“Zoom and the Virtual Dance Studio”

Today I can officially close up my “balcony” studio and return to the classroom! Australian dance schools are officially back in business and I am ecstatic. After zooming for 13 weeks it will be amazing to feel the energy and the buzz of excited dancers and full classrooms. As I taught my second last Saturday midnight class for the Broadway Dance Center CTP this past week (9am for them) I got sentimental – I think in years to come when we are teaching in the studio memories of these times will pop into our heads and bring a smile.  We have all invited ourselves into each others homes, dug deep each week to show up on the screen no matter what may have been going on personally, and found ways to continue to share our passion for dance. From the moments where we have improvised our feelings out, nailed a new skill or had a laugh at a pet joining in the fun, we have all helped each other get through this time.

To get deep for a moment it was these zoom classes and students that really got me through my two week hotel isolation when I landed back “home” in Australia – it seems like a distant memory now but my mind was spinning and questioning every my every move and decision. I did not know where I belonged or what I was doing in those two weeks and I will always be so thankful for every smiling face that showed on my screen. Another prominent moment that stands out was the day I taught NYC, Iowa, Hervey Bay, Sydney and New Zealand all in one day – these are the silver linings of this world pandemic as scenarios like this would never have been considered possible in pre corona times. Other highlights I know I will tell my grandkids about are the Joffrey Ballet live classes where the gorgeous Palm Beach backdrop was used for the classroom, and 1500 dancers from all over the world were able to connect. Also the footage of the “zoom recitals” where dancers are performing end of year showcases in their living rooms instead of the stage are going to go down in history of our memories from 2020 dance.

I will still be zooming with my NY kids and Broadway Dance Center while I am on the other side of the world and restrictions still prevent them from live classes, however I think that even those kids would agree my zoom lessons are much better from the studio. Funny things some younger students commented “You are actually put makeup on” “Your not as glitchy” “You seem more awake”. To defend myself a little bit I have been commencing my teaching days at 5am to fit in with the time change, and given that it is winter (well….our version of winter) it is completely dark when I start work. I am fortunate enough to be teaching at Dance Force on the Gold Coast for night one back for the Aussies and plan to take in every moment as these kids return to their second home! We have all been forced to tap into our creative juices in ways we never thought possible on the screen but I think we can all agree nothing tops the real thing.

“Home on the GC”

It has taken me some time to even consider writing about my experience coming home to Australia on the GC during this world pandemic. There are so many topics in my head that I want to talk about – my mind is exploding! I know that to some extent all of our worlds have been turned upside down and inside out over the last few months, but as I sit here in my “new life” I still can’t really believe it. From London, to New York, to iso life in Brisbane and now sitting overlooking the Gold Coast skyline from Palm Beach, it really has been a complete whirlwind. I want to get back to my regular blogging and really delve into some of my experiences during these crazy times – in classic Shannon style I somehow found myself in some of the largest hot spot areas and had to make some really difficult, split second decisions based on my ability to enter and potentially re enter the US,  however to start off I want to keep it light.

In so many ways I feel like I really have not given myself a second to collect my thoughts – maybe that has been on purpose? I have been extremely fortunate to be loaded up with work over this time and this work has really allowed to me have a sense of purpose and push forward with life. The online dance community was so key to my mental survival during isolation and now is enabling me to stay connected to my life in the US – I don’t know if the students I have connected with from the future here down under will ever know just how much they gave me. The very weird hours were definitely worth it.

I’m getting side tracked again! The reality is this “Strayan in the City” has somehow found herself back to her original roots on the Goldie. I haven’t spent more than two weeks at “home” since I left for NYC in 2014 so today as I hit the 3.5 month mark of being in Australia the reality is really setting in . I have no idea what the future holds – at this point I’m not sure the Australian government would allow me to enter the US even if I wanted to. With that being said, I don’t know if I would want to return any time soon with the way the things are looking over there. My heart is torn – I am sure over the coming months the answer will come to me. I am so lucky to have so much in BOTH countries and two great lives with amazing people and love coming at me from all angles.

I will say that it has been lovely spending quality time with my friends and family over here – usually I am rushing about trying to fit so much in to a very short space of time. It has been lovely to truly catch up and just enjoy the company of those people that I have grown up with. Life in Australia has a sense of normalcy and I have been able to enjoy cafès and restaurants, gather in groups and even teach in real life dance studios! I went to a dance competition on the weekend and will get to judge this coming one. One of my close friends Mel said the other day “You have to be the most social person I know during quarantine”. I have been a social butterfly over here (within guidelines of course) catching up with as many people as I can and maximizing the time we can spend with each other.

I am very proud to be Australian in times like these as we have great leadership over here with an amazing health care system.  I also have been able to indulge in all my favorite Aussie treats – vegemite, meat pies to name a few. I have even started reverting back to my Aussie “language” – the NY kids laughed the other day when I called the parking lot a “carpark.” How quickly I adapt! Not to mention the stunning beaches of the Gold Coast and the divine summer lifestyle that I appreciate more than ever now that I live in a very cold city. I am also visiting places I never even knew existed now that I have the time to actually do them. Yes, I was a workaholic when I lived here and although I am still pumping out the hours with a start time of 3am some days- talk about getting the most out of your day! Last week I ventured up to Mt Tamborine and did a hike through a rainforest with one of the most gorgeous waterfalls I have ever seen. I always thought I had to go to Hawaii to see such beauty and here it was in my own backyard. I have no idea what the future holds and my mind is still very muddled. I really hope that the USA can get back on it’s feet as it can be such a magical place to live. For now I am safe and with family at “home” and it feels right.

“Work hard, play harder”

Easier said than done! Especially living in a place like NYC – you can get addicted to the hustle. I have not always had the best work/fun balance and often I find my friends and family saying “I don’t know how you do it all” …sometimes I don’t know myself. I really do love what I do which I think helps, but at some point it is so very important to take some time for yourself. I know I don’t stop. When I do finally take the time out, this usually involves a few hours (sometimes days) where I feel extremely guilty for not being on the grind, however deep down I know my work and my whole being is so much more productive when I have had some down time.

Life is so short we really do need to make time to smell the roses. If we are all working this hard and we can’t enjoy it then what is the point? I read a quote recently which drove home the fact that we will not want our tombstone reading “how many hours we clocked,” or “how successful we were in the office,” but instead how we made people feel and the impact we made. I love nothing more than a good pool day with a book and some sunshine – it’s all I need. Living in New York is in my opinion the most competitive and busy city in the world and when I’m there trust me I’m on the merry go round! Some days I’ll ponder on the fact that I went by boat, plane, foot, train all before 9am- it’s insane. I really do get off on adrenaline rush of it all- I love it. However knowing that a few days of rest is just as valuable as taking on that extra class, enables this Aussie to stay in her magic. So many people write to me saying that they love following my adventures and that next life they are coming back as “me” – I’m so flattered by these comments because sometimes I feel like a hot mess run over by a bus. However one thing is for sure – I do my best to live life on all fronts to its full potential! WORK HARD, but remember to play equally as hard!!!!!

“Magical London Nights”

It’s been awhile since my last post on here – partly due to craziness at work and partly due to not feeling compelled to share anything. I knew that if anything was going to ignite a creative spark in me it was going to be a trip to London. It gets me every time. If NYC and I eventually get a divorce, I’ll start a love affair with London! I used to meet weekly with a very special lady in Australia from the UK who once said to me that when she lived in London it felt like magic was always in the air and that you could walk down the street and “anything was possible.” I certainly know exactly what she is talking about – it also exists in New York. The electrifying energy that makes you feel like any dream could become a reality in these two cities is like no other. London also offers the magic of the Sunday roast which also makes me weak at the knees- just make sure you get in before 5pm! Quick FYI for those following my last blog; I did get my artist visa approved in Italy to remain living here for the next three years (I can safely celebrate my 40th here haha).

I’ve been extremely lucky to get the opportunity to travel all over the world with my job – for me it’s the dream because I love to teach dance and I love to travel. I’ve been fortunate enough to go home three times to Australia this year to teach at the largest dance festivals there – this is always SO special to me to be back in my own country. This trip of course took me to the UK. I am forever grateful to the Star Dance Alliance for believing in me and offering these incredible opportunities – I always consider it a privilege to travel the world no matter how many times I step onto that plane.

You have to remember that I come from the beach on the Gold Coast of Australia so my mind still gets blown when I go to “trendy” city events. The little girl from down under that’s still inside of me has to pinch herself on many occasions even though I now live in the big smoke. I remember a friend of mine going to see a viewing of Sister Act inside a convent in London and thinking how these things never happen where I’m from. The night before our workshop one of my newest and now closest friends Frankie, decided to put on a show to perform some of his new songs off his latest album. An ex student of mine suggested the Shoreditch Treehouse – anyone that knows me knows they would have had me at the word “treehouse.” Upon arriving at the venue we discovered that this space was Keira Knightley’s old apartment! (Added that in for my celeb star friends- you know who you are haha) I’ve never been inside such a glorious venue – there were fairy lights dripping from every corner, cosy rugs, swings. Honestly it was my idea of heaven and I would set up my apartment like this if I could. His performance was stunning – just him and the piano. It was so intimate and definitely my personal favorite show of his. The acoustic version of these songs needs to be released ASAP. It was made extra special because one of my original students Ally attended the night – another inspirational girl who packed up her life in Australia at only 20 and is going for it in London. Natalie Smyth also came out, and her spirit in the room is always so uplifting and contagious. It was just wonderful to catch up with friends from home in such a beautiful setting for something so special.

I have so many crazy, talented friends doing amazing things with their lives at the moment and really pushing to follow their dreams- they are creating Broadway shows, training for marathons, starting their own dance conventions…the list is endless! It’s certainly not easy to put yourself out there in such a vulnerable way and really go for what you truly want. This is especially true in a world where social media allows everyone to pass judgement so easily, and to openly see the successes and the failures of these ventures. I know so often that fear holds me back from going after certain things and seeing my friends really go for it can only inspire me to be a better version of myself. I really think when your being your true authentic self is when the magic happens. I might sound crazy right now, but that quote that talks about taking the trip, eating the cake, writing the book is so very true – this could be because I’m getting older? You get sentimental and the clock starts ticking. Be a dreamer and go big!!!!!

So I guess the moral of the blog is that this trip reignited a spark in this Aussie to dig deep and see what my next move should be. Despite my earlier tangent that path is not life coach! I am proud of myself for achieving a lot and really maximizing my time on this earth, but I do feel that change is in the air. Dance will always be a part of who I am but maybe it’s time to whip out that law degree and step into an office….stay tuned!

***Please check out Frankie Zulferino’s new album “No Boundaries” there is a song on here for everyone! If your in London also consider the Shoreditch Treehouse as a venue, or to go and see a concert – it’s a magical experience to say the very least.

“The life of an Aussie Alien City Gal”

The life of an Aussie city girl is not always an easy one- particularly when it comes to actually being able to stay living in this concrete jungle! It has been awhile since I last blogged and I have been struggling with this topic and whether to write about it for a long time. I am not one for sharing my personal life and struggles openly but I feel that other Aussie artists may benefit from my story.

I first moved to the US 4.5 years ago on an extraordinary talent visa and have been so blessed to have had continual work and opportunities come my way. Jobs I only ever fantasized about have become my reality – I have been able to successfully live off my passion in NYC. It feels really cool to say that out loud. However the immigration process has not been an easy one.

Mid 2017 I applied for my green card after being assured that I more than qualified for this. However, after being requested for more evidence and denied twice I’ve decided to put it to bed for now. I strongly believe that those looking at my case do not know the dance industry or understand fully what they are looking at. The first time I got requested I was distraught and beyond stressed – one of my US friends said “Sometimes I forget you are not like us”. Yes!!! On top of all the stresses of maintaining life in the most expensive/competitive city in the world I also have to fight to stay here. A silver lining to this is that I know I really want to be here – you would only go through all this if you really wanted it. I’m also so lucky to have a wonderful supportive network of people around me who are actually shocked every time I tell them about my life and this process. They say “You’ve done everything by the book” and “If your not doing enough who is”. However in this new climate of immigration sadly this isn’t enough and you can be unlucky.

Luckily my amazing legal team suggested I file for a new 01 while going through all of this as a “back up” in case of a denial. We managed to get this approved and it is this that will allow me to continue living here – at least for a few more years!! My wish isn’t for anyone to think it is impossible to come here, however you must be mentally, emotionally and financially prepared for “road blocks” I like to call them. The story is different for everyone – some of my closest friends have won the lottery and gone through none of this.

It is only recently a sense of calm has fallen over me – I’m no longer stressed or worried. I do believe that the universe has a grander plan and that what is meant for me will be. As I head to Italy in the next few weeks to obtain my 2nd artist visa I plan to take a few days R & R. Those that know me and my schedule know that I need this badly. I used to take so many solo vacations when I lived in Australia and it has been awhile since I’ve had some quality, soul searching time with yours truly. Stay tuned for my “Shannon’s Eat, Pray, Love” blog from Italy! Ciao!!

“Australia vs. NYC”

As I’ve entered my fifth year living here in the big Apple a big question on my mind is whether to continue living here or to return down under to the homeland. In many ways I feel that I have proven I can “make it” in NYC and I have achieved so much in the time I have been here. I’m so grateful for every opportunity I’ve been given! However, does that mean I now move back? I guess when I moved here on a 3 year artist visa I didn’t really think in detail beyond that time frame. It is ironic that I am writing this blog sitting inside Bluestone lane on 42nd st – the Aussie cafe in the heart of Nyc.

This blog really is just my stream of consciousness appearing in random order on my screen. I’m hoping it may help me work out a solution to my dilemma. On the one hand there is the fact that I’ve been waiting for 1.5 years to hear about the success of my green card – so maybe I’m trying to be “ok” with the fact that I may have to move back. Or perhaps it really is time… I believe I have more than enough credentials to be successful in my case, however I’m trying to maintain the mindset that “things are meant to be” and sometimes there is a grander plan in place for what is best for each and everyone of us.

In both places I have amazing friends – I am so so lucky to have the very BEST, supportive friends in the world in both countries. My family is in Australia which at times is difficult as I can’t just “pop” over to see them so to speak. However the ever connected world has made this gap smaller and when I do visit home we really do spend quality time together. I love the hustle and bustle and “magic” of New York yet on the Gold Coast I have a gorgeous beach condo I could live in complete with beach walks and pool days as part of my day to day life. I really struggle with the long, cold winter in New York – that is probably one of the biggest downfalls of living here. It was a novelty for the first few but now it is just brutal – snow ain’t pretty y’all!!!!

My recent trip home was so perfect that it really left me thinking whether remaining here is the right decision for me – yet there is still a pull not to leave. I am also so aware that a vacation style trip home is not real life. I am so fortunate that my career would allow me to work successfully in either country – I could do what I love anywhere. Living in nyc has definitely proven that to me! So after all that I still don’t have a clear answer. I will still keep looking for the signs and listening to my gut – it hasn’t steered me wrong yet!

Maybe the answer is to live in both countries? I guess time will tell…

“Four years later in NYC”

It is very hard to believe that it was four years ago today on an Aussie Christmas eve that my besties (luggage mules haha) and I departed Brisbane for my big move to NYC. With all my hopes and dreams of a fabulous NYC life packed up in my five suitcases I was ready –  we were dressed in business attire I might add, in hope for the first class upgrade which was great success much thanks to Mark Bonenti travel making dreams come true! In many ways it feels like yesterday that I made this life changing decision and in others I look back at my Gold Coast life like it was a dream from a very long time ago. Many people know I had always wanted to live in New York and although it had always been simply a daydream, the time in my life had come where I had to either make it happen or pocket it away for another lifetime. I really do believe that if you want something badly enough you can make it happen – I have always had the mentality that they have to pick someone for the job/opportunity/role why can’t it be you? You have to be bold and brave and go after the things that you want because nobody else is going to do it for you!

What an epic adventure these four years have been – I have certainly been living that hustling, east coast life thats for sure! It has been all I have hoped for and more and I have learnt so much about myself as a person – this was certainly, without a doubt meant to be my path. Before I discuss all the wonderful friendships and opportunities that have come my way I want to be a little philosophical here for a moment. A very important lesson I learnt is that when you move and have a “fresh start” you can’t run away from the problems you previously faced in your life – they will reappear in different ways until you face up to them no matter what country you are living in. On a lighter note, even a place like NYC becomes home – there are some days where I don’t leave my apartment and I just do normal errands like groceries…I had a friend once say to me “Do you go to the movies in New York?” The answer is YES!! It really is just like living anywhere else after awhile.

So where to start…I have my cosy little apartment on the UWS which is my haven – it is a large studio by New York standards and I have made it my own with little Aussie touches (including Vegemite in the cupboard). I love the neighborhood and I feel immediately relaxed when I enter my little piece of space. Trust me, finding a good NYC apartment is not an easy task so I feel like someone was looking out for me when I hit the jackpot with this place.

I have been so lucky to find a place in so many dance families both in NYC and across the US – the dancers, studio owners and faculty have become my family and best friends and I know they will be in my life forever. Here in NYC I have become a part of Studio L, Breaking Ground Dance Center and my first ever studio New York Performing Arts Center who have taken this Aussie on like their own. I am also really fortunate enough to teach at the legendary Broadway Dance Center – that still doesn’t feel real sometimes. Thanks to one of my favorite people Kristen Pittman I have been lucky enough to coach the American Dance Team who recently returned from Poland after massive success at the International World Dance Championships winning 4 Gold medals- so honored to be a part of their journey. I have also had the opportunity to travel the United States and the world judging with Starpower International Talent – I think I have been to more states than most Americans! I will in fact be traveling with the Star Dance Alliance to Australia in February as part of their new world wide intensive “The Ultimate Dance Workshop” All you Aussie Dancers this is not to be missed!! I have been placed on numerous conventions including Wild, Deviate, Platinum National Dance Experience and Fearless Dance Intensive – and the list goes on with all the jobs… I am so grateful for all the work that has come my way and the endless opportunities that the United States has been able to offer to broaden my horizons as a dance educator and choreographer. It has been like a crazy dream.

However it is not without the friendships I have made that I would be able to remain living here. I have met some true “soul mates” who I love and cherish. In so many ways its hard to believe I have only known them for such a short time. My friends back in Australia are the very BEST (VIPs) and so when I moved here I did not hold out hope for anything to compare to that. I feel like the luckiest person to have such amazing relationships in both countries and its even cooler that they have all started to meet each other. I have so much love in my life!

I feel like for the most part I get to have the best of both worlds living here – I get back to Australia at least twice a year and lucky for me my friends love to travel. Although social media has its many downfalls it has allowed me to stay connected to my friends and family. After my first year living here-  where I didn’t go down under at all, my sister said to me when I pulled up to her house “It feels like I saw you yesterday” – I can thank FaceTime for that! This Christmas is particularly difficult because I really wanted to spend it with my nephews – they are at that cute age where Santa is on the radar and the magic of the season is seeing the joy on their faces. My best friends Mel and Katie (Kevin) have also just had little ones and it would have been so nice to share this time of year with them. However my fate with the current visa situation has me spending the festive season here in NYC and I have been very blessed share in the glorious atmosphere with some of my favorite Aussies and my US family. For now NYC is my home and I have no grand plans of making a move back to the homeland- however I still firmly believe it is the most beautiful country in the world. The three things I miss most (besides family and friends) are THE FOOD, driving and the beach. HAPPY HOLIDAYS one and all (see how American I have become ha!)

“To Travel is to Live”

Every time I land in Europe I feel this sense of “all bets are off” and “the rules don’t apply” – there is something so alluring and almost dangerous to me. Perhaps it is because it is the furthest thing from my “normal” in terms of culture and all the accents are so exotic (they always say we want what we can’t have right?), or maybe it is because I secretly feel like I’m on my own ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ adventure. The picturesque landscape and historical buildings are the perfect setting to do some soul searching.

A good friend of mine and Greek Ballet goddess Miss Georgia described Mallorca to me as a cross between Miami and the Greek Islands and she was so accurate in this description, however I’d like to also throw Bali into the mix. I’m sad to say but I knew my mini break to Spain in between the wedding festivities in the UK would most certainly be the last time I would be feeling those summer vibes.

The tone for my day was set with a gorgeous breakfast on my hotel terrace overlooking the water and colorful flowers covering every inch of the walls. The exquisite color of the water is one of the many treasures of the Mediterranean – it almost doesn’t look real. Fresh fruit, pastries and my own personalized omelette was on the menu. According to my mood I flip flopped between the beach and the pool which is my favorite holiday combo. I sipped on many a pinà colada, napped, swam and read two fantastic books that I highly recommend – “Marriage Vacation” which is featured on the tv show ‘Younger’ and “Rich China Girl” which is the sequel to “Crazy Rich Asians” – all I can say is it better be a movie as well!

Judging by the languages I was hearing, I can safely say that I was the only Aussie in Mallorca. Guests around the pool had deep tans I could not compete with and many were smoking – this must be the only country I don’t get really annoyed at this and I can’t believe I’m saying this, but it almost looks sexy. These people know how to REALLY relax and I tried to feed off the energy around me and really unwind after a crazy summer.

A romantic rainy day was the fate of my second day. Luckily it wasn’t torrential and I still managed to lay out under an umbrella for several hours. I decided to go really authentic and take a long lunch which included Spanish Tapas and moèt with strawberries. A luxurious hot stone massage was to follow – a bit of rain certainly didn’t stop Shannon Atkins from indulging in true vacation style!

My evenings involved walking along the beach front in both directions, making a conscious effort to soak up the feeling of the sand beneath my feet. I truly believe sand and salt water are so healing! The weather was perfection with just a slight, balmy breeze in the air. I simply went with my gut instinct when it came to dinner and chose the place that drew me in – I was never disappointed. Between a Greek salad, homemade lasagne and a baguette I was reminded that the freshest, most delicious food comes from Europe.

On my final day I took off on my own day trip to the other side of the island to visit Playa de Muro. I knew this would be my final beach day for quite some time and I couldn’t have scripted it better if it was a movie.

Seeing the ease at which one can jet off to Europe made me think I should have considered London instead of Nyc for my big move. Living in England would have been the perfect way to also explore Europe…just saying that makes me feel like I’m cheating on New York.

This trip was also a good reminder to me to continue to live life to the fullest – take the trip, eat the cake, buy the bag or something like that they say? It really helps to put things in perspective and remind us that there is so much else going outside of our own little bubbles of life. None of us know how long we are here for and it is important to maximize each day doing things that light your heart and soul on fire!

Now it’s back to the UK to greet the Aussie Royalty for the fairytale wedding of the year in Wales!

“At this point…I’d welcome the snow”

It’s hard to believe that summer is coming to an end- it feels like it was only just beginning and I remember my first rosé on top of the Bryant Park Grill so clearly. The reality really set in when I was walking to work today with my pumpkin spice latte in hand, and I saw a small pile of orange and brown leaves beneath a tree outside the studio. Despite the fact that the temperatures are still through the roof and I spent Labor Day by the pool at the Empire Hotel rooftop, the overall vibe in the city is that the fall is coming…

I had an amazing summer that involved a great mix of work, play and of course travel. Starting in my own backyard I managed to see several Broadway shows including “Pretty Woman” and “Head over Heels” most recently. I also spent many a day enjoying the rooftop pools that Nyc has to offer with my new favorite being “The Williamsburg Hotel” which has spectacular views of the city skyline and a gorgeous cabana area. Indulging in solo Central Park dates where I can read a good book and relax under a tree watching the people go by is also a favorite activity of mine during the months where it is warm enough to be outside. Visiting Nyc during the summer when I lived in Australia was always one of my favorite vacations so reliving my “tourist” days is always fun.

I am so thankful that Dance has taken me all over the USA and this summer was no exception. Each and every summer since I have lived in the states I have felt like I have been “on tour” and this one was no exception- if it is possible I seem to cram more and more in! Starting at one of my all time favorites in Iowa to teach at a summer intensive and set choreography (this feels like a lifetime ago) I experienced my first ever tornado warning! I then headed to the mountains of Tennessee to Judge and teach master classes for Platinum National Dance Competition. It was then onto the bright lights of Vegas where I was honored to choreograph the “Dance Force” opening number for the Starpower Battle of the Stars. It was so inspiring to work with the amazing talent from the West Coast and given that my schedule mostly involved night rehearsals, I was lucky enough to spend some much needed time relaxing by the Planet Hollywood hotel pool or exploring the amazing hotels along the strip. The Bellagio had a beautiful spring flower display.

It was then onto Australia with two of my best friends from the US – this was a very special trip given I had never really taken anyone home with me. I was able to finally let my worlds collide! This trip was simply magical. We taught and choreographed at studios all over the country including some of the schools that my alumni and past faculty now own. I was so inspired by witnessing my friends teach that I know I am now a better educator. Kristen you were right – collaboration is key!! From the gorgeous harbour of Sydney with it’s stunning bridge and opera house, to the glorious beaches of the Sunshine and Gold Coast, I believe that my friends got a real feel for Aussie life. They saw Kangaroos and koalas at Taronga Park Zoo, tried Vegemite (surprise surprise they don’t like it) and naturally an Aussie BBQ was squeezed into the schedule. My friends and family went above and beyond to ensure that this trip was special. I am one lucky girl!

We also went to Bali and ticked off a major Bucket List item for me by staying at the W Hotel in Seminyak! The three of us had been going non stop all year and it was nice to enjoy some “real” vacation time together!

Things didn’t slow down at all after that trip with the summer intensives still rolling in – Broadway Dance Center, Academy of Dance and drama in Connecticut, AIM in Long Island, an in-house Swag & Technique workshop at Epic Dance Center with my boo Jona Biddle. I went to Arkansas to teach at Rock City which is without a doubt a highlight of my year with my Little Rock Dance family, and then went to Massachusetts for the first time to attend the “Dance United” festival. What a gorgeous place Boston is and we were lucky enough to snag tickets to the preview of “Moulin Rouge” – look out Broadway this is one sexy show!

If your not already working up a sweat reading this I have commenced choreography season here in New York – the US learn all of their routines for the upcoming competition season in the fall when classes commence which is a completely different system to what I was used to in Australia. Even though we did more routines you could space them out! So last week I taught 22 routines at my Dance homes “New York Performing Arts Center” and “Breaking Ground Center” – the studios that I have worked at since I moved here. It might sound like a crazy, busy summer and you might be breaking into a sweat reading this, but my heart is full and I’m very content. I still need to pinch myself that so many people welcomed this Aussie into their lives over here in the US – I feel very blessed.

I am ready to enjoy the fall in nyc which has become my favorite season – for me nothing tops boots, sweaters and a good pumpkin patch. Although I will gladly welcome the routine of a schedule the adventure isn’t quite over yet as I head to a wedding for one of my best friends in the UK tomorrow!

“The ultimate Staycation”

For the past couple of weeks I have been indulging in the ultimate “staycation” in none other than my very own backyard/concrete jungle, NYC. With the weather bringing days of pure magic and my work schedule calming down I have tried to re capture my “vacation Shannon”/pre living in NYC” days where I would shop till I dropped, take in a zillion broadway shows, hit the best rooftop bars and spend many a lazy day in Central Park. It has certainly helped that I have had plenty of visitors, but boy has it been fun!

A few highlights include the newly restored Empire Hotel rooftop which is a hidden gem only a 10 minute walk from my apartment. Not only does it have incredible views of the UWS, Central Park and Lincoln Center, but it also has the key ingredient – a pool!! I have spent quite a few lazy days reading a good book, sipping on a cocktail (the watermelon mojito is my fave) and dipping in the pool. The beach vibes, combined with the cabanas and great music really transports you out of the hustle and bustle of the city. Everyone knows I love a good island holiday!

With Central Park at my fingertips I have taken myself on many outings to enjoy the beauty that it radiates during the warm months. I have developed an interest in bird watching recently and love examining the details and different colors of the wings – I find it so relaxing (a little Random I know). I often take a picnic blanket, a good book and just lay out in Sheep Meadow to soak up the vitamin D and enjoy the people watching. I enjoy this just as much on a quieter week day as I do in the chaos of the weekend where the space gives off a festival vibe with what feels like the “whole city” living their best summer lives. It goes without saying that Tavern on the Green is one of my favorite places ever. It doesn’t get much better than sitting under the fairy lights with a glass of prosecco, a cheese platter and classic tunes playing in the background.

I have also treated myself to several broadway shows – it’s crazy to think that when I was a tourist I used to see around 20 in a month! I am completely addicted and so in order to get my fix I have recently seen; Mean Girls, Carousel, Once on this Island and Summer: The Donna Summer musical. My favorite without a doubt was Carousel. It was absolutely breathtaking to watch without a doubt the most outstanding dancing I think I have ever seen in a show here. I am not a person who gets emotional easily and I found myself crying at several points during the performance. I’m not sure if it was the stunning dancing, or the fact that the storyline despite being a classic still rings true in this day and age and really spoke to me.

Rooftop bars are the signature centerpiece to Summer in the city in my eyes and I have ventured out to not only a few old faithfuls, but tried some new ones. Two that stick out for me are the Refinery Rooftop, which even on Wednesday night is pumping with energy and Le Bain down in Chelsea, which on a Sunday afternoon oozes Island atmosphere. They both have very differing yet spectacular views of iconic NYC including the Empire State Building, Statue is Liberty and one World Trade Center.

So despite the fact that tomorrow I head off “on tour” on my intensive/judging/Dance workshop adventure I feel like I have embraced the parts of a New York summer that are nearest and dearest to my heart.