Find Your Outlet

April 1, 2020
Justin Ikerionwu
Photos
Muenfua Lewis

Life can weigh on your mind. We all need outlets. Is that not why we create? This is why we chase passions. We need a way to funnel out all the thoughts and feelings going through our minds on the daily. If you’re anything like me, those thoughts can slowly begin to depress you when you have such a bigger desire biting inside that you aren’t able to express. Edith can relate 100%. Edith is someone that uses dance as an outward expression of her desires to radiate confidence within herself to all women alike.


Edith is one of the best young dance instructors in Kansas City, Missouri. She mixes style, heels, and confidence into every choreographed piece in a way that continues to garner attention amongst Kansas City’s growing dance community. A community she’s had a big hand in growing. At 23 years old, there are few others that have grown such an organic following. After getting to meet and have a conversation with Edith, it’s easy to see why others are drawn to her. She has a natural vivacity that’s very inclusive and honest. If you ask anyone that has taken her class, the first thing you will hear are positive sentiments about Edith the amazing person, then about Edith the amazing dance instructor. Those that attend her classes love her because she intentionally makes the development of individuals the cornerstone of her classes. Dance is an outlet for Edith’s overall passion for instilling the same strength she found in herself into women in her community.


Originally from the New York area, Edith moved to Kansas City at 8 years old after her mother got married. Growing up she was a child with a big heart but a lack of faith in herself. She was very timid. “I never joined challenge classes because I didn’t have faith in myself that I would get an A,” Edith explains. “Coming from a first generation immigrant family, you get these mindsets from society and no matter how much positive reinforcement you get society will continue to remind you, you’re not good enough. I never really had faith, but then I started dancing.”


Dance followed her throughout high school, helping her break out of a shell. She kept pressing on and sharpening her craft. Thanks to Edith’s mother, who instilled a strong work ethic in her and her siblings, she went on to fight her way through college working different jobs and continued to dance along the way.


“My mom is Dominican. I’m from a Dominican household and she is very independent. I’m very much like my mom. I owe a lot of my mindset to her,” Edith adds. “She taught me the art of working hard. She taught me those who go through adversity are always going to win. The person that grinding for that car, rather


than the one whose parents gave them that car understands the importance of hard work. My mother moved to the states at 21 and didn’t know a lick of English. She taught herself English while risking her life to move here and take care of my siblings and me. We lived in a 3-bedroom apartment with 11 people in it. 6 of us in one bedroom”. Edith’s mother fought to provide for her family. She did well to pass that along to her children.



After college graduation, she was feeling very lost. “I felt lost because I didn’t know where God was trying to tell me to go. In November 2017 I graduated with this beautiful major, I was in debt, and I truly didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Edith relays. Luckily she was able to find a corporate job that she enjoyed. She still had a desire to dance. Edith enrolled in a class by Yanis Marshall.  After being encouraged and told dance was her niche, she began teaching. Her willingness to be uncomfortable put her in a position where her passion and need for expression could meet.


“As I kept teaching I found this is something I love to do. I began to document everything. I made videos and recorded everything. I knew that investing in myself meant something, as a 23-year-old and that it would pay off. I was thinking, man I know this is going to pay off. I put out a Facebook ad out in the summer and from there my classes blew up. I went from an average of 0-5 people. Then I had an average of 10-15 and now I have an average of 20-35 women and men that come every week.


“What I learned is that the age gaps in my classes are 18 years old all the way up to 45 years old. In my classes there are people who come in and have never danced before, people who have taken 10 years off of dancing and there are people who just want to fuck it up and train in LA,” Edith continues. “You’re looking at a diverse group of people, a wide range of ages, different demographics. I don’t know what brought them to me, whether it’s the Facebook ads, word of mouth or they personally know me but I looked and had a feeling inside me that I had to do something with this.”


That feeling Edith felt was her need for expression. Burning inside of her was a desire to do something bigger than her and to affect the community. Too often we approach affecting the community and enacting change as such a linear model as if there are rules and regulations to what it means to help those around you. There is not; follow your heart and express yourself. Express yourself in whatever way you can, in whatever way you know how. Express yourself freely and honestly. Take your gift and use it to express yourself and touch the hearts of those around you. In this, you will find self-confidence.


“I got an opportunity to do this at my job, at our women’s empowerment event. I spoke for 10 to 15 minutes with about 80 women in the room. I told them about

my story and what I’ve learned, somewhat like our conversation but not as deep,” Edith said. “I told them what I do and what I believe in. It resonated with them really well. I thought to myself this is really cool right here.” Edith found that thing inside of here that pushed her and with that found a way to express that feeling through what she loved to do: dance.


Through dance, Edith wants to empower women to be bosses. “A lot of women don’t have faith in themselves; it comes from their husbands, boyfriends, children, family even coworkers telling them they aren’t good enough. It’s not all about teaching dance for me. I always say 50% of my class is a dance; the other 50% is talking. That talking being me. That 50% is about focusing on my message. We talk about the topic of the day; we’ll focus on a powerful and inspiring message, hearing people’s testimonies. I talk about things that will empower and strengthen women because I found that the message being pushed through conversation is what will stick. I want to empower not only women but teenagers and little kids too.


“My sisters and I always say, our mom left everything to give us everything, so it would be a dishonor and disrespect if we grew up to be ordinary people. She gave us so much that it’s always pushed I’ve always wanted to be somebody that made a difference in the world. I want to empower women in that way she empowered us. I’ve had 3 of 4 people come up to me and tell me that your class literally has changed my life. That shit is powerful, that shit stays with you. It tells me, yo man I’m meant to do this. Even though I’m not making a lot of money right now. Even though I’m working 40 hours in my day job of communications work, [which she loves] and then I have to come here and do this, my other job while getting other opportunities elsewhere. I believe in myself and the hard work that I put in. Having an outlet to affect women in my heels class I try to focus on the energy I put out, whether I’m tired or energized. Being able to change lives, putting out good energy, whatever brought them here I want the people that come to my class to know it’s about you and your personal growth.


“I didn’t allow videotape in my class for a long time because the girls were insecure, but now I have to chase my girls out of my class because they want videos after class,” Edith continues. “I want them to feel like that: ‘Yes girl, take that video! You look good! You should feel good! I don’t care if you didn’t hit that 8, you hit it on the 7? It doesn’t matter. You feel good? You look good?’ That’s all that matters.”