many lights.

Lessons from being on the Belly Dance Boycott List (aka Blacklist)

Alicia: You recently posted message “A TIME TO HEAL” and spoke at  an online discussion called, A Call to Action 2, where you discussed the Boycott List. Can you tell us more about that discussion organized by Belly Dancers of Color Magic and Dr Valerie Nefertiti?

I had to stop and take a breath and ask myself, what is the lesson here? Why am I on this list? How can I approach this situation with empathy? Empathy for someone I may have hurt.

Getting into an uncomfortable space is so valuable. I try to approach it with empathy and love. And I’m still stumbling forward, and taking the opportunity to listen.

We are a global dance community.

I am grateful for dancers and friends who call me out on things. Dr. Valerie Nefertiti is one. 

It’s important for me to stand up and be an ally for our black and brown dancers.

And when you want to give someone advice or critical feedback, try asking them, “Would you be interested in hearing some feedback?” Usually they are intrigued.

What inspired you to teach belly dance to women in prison with BD Empower?

Alicia: I saw a video of you teaching belly dance to women in prison, and I almost cried. I have a good friend who was incarcerated from the time we were 18 until we turned 30, and when I would visit she would tell me about the programs she was able to be part of. Mostly anger management classes. So I was blown away seeing a little slice of these outreach programs you have created. Please tell us about BDEmpower and your outreach programs #2getherWeMove & Paso x Paso

As I’ve gone through life, I’ve just seen so many incredible dancers from around the globe.

I’ve see how dance has changed people’s lives physically, mentally, emotionally, and I truly believe that dance has a lot of healing powers.

I’ve seen women get through breast cancer, a death, and so many challenging situations.

So I decided to start these programs, specifically BDEmpower.

I’ve got the BDE, which is Bellydance Evolution, and my BDExperience, which is my Wizard of Oz production. And then I’ve got the BDEmpower, the outreach programs. My team and I have been doing outreach to girls at risk.

So teenage girls that are coming in and out of incarceration or they’re in a group home or in foster care, transitioning out of those situations and sharing dance and movement and letting them enjoy those benefits. Also in prison. The video you just mentioned was in Mexico city. So that was challenging on a lot of levels, as you can imagine.

Giving the opportunity for women or girls who would maybe never have the opportunity to go to a dance class…

Dance class is a luxury. A lot of folks don’t have the means, or don’t think they deserve it.

So that was the motivation behind that. And it’s something that I’m incredibly proud of. When I’m traveling around, if the sponsor can help me coordinate something. Like in Hungary, I did outreach at a women’s homeless shelter.  Mercedes helped me organize it in Budapest.

In Mexico city, Caesar Insaurralde helped me organize the entire dance company coming into a women’s prison. There were like 1,500 inmates. So that was kind of the biggest thing I’ve ever done.

That’s definitely one of my highlights. That moment at the helm of that ship with all the dancers with me, because I was responsible for them.

And I also told the dancers they didn’t have to do it. It was a completely volunteer thing, and I didn’t want anybody to feel obligated. But everybody showed up, and it was incredibly rewarding. And it’s inspired me to continue these programs.

During COVID it’s more challenging. So I’ve been providing online classes. Once we start to open back up, I’m going to be doing a little bit more of that outreach. And I already did outreach here in Hawaii with women in recovery. So that was really beautiful to get my toes wet a little bit here on the island and start finding my way here.

Giving back to the community is something really special for me.

Paso x Paso

Paso x Paso (Paso por Paso) means “Step for Step”. I did this big workshop in Chile, and everybody who donated a pair of women’s shoes got free merchandise. They got a free CD. So we did this big shoe collection and donated it to a women’s shelter there. So that’s how that started.

And the online program, we’ve done two in the last year. We partnered up with over 17 schools in like 16 countries, all in Latin America, all in Spanish.

So me and my BDE team, we did these online classes and all of the studios could sell tickets to the classes and create income for their studios while they were in lockdown. So it was an opportunity to make money off of my teachings. So again, something I’m incredibly proud of.


The other thing that happened over this last 15 months was the program called #2getherWeMove. It started out when we started the lockdown and everybody was scrambling to teach online and scrambling to survive with their studios. It was really tough to see our community suffering that way.

And well, I said, that’s not, for me. I’m not going to get online and do any of that stuff.

But I’m going to turn on the camera and I’m going to film a bunch of classes and I’m going to donate them.

And you had to fill out an application, and you could take those classes. So I filmed like 10 classes. And I just said use it however would be most beneficial. The idea is to help them through economically. Because a lot of studios, myself included, were paying rent. Our studios were empty and we were teaching in our homes.

And now with my workshops I do #2getherWeMove partnerships. For my Shaabi workshop in July I’ve got a partner Ksenija in Slovenia, I’ve got from Eshe from Canada, so wonderful to connect with her. And then some of my LA colleagues, Dance Garden LA. So they sell tickets to the event and then they keep 50% of whatever they sell. So it’s a great way for them to make income while they’re transitioning out of the lockdown.

It’s hard to talk about myself in this way, but you know, my name through the Superstars and all the projects that I’ve done, I’m very well known. So that’s a good selling point for some of their students to have a well-known teacher in their programs.

What’s the point of being famous if it’s not to the benefit of others?

Building your name and having lots of followers…So what? If you can’t make a difference, where’s the meaning?

When I get to the end of my life, I’m not going to care how many Instagram followers that I have. I’m going to care about the impact that I had in my community.

And hopefully I’ve made changes. Hopefully I’ve made a positive impact in some way. So that was the motivation behind that. And then eventually I said, okay, I’ve got to get online too. So I started my online programs.

Alicia: Nice. And it was a low-pressure way for you to start an online program because you weren’t thinking, I have to make this perfect. You were like, I have to make this useful for other people.

That’s exactly my mantra.

I have to get over that because I’m 20 years older. I’m 20 pounds heavier. I’m not the Jillina in the DVDs from 20 years ago. So I was getting over my ego and then asking myself, is this going to be helpful for others?

Like exactly what you said. So I didn’t have that pressure that I had to market it and sell it and do it. I was like, I’m just going to film it. It’s going to be good. I know how to teach. That’s something know how to do. I’m good at that.

Let me just have the courage to press the record button.


Jillina has a Special opportunity for Studio Owners, Festival Producers, and Teachers who have been hit hard by the pandemic:

#2getherWeMove 2.0 Dancer Instructor Support Program 

I created a 4-part course that includes a full choreography “Raks ala Jillina”.
I built this course EXCLUSIVELY to donate to studio owners, festival producers and teachers who have been hard hit by the pandemic. 
Note that I will NOT be releasing this content myself, it is my hope that you can sell it, or add value to your online programs to help you through financial hardships of Pandemic shutdowns. It is my hope that your studios and festivals can survive through the crisis. 
Please complete the application below, to see if you qualify for #2getherWeMove 2.0 
Jillina’s FREE Masterclass 
The Art of Choreography


Danceable Song: Law Hobna by Wael Kfoury

Find more great music on the Belly Dance Body and Soul playlist from previous episodes. 

I’ve been obsessed with the song Law Hobna Ghalta all month by Wael Kfoury. There are two versions, but the live version, it just felt so organic. I’m kind of obsessed with Wael Kfoury.

I find that, oh, am I dancing to his music again? But I can’t stop myself. I just can’t. It’s like I have a music crush on him. And the music has so much feeling for me and the textures in the music. It’s my obsession this month.

How has belly dance changed since Belly Dance Superstars toured?

Alicia: From 2003-09 you were the Artistic Director and Main Choreographer for the Bellydance Superstars, performing with BDSS in over 700 shows across a dozen countries. What are some ways that the belly dance world has changed since then? 

Well, that was such an impact on my life. And so many lessons learned, through that experience. What an incredible opportunity. I just want to also talk about the great dancers that I was able to work with and direct.

And, I was a young director. I still had a lot to learn. So, it was an incredible opportunity also that Miles Copeland brought that project around the globe and gave us a lot of exposure.

So much has gone digital: Instagram, Youtube…

So how things have changed is the digital age. There wasn’t Instagram at that time. I think there might’ve been Facebook, but there wasn’t so much of this international connection that we have through social media.

And YouTube sort of newish at the time, which was a wonderful launch for my instructional projects. I went from VHS  – for those of you who don’t know what VHS is before DVDs. So that was a big, old, clunky thing. So I actually had instructional belly dance materials on VHS.

Then DVDs came and I was like right at the beginning of that. And then YouTube came in. I was right at the beginning of that. In the sense that it gave me a lot of exposure. So it’s like that 10,000 hours and being in the right place at the right time, kind of a moment. So it has changed, I think, digitally.

Also, the style has changed so much. You know, I traveled to Egypt so many times. I was going there seeing what the new trends are. Seeing what’s happening. The music has changed since the Revolution (2011). The music has changed a lot. So things are evolving. Hence the name evolution. Things are always, always evolving.

Now it’s Mahraganat. It’s a fusion of electronic hip hop sounds with Arabic language.

It has really transformed a lot, and there are different styles within that style. So it’s really interesting to see how that has evolved and changed what’s happening within the dance genre.

This is interesting. You’re going to get me on a tangent, but there’s always the evolution of how I’m approaching my art and my craft. And now I’m doing these theatrical storytelling shows.

So I often reflect back what’s happening in the music. So back in my day, Amar Diab was the biggest artist. The most selling the highest paid Egyptian artists of all time. His music. I love it, I dance to some of it, but there weren’t enough Arabic instruments.

So that music has gotten far away from the classical music. There’s still incredible classic music coming out. There’s pop music. There’s the Shaabi music. So seeing how things are evolving, musically affects how things evolve in the dance form.

One of the original Sha’abi artists was Ahmed Adaweya. He was the original back in the seventies and you can see how shaaby has evolved. And it’s now into the Mahraganat style. Definitely a flashback of where it comes from and the roots.

Alicia: Great. So social media and the music. The music affects the dancing. Yes. And the dancing affects the music to some extent, depending on who the musicians are.

Right. But everything changes.

The costumes are changing right now. The fashion is the high waisted costumes. Also tiny skirts. They’re kind of like mini skirts.

I’m a girl who likes a lot of coverage. I like huge skirts. Full skirts. And, I’m exploring a little bit with the high-waisted designs, but you can see how it’s almost coming back to the like that Samia Gamal style.

You can see some of that influence coming back. And how Dina was an influence and how her costuming has evolved a lot over the years and her influence.

Alicia: Right. It’s funny being in the New York area. People are always talking about how the live bands and the clubs are no more, you know, all the live belly dance show with live music nights, even before COVID they were on the decline too.

And that happened in Egypt too. The younger generation wanted to listen to DJ’s. They didn’t want to go listen to the Arabic orchestras.

There are still a lot of the great singers. And of course the great dancers always have the best orchestras. I’m from LA and I used to work with lot of live music.

So being in LA and working with live music was a big part of my dance education and my dance experience. And I learned a lot through that experience, and there are only a few places left with live music. And I don’t know that’s going to look like after COVID. So let’s see.

Let’s keep those musicians employed, like purchase their music. Don’t get it for free. Pay the 99 cents and buy music from artists. Support art.

Alicia: You have performed in LA and Cairo with live musicians, which is a dream so many of us have. In a Gilded Serpent interview from 2013 you mentioned hand gestures. What are some of the hand gestures you use to cue the band? 

How to communicate with the band when you dance

This is how I learned. I would watch the leader of the orchestra when he was talking to the musicians with his hands and his body language. His eyes would get really big or he’d like look to the side when someone would hit the wrong note…

  1. Point your finger horizontal and then roll it forward. That means speed it up.

  2. And grab your hand and make a fist means get ready to stop.

  3. My favorite is “shwayah shwayah”. Pinch your fingers with the fingertips up towards the ceiling. And then pull down. That is one that I’ve used with drummers often.

  4. Listen to the musical cues. The musicians are musically queuing each other.

Listening is the most important gesture. Listen to the drummer talking to the keyboard player or violin. And once you learn those cues, it’ll really improve your skill of dancing to live music because you can’t always see the musicians.

Alicia: Right. And once you get the love for listening to the musicians, your dance is going to be so much better in addition to your connection to the band. You’re going to embody it so much more.

Oh, absolutely.

And you have to put the time in. It’s hours of listening.

You know, when you’re in the car. When you’re in your bathroom or whatever, just always have that music on. Your family might buy you a pair of headphones, but do it. I used to drive my friends crazy.

Alicia: My kids love to sing the Armenian folk song Karoun Karoun and Lamma Bada in Classical Arabic. Foq Elna Khel, they were singing today. They know that these are the songs that mom loves and listens to over and over again. And hours and hours of listening don’t have to be completely focused. It’s better if they are, but when you’re washing dishes you could be internalizing this.

So one of the things I do is I do car-ography. Cause when I was in LA, my studio was like an hour away. So I’d put on music and I’d start choreographing.

Like listening to all the details of the music. I get so deep into it.

I often miss my off-ramp. Caution! Don’t get too lost. But car-ography is a great thing to do. Especially when you get faster at it. It’s what I call marinating yourself in the music.

Marinate in the music.

Alicia: So Kaeshi Chai danced with you a while. I was looking back at old photos of you and Kaeshi and it was making me so happy. Kaeshi choreographs in the shower.

Oh yeah. That’s a great place, but you gotta be careful. Yeah.

Alicia: After touring for years with Bellydance Superstars, you created Bellydance Evolution shows and Bellydance Experience. Can you tell us some differences between BDE and Jillina’s BDExperience ? 

What is the difference between Bellydance Evolution and Jillina’s Bellydance Experience?

They are two separate projects, but they’re also under the same umbrella.

So Bellydance Evolution (BDE for short) is a theatrical production with professional dancers.

And we do international casting. We travel around the globe and we cast dancers to whatever area that we’re in.

And the current show right now we’re doing is The Jungle Book. I debuted it in March, and we’re on hold for now. So we’re going to be booking lots of stuff for 2022.

And Jillina’s BD Experience is a theatrical production for dancers who are intermediate to professional level. It’s a great way to get training to get into the professional company.

So if it’s a goal for you, it’s a wonderful opportunity.

We also have a lot of solo and lead parts that you have an opportunity to be cast in. You can dance the part of Dorothy, the lead role.

I think what people don’t realize is that I provide all of the production. The space for the training, all of the costumes, all of the online training. I come in with two directors and coaches. So it’s a lot of intense coaching. We work online for about two months and people can go at their own pace. And then we get together very intensively, four to five days in person working eight to nine hours a day. Really wonderfully intensive.

And then we present a show. So it’s a production. You’re part of a production. So you have the complete experience. So unlike a week long intensive, where you just learn choreography…

You learn how to work with a group. You learn how to use a character. You learn how to do production.

So I often have people who train with me and they just want to learn how to produce a show. And I take them on the director’s track, like, the production, the Google docs, the costumes, how to organize all of that, how to keep track of everything, booking the theaters, what a tech rehearsal entails.

You know, staging striking the stage, lighting direction, lighting cues. So it’s a very comprehensive program and I’ve been doing it a long time. So my team and I are really good at it. It’s so unique. I’m really proud of these projects and how I’m learning and growing with each time that we go out and perform.

So I’ve also been so incredibly grateful to work with some of the top dancers from around the globe. It’s an incredible opportunity, not just for the dancers, but for me as well.

You know, one of the best things I ever did was add circle time. It connects us.

We have a talk, we connect, we share, we learn things about each other. So we are personally invested. I’m always personally invested, but when the whole team comes together with that personal investment, that is a game changer. You care about the person standing on stage next to you.

They may have had a hard time. They may have just broke up with their boyfriend or some other hardship or some other joy that you want to celebrate with them.

It really is incredible bonding we do in a short period of time.

And I think there’s one other misconception about these projects because people have only known my work with belly dance superstars. And I was the artistic director. I was not the executive producer. So I was not in charge of the casting and who was hired or fired through that company. So something that I’m really proud of that I’m doing now is…

I’m including dancers of different ages, different sizes, different colors, different shapes creating a diverse community. And it works so beautifully, especially with storytelling.

So it’s a win-win situation. It’s something that I’m proud of, and I’m still working towards with each and every casting opportunity. So this is something that I wanted to share because if you only know of my work with the Bellydance Superstars, a lot has happened in the last 12 years.

People there’s a lot of evolution going on over here!

What thought leaders have inspired Jillina? – John Maxwell and Seth Godin

Alicia: What are some of the people and experiences that have inspired you to become the very successful and influential dancer you are now? 

So it’ll be a little bit unexpected, but some artists that I look at are writers.

So there’s writer named John Maxwell. And I’ve heard him speak live. And there’s another writer named Seth Godin, and his most recent book is called The Practice.

These two talk about falling in love with the practice. They’re talking about writing, but why can’t it be about dance?

It can be on anything. So I apply those philosophies to my craft. I fall in love with the practice. I fall in love with the work, because it doesn’t come overnight. You have to do it consistently year after year, and just keep showing up and doing it.

You can’t get to the good writing without the bad writing. You do all the bad writing to get to the good, right. And it goes the same with your choreographies. – (paraphrased from Seth Godin)

Alicia: Seth Godin. My husband’s mentioned John Maxwell, leadership…

Yeah. And I think that’s why I found him, but when I heard him speak live, he talks about the craft of being a writer it’s an artistic endeavor.

Many great insights from both of those two stand out to me.

Alicia: Awesome. You’ve got such an exciting entrepreneurial perspective on dance. I love your marketing. I love how much opportunity you see. 

Seth talks about that a lot…

Your work should have purpose. Your work should be helping others.

It’s a driving force behind everything I do. How can my work help others and be of service? How can I be of service when I show up to teach a class? How can I best serve the people in front of me? How can I inspire them and help them to move and give them so much value for their time and their energy and for their investment?

So it’s something that he talks about a lot that really resonates with me.

Alicia: Wonderful. Yeah, it doesn’t happen from usually just your own mind. It’s latching onto these amazing thought leaders, right. And seeing how that was going to work for you. What is one of your favorite belly dance moves that you can teach us to do right now?

Damn Sexy Dance Move: Egyptian Twist like Fifi Abdou (aka The Jewel)

I call it the Egyptian twist. A lot of y’all call it “The Jewel”. It’s one of my favorite moves. Fifi Abdou does it. It really gets into working internally in the lower abdomen, in the lower body. So it’s one of my favorite juicy moves. You stretch down from the front and bring in the hips around and really like the end of the sentences.


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A post shared by Jillina Carlano (@jillinacarlano)

My favorite part is the little tuck and swirl at the end.

There are so many variations because you can make it smooth and creamy. You can make it with an accent. You can add like punctuation. You can do a lift at the end. You can do a drop at the end. You can lift and kick. So there’s lots of variations under the umbrella of that specific movement.

Featured Delicious Whole Food Vegan Ingredient: Avocado

Alicia: It was amazing to hear more about the food you eat and how that relates to dance and your life dreams on Iana’s belly dance podcast back in 2018. You are just so thoughtful about food. In the interview I did with Eshe, she talked about the healthy meal you cooked for the cast in one of your shows. That blew me away. I’m sure it’s hard to pick, but what is one vegan whole food ingredient you love?

Jillina on Iana’s Belly Dance Life Podcast

Avocado. It’s like golden food. You can get so many healthy fats, good calories. It comes in its own bowl. It’s perfect food.

Alicia: Yeah. I’ve got a chocolate avocado mousse recipe out there.

I have one too. have you done it with dates?

Alicia: Ooh, that’s a great idea.

And you can do it low-glycemic by using like Monkfruit or only sweeten it with dates. Bananas if you like banana. So it’s almost like a banana chocolate mousse. Cause I try to do a lot of things low-glycemic.

I don’t think you saw it. Cause I only had it for people on my newsletter, but I’ll go ahead and make that YouTube clip public.

I do a whole food prep in my kitchen in my new home here. I tell you how I steam, roast, bake, swirl, chop, and all of food prep for the week.

Alicia: Awesome. And then you have no reason to want nasty food if you’ve got good food all ready to go, right?

It’s a game changer. If you want to stay on track and then you just get hungry at that moment, the end of the day, you have that food ready and it feels so good to have that nutritious food.

And I keep it simple. I keep everything fast. I don’t have a lot of time, especially in the middle of a rehearsals.

We were talking about when I would cook for all the dancers, you know, I make a big old pot of soup. I got some lentil beans going on. I got some sweet potatoes.

So just finding recipes that you really like. Clean, simple ways to eat. It’s really valuable.

I don’t want my dancers eating candy. It has nothing to do with diet or weight at all. It’s about energy levels. I put out fresh fruit.

I put yogurt. I’ll give you your glycemic levels through some bananas.

In my contracts with theaters, I actually specifically say no candy backstage.

From my experiences, when you eat those high doses of sugar or lots of caffeine, it’s those highs and lows and crashing. So, if you’re backstage and you’re looking for a candy bar, you better have brought your own.

Alicia: My mom used to be the woman in the office that had the candy bowl and I’m like, mom, what are you doing? 

Even I love a candy bowl, but it’s not good for energy levels. And the theater, it just takes so much energy performance day. It’s like you’re at the Olympics. This is your moment, right? You want to have your energy available when you need it.

Like athletes, how are they treating their bodies? That’s their instrument, their tool.

Alicia: Right! So yesterday had the first gig with my band and over a year it was awesome. I feel like the colors were more vivid to me today. Honestly, it was incredible. But I was tying the back of my dance bra and last night, which I safety pin on the side. And I thought of you Jillina. I was like, maybe I should change this. I’ve never thought about that with the bra. Like maybe there’s some better way them poking the hell out of myself.

Alicia continued: So I know that you are a person that says, make your costume fit. You don’t rely on these little flimsy metal. Pokey things. Ebony, she really went into it. She was looking at one of your skirts that you had for sale. And she saw all the rows of snaps and she was like, if Jillina’s skirt’s not coming off, then my skirt’s not coming off. She said something really cute like that.

Yeah. And we worked together ebony is amazing by the way, such an incredible artist, such a gift to work with her.

Costume Tip: Two Hooks and a Snap

Two hooks and a snap. That is the golden rule. There are no safety pins allowed for several reasons.

Why Safety Pins are Not Allowed on Belly Dance Costumes

#1. They can break

#2 They can rust three.

#3. They can injure you.

#4. They make holes in the costumes.

So it’s just not tolerated at all.

In my company, I had this rule from day one and I’ve stuck with it.

Take that extra 30 minutes to sew those hooks on and make sure everything is super secure. Then when you go to do a move you feel confident. Your mind is in the moment.

You’re not thinking, oh, if I lift my arm, I’m not sure. Right? Because that’s going to take you away. Plus I really truly believe it shows respect for the people taking time to watch you dance. Because if you don’t take the time to fix your costume and the costume breaks and the bits fall out…I get so mad when I see that. It’s like my super pet peeve.

There’s very few things that get me mad, but it’s like, really, you couldn’t take the time? I’m taking the time to sit here and watch you. Take the time because it can really elevate your dance and it gives you an opportunity to be in the moment. Especially when you’re in a group.

To all the directors out there, make sure your dancers commit to that. Because if someone’s boob pops out, that’s the memory of that performance for the audience no matter how much rehearsal happened.

You spent thousands of dollars and months and traveling and all of this and then boom, you’ve kind of ruined it for everybody.

So it’s about being on a team and taking responsibility, and also out of respect for the audience.

Alicia: Well, Juliana I think that’s the last costume that I have that has safety pins. I haven’t worn that bra in a while. I love it. I’ll fix it. I owe it to my audience.

They deserve your best. That’s all I ask. When I watch competitions and I watch everybody. When I travel. When I go to these shows and events. If I’m judging the competition, obviously they’re committed, but even

If I’m in the show, I watch the students from the wings. That has helped me stay relevant.

I watch everybody. I watched the students, I watched the new up and coming stars. I watched the older teachers. I watch to see who’s presenting what onstage and what are the trends what’s happening.

What are people in the audience enjoying? What are they not enjoying? So it’s always something of a lesson for me to learn. And I’m not a trend follower too much, I’ve always found my own voice in my own way.

I think being aware of what’s happening in your genre is valuable.

Alicia: I want to go back to what you’re saying about watching other dancers, watching everybody in the show. You have a curiosity. Right? You’re watching from a place of not knowing what’s going to happen and excitement for that. A lot of us will watch something and we’ll be like, I already know what she’s going to do. I saw that video. But it sounds like you have a whole different intention when you’re watching. And that must mean you’re learning so much all the time.

Honestly, Alicia, I think you just hit the nail on the head.

That’s key. So if I’m watching a dancer that I know, and she goes out on stage and does the same thing that I saw her do last year or online recently, I might not watch her that long. I need to be surprised.

You need to surprise your audience. You need to keep reinventing yourself and repackaging what you do well.

That’s also something that’s really important for longevity. If you want to dance in a field for many, many years think about how you can reinvent yourself and also be curious. That’s the thing. I’m so curious about choreographies and staging and lighting. And I think about everything.

I love to sneak out of the backstage and go into the theater. I’ll put on a gala and hopefully the lights are out and people won’t recognize me and I’ll sit in the audience. And I like to view from the audience perspective. There are so many things to learn.

Alicia: Amanda Hart was talking about all the different ways that you use props, these surprising ways that she hadn’t seen anywhere else. I love seeing a show where someone’s using a prop in a new way or just doing something a little different or very different. It’s so exciting. 

A lot of those ideas come from another idea is like, look how they did that fan veil and how that moved under that lighting. You know? I would have never chosen the color orange and how that reflected with the white background or just little details like that.

And then it come back and I think, how can I tweak that? How can I make that unique to my productions are unique to my choreographies?

You know, Amanda Hart in an incredible dancer. One of the hardest working dancers I’ve worked with. I really appreciated her work ethic on top of her good technique.

So she played the scarecrow. With her we used like a Saidi cane with her arms kind of draped across it so she was propped up as the scarecrow in the show. So finding ways to help support a story through traditional props and an often untraditional props something that I think I’m known for.

Alicia: You are so well known for your authentic collaborative and amazingly creative energy and leadership. And I’m sure you have many great habits that keep you on track and thinking big and you always look so vibrant and healthy too. So you must have a feel good look, good habit that you’d like to share with us.

Feel Good Look Good Habit: Three Wins of the Week

Honestly, it’s gonna sound so cliche, but it’s gratitude. It’s something that my mom has always instilled on me. Come from a place of gratitude and be grateful. Look for the silver lining.

Look for little things to be grateful for.

Keeps me motivated, keeps me inspired. Keeps me creating new things. It helps me to stay in that creative space. So it’s just simple. Just staying in a place of gratitude even when you’re down or the times are tough.

I have this habit. I get to the end of the week and I call my three wins of the week.

So what were my three wins? And it might’ve even just been, oh, I had this really incredible conversation with my mom or I created five choreographies. It doesn’t always have to be the tangible things. It can also be something that I found valuable for myself and for others.

Alicia: So you’re celebrating and you’re expressing your gratitude. Yeah. The three wins of the week. And breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out. And what am I grateful for? I will never hear those statements too much. They always have something for me. 


And I want to release anything that does not serve me.

Because we just hold on to a lot of things. We hold on resentments, we hold onto anger and memories. It’s not going to serve you. And being angry or holding a resentment with somebody…you’re the only one suffering. That person has moved on with their life.

They don’t feel that emotion. You’re the one suffering in that. So letting go and just releasing it is incredibly valuable.

Alicia: Hell yeah. Tell us about something exciting that you have coming up.

Coming Soon! Wizard of Oz in Denmark and Intensive Jillina Retreats in Maui

Oh my God. So casting is open for the Wizard of Oz in Denmark. We’re taking the yellow brick road across the globe, and it’s going to be our first production since the lockdown. But what’s really exciting is we’re going to be part of a huge festival.

The biggest festival in Scandinavia. It’s called the Danish Open, and they have teachers from all over the globe. We are a part of their ten-year anniversary. So they’re bringing out my team of directors and we’re going to be working with dancers from around the globe. And it’s international casting.

So we’ll be working with lots of local Scandinavian dancers, and I’ve already had some dancers from the US who are auditioning. So I’m so excited about that. It feels like getting my wheels back on and just getting back into that space of creativity and being productive. It’s going to feel so good.

The other thing is now that I moved to Maui, a lot of you know, and it’s my home. I sold my home and I’ve moved here permanently. I also built studio here. So I’m going to be doing small, intensive retreats here on the island.

It’s going to be so special. I’m going to have that home cooked food, lots of healthy stuff. And we’re going to tap into some of the Hawaiian culture here. We’re going to have photo shoots. We’re gonna have haflas and all of that. So that is a new chapter for the next year coming up.

I just opened them up for January, but both of them sold out already. I didn’t even make it public yet. So I just had it for my students and colleagues that I work with. So, hopefully I’ll be opening up more of these dance retreats here on the island. It’s so incredibly special here.

Alicia: That video you just had of you dancing and like the jungle and on the beach. Oh, she’s so smart for living in Hawaii.

You know what I keep saying? Whenever we’re like running around, like,

What am I rushing for? I’ve arrived. Where am I going? I’m here, I’m here where I’m supposed to be.

We’ve been coming here for 25 years for vacation. So it’s a place that we’ve always loved and appreciated. And, that’s part of the decision that brought us to be here permanently.

Alicia: Is your mom living there too?

No, not permanently. She’s already came out for one visit and she’s coming back out in September and July. I’m going to go visit her.

So we’re doing a back and forth kind of a thing. And I miss my driveway dances with my mom that got us through 2020. We couldn’t have done it without her. She’s truly an inspiration at 82 years old, still choreographing dancing, doing yoga. We just did our driveway dances and we filmed it so we could make people smile. And it led into uplifting a lot of people. So that’s all we could ask for.

Alicia: That’s long-term inspiration, those driveway dances to lean on her mom. So it’s a definitely thing to aspire to be when you’re 82.

Yeah, absolutely. Inspiring.

Alicia: Jillina, it has been such an honor to just hear your thoughts on what’s going on and history and what we can do to be even happier and lighter. And I am just so grateful for everything that you do for our dance world and for the people that take a little trip into the dance world when you were in their prison or in their shelter and are able to experience some of the joy that we see in dance and the freedom. Thank you so much. Keep creating, keep on teaching. 

Thank you for creating this format and this platform, I think this is so valuable that we get to connect and learn and grow together. I’m really honored to be here and be a part of this community. And I’m going to keep stumbling forward and being creative and just finding ways to contribute.

That’s going to be my mantra for this year. How can I contribute?

So we’ll be seeing you guys soon online and, thank you. And please continue this incredible podcast form. I’m a super fan.

Alicia: Thank you so much Jillina!!!