Yes, the title of this month's blog is almost identical to a book by Kristof & WuDunn. And since you were wondering, I do recommend you check it out.
I've spent nearly half of my life working with adolescents often looking for a proven path to success. Well, what I've come to learn is that sometimes that path is the road less traveled and sometimes the "thing" you're in pursuit of is a conduit to something greater.
This month we feature Non-profit Leader, Emotional Intelligence Skill Builder, Keynote Speaker, and Founder of MOVE Bridges Dance Project, Siomara Bridges-Mata.
The New York native has mastered the art of bridging dance, communities, and the pursuit of emotional intelligence.
"I just love movement and I love getting people together."
How it All Started
While many dance practitioners recall their earliest memories of dance taking place in studios and on stages, this is not the case for Siomara Bridges-Mata. This dancing, social-emotional skill-building diva often reminisces about her fascination with learning dance choreography from the hottest music videos in the early 90's. It wasn't until high school that she acknowledged her passion for dance and her professional training didn't begin until college.
Like many first generation college students, Siomara was hoping to build a plan that would lead to success and job security. Studying dance and business seemed like a sure-fire way to land herself a dance studio or a gig in entertainment. After all she was in the "Big Apple" and feeling the pressure to do what "so called" successful artists do.
An NYC community college is where Siomara would meet the dance professor who advised her to continue her studies and pursue a degree in dance education at Hunter College.
"I got into the dance education program and it just opened up my eyes to my potential as an artist, as a choreographer, and most importantly as an educator."
Siomara sums up her experiences auditioning as a professional dancer in just one word – "brutal". The culture of auditioning was not what she was expecting and it certainly didn't render the joy she absorbed from getting people together, teaching them dance, and making them feel empowered. When Siomara was offered an opportunity to be a cultural envoy she jumped at it.
"You're off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So... get on your way!"― Dr. Seuss
Educating communities has always been at the core of Siomara's work. In 2011 she partnered with the Costa Rican Ministry of Culture to present "Urban Dance in America", a series of lecture demonstrations and performances depicting a historical timeline of social dances in urban America. After that she was inspired to engage with other communities through dance and traveled to Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Haiti.
"It was beautiful because I was working with trained dancers, non trained dancers, kids, and the community. People were coming off the street."
There's Power in the Difference
It was shortly after college that Siomara founded Move Bridges Dance Project. All of her friends were auditioning but she felt that her purpose was on a different path. While Siomara was developing her dance project she was also instructing, mentoring, and emerging into a non-profit leader and an emotional intelligence expert. In fact, she'd been doing this all along in the classes she was teaching. Through embodied experiences Siomara's students were learning Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision-Making, all skills needed to foster one's social and emotional growth.
"I was intrinsically motivated."
A Day in the Life
Director of Community Initiatives & Advocacy
Community Dance Educator & Founder
Dance Education Programs Manager
Siomara entered the non-profit sector in 2010 and established a track record of impeccable community impact, bringing her skills to reputable organizations such as NYC-based Ballet Hispanico, Big Thought in Dallas, TX, The Helen Gordan Davis Centre for Women, Frameworks of Tampa Bay, and the David A Straz Center for Performing Arts in Tampa, FL.
Siomara attributes her career success to dance and admits that she thinks like no one else when it comes to process. Critical thinking, taking the stage, and empowering people has become second nature.
November 2, 2022— St. Petersburg, Fla.-- Social Venture Partners (SVP) Fast Pitch event Wednesday, November 2, 2022, at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg, Fla. - Photo by Michael C. Weimar
Siomara Bridges- Mata was recently named the Acting Executive Director of NAMI Pinellas (National Alliance on Mental Illness). NAMI provides advocacy, education, support, and public awareness so that all individuals and families affected by mental illness can build better lives. Siomara will continue to empower individuals to be the best versions of themselves and "make moves" within the community that will impact social interactions and behaviors for years to come.
"The best thing you can do is believe in your ideas and stay true to who you are in the process!"
Beyond the Barre & Other Stories