We had the good fortune of connecting with Elsa Stallings and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Elsa, what do you attribute your success to?
Discipline. Discipline. Discipline. Working in a creative field or the entertainment industry, as rewarding as it can be, also involves a lot of rejection, which can often lead to constantly questioning one’s self worth or place in their career. It leaves room for perpetual second guessing and can leave you always asking, “am I wasting my time trying to make it in this industry?” or “does anyone even care what I have to say as an artist?”. If you let this negative self-talk get the best of you, it can make your career excruciating and not even worth the trouble.
Being someone who has definitely been affected by these toxic thought patterns at the early stages of my career and training, I slowly came to realize how empty and detrimental these words of self criticism truly are, as I would identify them as constructive and beneficial to improving my craft… when they were really just doing the opposite. The more I began to focus on my work ethic and making a point of “feeding” my craft everyday, the healthier my relationship with my career became. My thought process and self talk when it came to my work became more constructive and less excessively emotional. Whether this meant taking a ballet class, choreographing a few 8 counts to a song I like, or even just doing a home work-out on the roof, some kind of dedication to my craft is mandatory because it proves that I care about my work. I stopped waiting on rewards from others (booking a cool dance job, or getting comments on an Instagram post) to validate my self-worth. Instead, I now allow my daily dedication to be what determines my success. After all, it is all about the journey, not the destination. People in this industry can reject you all day long, but no one can take away your discipline and work ethic. So in the end, discipline is my protection. It maintains my mental stability and longevity. It’s what keeps me refreshed and exhilarated and able to continue on with this career everyday with joy. To me, that is a success in its own right.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’d say I’m a dancer first, but the longterm goal has always been choreography. I’ve always wanted to explore choreography through a wide variety of mediums and am curious to find new ways of integrating different genres of dance into public platforms. As dance continues to grow in the public eye, I think the dance community is beginning to take advantage of putting more abstract, contemporary styles that were once considered “elite” to more mass audiences. And as an individual artist and member of a tight-knit dance community, I feel that it is my purpose and passion to make sure these styles still uphold their artistic integrity and are not watered down when presented in a commercial application.
I had a fairly unconventional journey with dance and working creatively. I started dancing at the age of 13 in hip hop and then moved into classical ballet training for high school. Having begun training at a “late” age, I constantly felt that I was playing “catch-up” and always felt the need to prove myself to my teachers and mentors. In the moment, this pressure I put on myself seemed so overwhelming but I believe it developed a work ethic that I deeply appreciate now in my adult years and in my professional career.
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 would definitely take them all around West Midtown and to the Beltline and Ponce City Market. I think those are great representations of Atlanta entrepreneurship and creativity and always promise a good time! My two favorite restaurants in the city are JCT Kitchen and Taqueria Del Sol (my go-to meals at both of these spots include fried chicken, of course). Jeni’s Ice cream is also a great place for dessert, so I would definitely take them there. The Goat Farm is also such a special place and people always seem so mesmerized by it! There’s so much to explore and check out there and it’s also a great place to go location scouting for film projects and live performances. Finally, if Terminus Modern Ballet Theater is performing somewhere in the city, I would have to attend that, too. They are a wonderful representation of the innovative dance\art scene in Atlanta.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
The entire faculty of Pace University Commercial Dance Program. Wow – how they watched me grow from a lost, uncertain, timid technical dancer into a strong, versatile performer and young woman with a voice!! They had so much patience with me and I owe so much to them. I also dedicate so much of my success to my mother. She reminds me everyday that my passion matters and that the world needs more art and means of human expression… not to mention the countless times she would drive me all around Atlanta to dance classes when I was younger.
Lastly, I want to recognize the dance community as a whole for their resilience during these strange times. Like every other artistic group, dancers have been deeply affected by COVID-19, Even in times of unprecedented hardship, dancers have found a way to support their work, which is beyond inspiring and pushes me to move forward everyday.
Personal Photo – Jess Nash Additional Photos – 1. Guy Aroch 2. Jess Nash 3. Stephen Wilson 4. Stephen Wilson
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