We had the good fortune of connecting with Denise Antoine and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Denise, where are your from? We’d love to hear about how your background has played a role in who you are today?
I am from South Central Los Angeles, California. My environment and upbringing greatly influenced my character and each faucet of me in every way I can imagine. The seeds of creativity, insatiable drive for diversity in healing and performing arts, economic empowerment for women & minorities and advocacy for the marginalized were birthed in me on the streets of L.A.; my beloved place of origin and my current home. The landscape of my hometown was colored with depression and violence, due to lack of resources and educational tools for us. I remember the absurdity of not having books for various subjects of study throughout middle and high school courses. Growing up in the Crenshaw District in the 1990’s sharpened my awareness and taught me how to survive. A day in the life of a latch key kid, with hope for a brighter future was at times drowned in the constant soundtrack of sirens, and the eventual desensitization to those perpetual echoes. My faith, my mother and dance were my lifelines and my gateway to freedom. Freedom from a scarcity mentality. Freedom from the fear of generational patterns of dysfunction and poverty. Freedom from the belief that my kind were the lessor. My love of dance carried me to the opportunities that I’m grateful to share today. I thought my love of Ballet would lead me to a path of performing arts, but instead my love of movement directed me to yoga and healing work. Let me be clear, there is much to be celebrated from the place I grew up in, and I’m proud of the culture & community that I’m from. There are a lot of pearls buried in the midst of the obstacles of oppression. Thankfully, in today’s current climate, I’m relieved to see a wave of change amongst us. I believe the Collective Mentality is shifting. The response I see now tells me and communicates to our children that many of us are committed to shaping a brighter world for us all to thrive. Wherever you’re from, wherever you are, wherever you’re going, please know that you can live your heart’s desires and walk in freedom. Trust your intuition and fly… Because you’re worth it! I believe in you. Namaste Loves, Denise
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I began my journey as a student and had no idea I’d become a teacher. I was attached to the vision others had for my career. My mother was the proud parent of a Ballerina from our community, there weren’t many of us. She worked 2 to 3 jobs at a time to support us, pay for expensive dance wear and dance classes, Though, thankfully my teachers charged her practically nothing for my training. They never asked our financial situation, but somehow they knew we were barely making ends meet. My teachers and peers were lovingly invested in my success as well. There was a strong sense of community that felt as if I made it, we all made it. Ms. Karen McDonald was my first dance teacher, a radiant woman whose beauty, grace and presence were striking. She took me under her wing and personally introduced me to Ballet Master, Stefan Wenta. I started training with Stefan at the age of 9. He didn’t teach children at that time, but he allowed me to attend his adult classes. He saw potential in me and predicted I’d become a Prima Ballerina by the age of 15. And so my journey began… The world of dance, Ballet specifically is a precise one. The expectations, anatomical alignment, artists’ aesthetic, body type, preferred ethnicity and tradition weren’t necessarily congruent with my being, but my petite frame, natural ability and strong technique allowed me to progress in the competitive industry. I trained hard and though I wasn’t a Prima by 15, I was accepted to The Ailey School, NYU & Tisch at the age of 17 to continue the study of dance. I figured, that was pretty damn good, let’s go! But due to financial limitations, I ultimately declined attendance. My perception was so limited at that time. I was ignorant to my options in pursuing higher education. To date, only one member of my family had a college degree. I was devastated and depressed for a while. I thought I’d failed and disrespected my mother and her sacrifices. I was in a sunken place until, one day a friend invited me to a yoga class. My life changed in that class that day. I reconnected to my love of movement and found my purpose again. All this to say – What sets me apart in my art and my industry? I’m resilient. I refuse to conform or accept a counterfeit version of my highest path. I don’t just survive anymore. I thrive and I laugh a lot. I’m committed to being a reminder that you too can live a life of purpose and joy. My yoga classes and events are fun, intentional and transformative. I love what I do and I love serving you!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I love Santa Monica and would designate a day for hiking Temescal Canyon, a sound bath with Dynasty Electrik, shopping on the 3rd Street Promenade, meditating on the sand and dining at The Water Grill or Cholado on PCH. Some of my other favorite L.A., destinations are Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles, Parks’s BBQ in K-Town, the Baldwin Hills lookout and Leimert Park, where I got my nose piercing over twenty years ago! This city has everything to offer; art, entertainment, diversity in cultures & cuisine, fashion, ocean, mountains and even snow just a few hours away. Staycations and road trips to Ojai, Palm Springs, Big Bear and wine country would be on the agenda too. I’d probably need more than a week to show a visitor everything I love about my city!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Shoutout to Mama Ruth! My mom is a miracle worker and a loving soul. I would not be the woman I am today without her, period. Thank you mama, I love you. Shoutout to Karen McDonald and DADA (Debbie Allen Dance Academy), for loving on and drawing out greatness in girls and boys in South Central L.A. Thank you for seeing us, teaching us as children and nurturing many of us into adulthood. We love you!
Josue Soriano, George Hobbs, Samantha Klose, Ryu Edo, Michel Andreo