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A rare opportunity…

Bad ass choreographer, dancer Nika Kljun!

Each year, some of the best choreographers, dancers, and studio owners get together for a weekend benefit that raises money in hopes of finding a cure for Cystic Fibrosis. The event – Dance to Breathe – is pretty unique, but I probably wouldn’t have known about it had I not been involved with my studio.

Last year when the event came around, I was excited to see what it was all about and see my fellow classmates perform in the final show. It was at that show that, not only did I learn much more about CF, I also realized how lucky I am to be a part of my studio – not to brag, but I’m learning from some of the BEST in this city (if not the country).

As part of this benefit, there is usually a celebrity choreographer that comes to town to teach a master class. Last year, I was scraping by all of my spare dollars and sending them to the IRS, so I couldn’t attend the master class. This year however, I’ve already paid my taxes, so I was anxiously awaiting the reveal of the guest choreographer.

It was none other than Nika Kljun – here’s her resume from her website:

She has worked on major projects such as Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, Ne-yo, Pitbull, T-Pain, One Direction, Cher Lloyd, the Britney Spears tribute on MTV Video Music Awards, Jessica Sanchez, Donna Summer, Kaya Jones, Gina Katon, Matt Pokora, Herb Alpred, Macy’s Glamorama fashion tour, Monsters of hip hop, Billboard Music Awards, Young Hollywood Awards, NRJ music awards, X-Factor USA, UK & France, America’s Got Talent, The Voice, Move Live on Tour and was just recently, for the year of 2015, a part of Justin Bieber’s dancing team.

As a choreographer or assistant she worked on projects such as So You Think You Can Dance in the USA, Ukraine & Portugal, Move Live on Tour with Derek & Julianne Hough, Dancing with the Stars, Kellogg’s summer campaign, Kaya Jones, Lena Katina, Blake McGrath, Victoria Bech and Monsters of Hip Hop show to name a few. You can catch Nika at Tremaine Dance Conventions, Monster of Hip Hop or Monsters A-list conventions around North America. 

…Like… are you kidding me? She’s an insanely talented dancer – and highly trained in traditional forms of dance, which makes her hip hop game solid. I’ll admit, though, that I was a little bit nervous to buy a ticket for her master class. I know that I’m late in my dance game.

I started taking jazz classes in middle school – and that is where my technical training ends. I danced on a competitive dance team for five years – being captain for two of those years. We were scrappy, and I recall very late nights at the studio, or in hallways, recounting and modifying movements to look sharp.

But I took a solid 10+ year break from dance. In that time, my body has changed, and parts of it have taken quite a beating between boxing training for four years, full-time retail and restaurant service work, and generally just getting older.

I know I struggle to pick up choreography quickly (although I am getting better), and I feel heavy on my feet. I have been to auditions and am learning to accept that even if I don’t make it (and I never have), it’s a free opportunity to learn from someone new, and at least try.

Sometimes, even if I can just get 1 8-count in a set of 7, I am really proud of myself, because the difficulty level is so far beyond me. Trying counts for something.

Many of my fellow dancers said they were taking Nika’s class, even if it meant standing in the back. Yeah, I thought, I’m going, too.

“You’ll walk away learning something,” one instructor told me. And he was right.

So, I bought my ticket. I woke up the day before the class with a classic flare-up of my pinched nerve. Because of course! But, I took my normal Saturday class, laid on a heating pad for three hours, popped a pain-killer, and headed downtown to meet Nika.

Right off the bat, I was pleasantly shocked at how nice she was – how much she simply wanted to help us learn and have fun. She taught us a combination from Jennifer Lopez’s tour, which was just cool to see.

I have never, ever tried any of the classic ballroom dancing, and she showed us the cha-cha, and salsa, and simply said, “Now you can watch ‘Dancing With the Stars’ and really know what they are doing!”

It was tough, and I struggled, and I stayed in the back. But, I gave it all I had and I pushed myself. Yes, a lot of people in the class were KILLING it. But many of them were also 16 – ah, to be young and thin and energetic!

Nonetheless, it was a humbling experience, and it makes me respect the hustle for choreographers and dancers. This is a physical industry – there’s no half-assing it if you’re on tour with Justin Bieber.

When the class was over, I was tired and sweaty, and snapped a picture with Nika, giving her a big thanks. I felt twice her size, but it’s whatever. I went home and had a solid night’s sleep – I suppose that’s what happens when you dance your ass off for almost three hours, pretending you’re JLo!

The grass ain’t greener.

Truth bomb.

Truth bomb.

I had a guy friend in high school that was always down for adventure. He had a personality that was uniquely his, and I was drawn to it in many ways, for a really long time.

Because of this, I did a lot of things with him I’d probably never do otherwise – like jumping into the marina sans pants, driving into the night without a plan, or simply hanging out finding ways to forget about the drama of being a high school student in a small town.

When we graduated, we went our separate ways for college – he went west and I went south, and I’ve only seen him one time since. We kept in touch for the first few years of school, but I noticed that talking to him held this weird sense of unbalance.

It was around the same time Facebook was born, hitting school by school, and his life seemed way more glamorous than mine. He was always up to something extreme, whether good or bad, and he’d surrounded himself with money – and students who had it. They had souped up apartments and frequented exclusive ski resorts.

Me? I was just trying to get to class, not fail, and scrape together enough money to get to the bar on a Friday night. I was busy working at the student newspaper, and I usually felt pretty good about my life until I got a call from him.

Sometimes, I wondered how much of his life was actually happening, or why I even cared. There were halves of years that passed without us talking, and when we would, it would be the same old shit. After college, when we’d both been working for years, he called me and after swapping stories – his being lots of travel and nights out, and mine being working like hell and ordering takeout – he said, “I figured your life would be a lot different.”

I can’t recall specifically what he said, but he was implying that my life was lame, and unexpectedly so. Whatever. We were nearly 30 at the time, and I’d surpassed the habit of getting so wasted that I drunk-dialed or texted anyone that I’d regret. That was his regular thing, and it was getting old.

Recently, we got back in touch as we found ourselves working in the same field. I’ll admit, it was fun to shoot the industry shit with someone who understood agency life, and the ways of digital marketing. I had a huge laugh over his analogy of dating to lead generation vs. inbound marketing.

But the more we talked, the more he revealed that things in his life were spiraling out of control in a huge way. His life – whether it was real or all talk – was completely gone. And while a big part of me felt bad for him, I also felt like he’d brought a lot of his problems on himself.

He’d gotten arrested, as a result of trespassing and violating a restraining order. And that was just the tip of the iceberg.

I talked about this with him a few times, but there were so many excuses, it was getting exhausting. He started sending me emails, and after opening one, I discovered he’d implemented a tracking program to record each time the email was opened and if it was forwarded to anyone. He sent me screenshots of his recording.

So, I stopped opening his emails, and stopped talking to him.

As terrible as this may sound, I, all of the sudden, didn’t feel so bad about my life.

Sure, I only have a few friends, but they’re people I trust and have known for most of my life. No, I don’t have boatloads of money or a boat or access to a private jet, but I have a cute apartment and money to pay my bills and buy dance classes, and most of the time, that’s all I need. And no, I’m not in a relationship, but that also means there’s no drama outside of the drama I create for myself.

It’s taken me years to get here, but yeah, I’m liking this little life I’ve created for myself. I work hard, and often, but I also have fun by improving myself and learning and growing. I get pleasure from maintaining my house; cooking and finding the perfect fall arrangement for my countertop, even if no one sees it aside from me.

And so, Chris Brown was right – the grass ain’t greener on the other side.

Blogging for Beginners at UT!

Blogging for Beginners is coming to UT!

Blogging for Beginners is coming to UT!

Dare I say “Hook ’em“? Because I am so, SO happy to (finally) announce that my course, Blogging for Beginners is being offered as an informal class at the University of Texas at Austin! Registration started last week, with our first class being held on Wednesday, May 11.

My blogging course started at Louisiana State University, before moving completely online, and will now be a part of UT’s Informal Courses’ extensive list of offerings. And in case you were wondering, yes, I will be the instructor. Because of course!

I didn’t realize how much I loved teaching until I actually started doing it, and teaching something I love doing has been a really rewarding process for me. Interested in taking the course? Here’s the official info:

Are you curious about blogs and the blogosphere? Do you have a passion you wish to share with the world? Have you started a blog but need direction and/or promotional help? In this class, you will explore the basic concepts, tools, and functions to create a living, successful blog. Learn the ins and outs of three blogging platforms, including WordPress, BlogSpot, and Tumblr. You will also encounter other bloggers and complete assignments to ensure your experience in this class is helpful in the blogging world. Click here for additional information on this course.

Holly A. Phillips is a writer, blogger, and an SEO Analyst living in Austin, Texas. After earning a bachelor’s in creative writing from Louisiana State University, she started her first blog. Almost 10 years later, she’s created several successful blogs with followers around the world. She has also written and published four books from her online content in the blogging world and has served as a Blogging Instructor for four years.

Ta-Da! If you do not live in the Austin area but still want to take my class, I’ve got great news. You can take it 100% online right here (discounted just for you for $15). If you have any questions about either of the course offerings, feel free to contact me and I’ll assist you in any way possible.

In other techie news, I received my certification in Google Analytics last week (if you haven’t taken the exam yet, it’s no joke!), and have also received my Inbound Marketing certification from Hubspot. I’m learning new things every day, folks – never a dull moment!

I celebrated my recent certifications and blog course successes with a road trip to the Zapp’s Beer Festival in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It is one of my favorite festivals, and I never miss it. The event features the beers we all know and love, from Shocktop, Budweiser, and Abita, but is mainly a place that showcases home brewers.

Every year, more than 200 home brewers show off what they’ve been crafting and they really make some delicious stuff. This year, one of my favorites was a Strawberry-Basil beer! I also enjoyed an Oatmeal Cookie beer, Chocolate Stout, Peanut Butter beer, Melon beer, and a Banana Split Stout, among many others.

Afterward, my friends and I enjoyed a delicious batch of boiled crawfish (my first of the season), along with potatoes, corn on the cob, mushrooms, and sausage all cooked in with the crawfish. Perfection!

I hope you guys have a good Monday – if you’re at all like me, you’ve already got your eye on that Friday prize. Hopefully, this week’s blog content will help make the week a little more enjoyable. I’ll see you all here tomorrow!

Blogging for Beginners!

Blogging for Beginners on Udemy!

Blogging for Beginners on Udemy!

Hey gang! Anyone else back at work today? I am, and I can already tell it’s not going to be an easy few days before we get another long weekend (how spoiled do I sound right now?). Anyway, I feel like I’m being annoying and beating this course over your head, but this will be my last hurrah about it (unless, of course, I’m throwing an awesome promo), but I just wanted to give you the chance to take it on the cheap!

So here’s the scoop on my course, Blogging for Beginners:

Course Description

Learn the basic concepts, tools, and functions that you will need to create a living, successful blog.

This class covers the blogging world from all angles, including:

  • How to choose the blog platform for your blogging needs
  • Best practices for writing & publishing entries
  • Techniques for promoting & maintaining your new blog
  • Ways to interact with bloggers around the globe
  • Information on advertising opportunities & affiliate programs to earn money

While emphasizing the content of your very own blog, this class will also hone your skills at:

  • Utilizing your blog platform to its fullest potential
  • Applying design techniques to further communicate your ideas to readers

Learn the ins and outs of three blogging platforms, including WordPress, BlogSpot, and Tumblr. You will also encounter other bloggers and complete assignments to ensure your experience in this class is helpful in the blogging world.

Take this course if:

  • You have a curiosity about blogs and the blogosphere
  • You have a desire to create and a need for an outlet
  • You have a passion you wish to share with the world
  • You have a business you’re looking to promote
  • You have a hobby you want to make money from
  • You’re looking for a way to communicate on a global level
  • You’ve started a blog but need direction and/or promotional help

What are the requirements?

  • You can start this course without even knowing what a blog is — don’t worry, I’ll explain it! All you need is an internet connection and we’ll go over everything from there, together.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Over 33 lectures and 3.5 hours of content!
  • Choose and use the right blogging platform
  • Post blog entries, complete with photos, videos, and other multimedia
  • Maintain and promote their blog(s)
  • Create, design, and name a blog
  • Reach a desired audience with specific content
  • Relate and interact with bloggers worldwide
  • Utilize SEO tactics, social media channels, and other marketing methods to promote their blog(s)
  • Be able to maintain a successful web endeavor (for hobby or for business)

What is the target audience?

  • Blogging for Beginners is truly meant for beginners looking to start a blog. If you’ve started a blog, but are looking for tips on what to write, or how to promote it, you can still benefit from this course. If you’re already a blogging pro, this course is probably old hat to you!

…So, you don’t even need to know ANYTHING going in to the class — I’ll teach you everything! There’s 33 components to the course, including videos, lectures, screeencasts, and a downloadable syllabus.

But, here’s the thing. I need some people to enroll in the course and give me some reviews! So, I’m offering the ENTIRE course for $1 (yes, ONE DOLLAR) to the first five people who sign up (here) and use the code: Lemon …if you see this too late, you can still take the course for $25 (which is still way less than it’s listed price of $59) with code: Hurray …so, sign up! I hope to see you there soon!