We had the good fortune of connecting with Karen Hirst Kennedy and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Karen, what do you attribute your success to?

I believe you are successful when you are doing what you truly love. I feel that has been the key to my success. Dance is a passion for me, you have to want it so bad to be successful, so teaching became a passion. To be able to give a student, dancer all the knowledge you have and to see them transform it and use it. It’s like creating a piece of Art. It also involves drive and dedication, but I feel another important factor to the success of my school is to get to know each dancer. I truly love the personal relationship I have with each dancer. I feel that is another key factor to success in this business. Especially in todays word, getting to know each student on a personal level is a gift for both me and my dancers. This is why I have kept the studio small, to create quality dancing and develop emotionally strong dancers and people.

Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?

I began my professional career at 18 with the Boston Ballet where I danced among great inspiring dancers, one of which was Fernando Bujones from Miami, Florida. Then  with the Washington Ballet in DC, where I danced leading roles from various famous ballets and choreographers, among others, Balanchine, Choo-San Goh, Martin van Hamel, John Cranko. This Company is where I truly grew as a dancer, artist and person. We traveled all over the world China, Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Moscow, Leningrad, Spain and other places. Later my career took me to dance with Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Fort Worth Dallas Ballet and Ballet Gamonet in Miami. During my career I always taught ballet classes because I felt it was so rewarding to give back what my teachers had taught me. A big learning experience was when I taught for 8 years at New World School of the Arts in Miami, FL. Here is where I got to understand how children learn and what it takes to make them excited about the Art form. The key is to understand each dancer and know how to motivate and push each one with what they need. Everyone is different and knowing that makes Ballet&Beyond successful. After having 3 children I decided to start my own Ballet School. At the time I had just had my third boy, so I decided to start classes in my garage. I was known as the lady who teaches classes in her garage. This allowed me to keep the classes very small and give the dancers the best training anyone could get. What I like best is being able to train and inspire a young child from age 4 and seeing them blossom at 17 into an incredible dancer. Its a process that takes about 14 years. Those that stick with me, trust the process, and end up being able to go wherever they want.  Many get scholarships to prestigious programs like Boston Ballet, The School of American Ballet, and Houston Ballet among others. It is so nice to be a small school that caters to each student individually. I know each of my students and their families on a personal level. I believe a huge element to my success is to know what I am good at and that is training dancers from age 4 through 17 to be confident, well rounded dancers and people. Ballet&Beyond is in its 11th year going strong providing top ballet training for children 4 to adults in the Miami/Pinecrest/Palmetto Bay Area.

Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?

I love living in Miami because of the multicultural vibe. I feel I am in the US but not. I was born in NY but at a young age moved to Argentina and then at 12 moved back to the US. I love the various Argentine restaurants in the area and since Argentine food is similar to French food, of course one of my favorite restaurants is Le Bouchon in the Grove. I also love dancing so I would take them to Ball and Chain on 8th street for some great live music and salsa dancing. I love the beach so we definitely would have to go to North Beach for some sun and beach time. I love when people come to visit because I am so busy working and that is the only time I have an excuse to be a tourist!

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?

I definitely owe my success to my parents, Norma and Enzio Hirst, they always knew how to push me and how to support me and gave me the freedom to choose any career. I was a very shy child, who did not like to go out much. I loved staying home with my parents. They knew exactly what to say, and when. The one phrase from my mom that I never forget is ” It’s OK if you want to stop or don’t like something, but whatever you do you should do it 100%.” That always stuck with me. I also have a few teachers to thank. Ann Etgen and Bill Atkinson who were the owners of the Dallas Metropolitan Ballet School in Dallas, TX. They helped take me to the next level to get me into the Boston Ballet right out of High School. I also have to thank Lupe Serrano, who was my teacher when I joined the Washington Ballet Company. I feel we never stop learning and even into my professional days I kept learning so much from her. Another driving force is God or what some would call a higher being or an energy. I truly believe if you ask or pray to God or the universe or whatever you believe in, it will come. I have first hand experience with this and I count my blessings every day. Finally, there is a book that I read, after I became a professional dancer and later started my own school, which I believe sums up my journey. The book is about your journey and how you should do what you were meant to do and what truly makes you happy, even if it takes a risk; only then will you find true success. The book is The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho.

Website: www.balletandbeyond.com
Instagram: balletbeyonddance
Facebook: balletbeyonddance
Yelp: Ballet&Beyond
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VupQ4dxBeRo&t=59s

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