Tête-à-Tête: Curves with Moves founder, Jessie Diaz-Herrera
Jessie Diaz-Herrera is a spicy and sweet 30-year old Dominican and Puerto Rican woman dancer from the Bronx. She dances, she dances. She moves, she moves.
Loyal Nana: What is Curves with Moves?
Jessie Diaz: Curves With Moves is my very own dance company. Our message is body positivity through dance and affirmations.
LN: When did you first start dancing?
JD: Between the ages of six and twelve, I danced ballet, tap and jazz. During our childhood, my sister and I would have dance class from 9am to 12pm then we'd go home, eat, change and headed to softball practice from 2pm-4pm. We were pretty active kids. At 12 years old, the dance school advised me to lose weight as I hit puberty. My mother got wind of this and took me and my sister out of the program after I confessed to her what they told me. I didn't dance again until college, where I found my love for hip hop and street jazz and that's mainly what I dance now.
LN: What do you like most about your own dancing?
JD: There is something about a hard hitting hip hop dance piece that will put me in another world. I'll be in a zone of utter confidence and swagyness. It' makes me feel like a total BAWSE.
LN: What’s your day job?
JD: As a Parent Engagement Manager at Success Academies, I help and inform families on the best elementry school options in their neighborhoods.
LN: You teach dance classes after a full day’s work a few times a week, how do you come up with the moves, music and vibes before class?
JD: Well I mostly teach once every two weeks now since my summer's are busier at work. But I always choreograph in my head first and can honestly put a whole piece together visually. Then I'll dance it and see how it feels on my body. Because sometimes in my head I think I can double turn into a kick and I'm like waaaaiiit, nope...but I'm working on it!
LN: What qualities draw you to another dancer, what makes her or his dance ‘beautiful’ to you?
JD: Confidence, facial expressions and body movement all come hand in hand for me. I need all 3 to feel like YASSSSS I can rip that. Honestly, I find all styles of dance really beautiful. I can go into a spiral just watching video after video. There is also a special place in my heart for Latin dances like merengue, bachata and salsa. Especially ballroom competition style! It's so sexy and powerful and the more I watch it, the more it makes me want to do it. (hmmm....::::plans next class to take:::)
LN: Lane Bryant and Refinery29 are both big fans of Curves with Moves. What has it been like to spread your message through such platforms?
JD: It's been such a blessing. I have received such great messages from women and girls everywhere about how they were inspired to take a dance class. And honestly, that's the best news ever to me! If I can make even just one female have the confidence to say, "I'm going to get up and dance and not care about what anyone else thinks" I've done my job.
LN: You’re a mom, a wife, a daughter and a sister. Where do you find the motivation and the centering you need to “Dance it out”?
JD: It's really a way for me to feel sane being all those things! As women, we wear so many hats in the workplace and household. Dancing is my way of letting loose and releasing any frustration, tension or stress that comes from playing all of these roles. Dance is my therapy.
LN: What obstacles have you had to confront in your dancing career and what did you do to overcome them?
JD: I've always been told I needed to lose weight by dance teachers, school teachers, friends and family. I would get backwards compliments like "Jessie, you're such a great dancer for your weight!" and that would always rub me the wrong way. But, I've come to a point in my life where I've used what people thought was negative and turned it into opportunities. Now when someone asks me what I do I say “I’m a Plus Sized Dancer.” Some people react like, "oh I didn't know it was it's own category" or "oh cool, that's dope." Any reaction sparks up a conversation and that's what I aim for: to talk more about bigger bodies in art, dance and fashion.
LN: What do you think about the lack of plus size women on the fashion runways and magazines?
It's getting better and better every year. We are seeing more models and social media influencers really coming into the mainstream media and it's awesome to see us big girls winning! Obviously there needs to me MORE representation, but our time is coming and it's been a long time coming.
LN: Was there ever a time when you thought you wouldn’t be able to dance? What did you tell yourself to keep going and not give up?
JD: Yes about 2 years ago actually! I was dancing 4x a week with leg and arm muscles. I was "fit thick". When I got pregnant I still danced but only 2-3 times a week. I was loving my body. I was still fit with a cute belly. Then in 8 months I doubled in size, I was retaining so much water and I could no longer workout or dance. I was tired, I was irritable, and I was frustrated about not being able to move around as quickly. Even after having my baby, my stress level was high because I wanted to stay home but couldn't afford to. I gained 15 pounds of the 20 pounds I lost... I became depressed, frustrated, and angry with myself and my partner. I went from dancer mom to working, crying, stressed out mom and began to regret life. It wasn't until my husband told me to start blogging again and to try to channel that energy into something that would uplift me. As I started to post more I felt a change. I started to look at the body-positive community and became inspired again. I began to take class once a week and thought, “Ok this day is for me! I may not be able to dance everyday but I can do this one day for myself and my confidence and health". Now, I take dance class at least once a week and go to the gym in the early mornings to get my body back fit and thick :)
LN: Favorite song right now to dance it out to?
JD: So I just did a Fat Flashdance video and since, I can’t stop playing Maniac by Michael Sembello. Now I play it even to stretch! I’m also really loving "Despacito Remix" right now and think it'll be my next choreograph.
LN: Favorite song to dance anytime, anywhere?
JD: Ok I'm going to have to go with "No Le Pege A La Negra” by Jose Arroyo because I go OFF! If that's playing, my feet are moving!
LN: Overall, what have you learned about yourself — both your strengths and your vulnerabilities — through dance?
JD: Self love is so important and once we find what we truly love about ourselves, it's worth sharing with the world. For me dance has allow me to love myself and my body. It has also kept my mind healthy and has done wonders for my confidence.
LN: What advice would you give to other plus size women who love to dance but feel they can’t?
First find and then use what you truly love to help you love yourself deeper.
LN: Where do you see Curves with Moves in the future?
JD: I am working on building more classes with a focus on body positivity discussions and choreography. We call them Dance & Discussions. The first part of the class shares and teaches body positive exercises and discussion followed by a choreography to boost confidence. I also have a DVD in the works called Dance Fitness and is geared toward helping and encouraging plus size women to get up and dance right from their living rooms.
LN: We love Curves with Moves! Where can we learn more?