We had the good fortune of connecting with Eric Rivera and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Eric, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
The past year or so, I have been driven by this quote from Tony Robbins that says, “Everything that happens in your life—both what you’re thrilled with and what you’re challenged by—began with a decision.” This comes from his book Awaken the Giant Within, and it was recommended to me by my trainer Justin. From this book recommendation, I have begun to understand the power we all have to decide to pursue whatever it is we want in our lifetime.

Tony’s quote consistently comes to mind, especially after the events of the past two years. In the beginning of 2020, I was finishing up my final semester of my Music Business degree from Belmont University in Los Angeles as a full time student with two internships at an artist management company and a talent agency. I had been dancing during a majority of my college career every free moment I had, and was excited to be able to train at studios out in L.A. during my time that was not occupied with my internships or school. My intention for this was to graduate out West with a job straight out of school with the means to afford my passion for dance and other life expenses. I had dreamt about this outcome ever since I came into college as a freshman in the fall of 2016. Flash forward to the middle of March 2020 and all of a sudden I was back in my hometown of Chicago working part-time as an essential worker, helping my dad watch my younger sisters while he was in person at work, finishing up my degree online on this app called Zoom that suddenly would be a normal way of life. These were definitely challenges that, at the time, I was choosing to let dictate my mental state for a good amount of the year. I didn’t know what I wanted to do post-grad, what I wanted exactly for a career, or what city I wanted to even be in. Eventually I had decided that what I was doing back home wasn’t working anymore.

Moving back to Nashville, I started to take the challenges head on and make sure that I was choosing to find what had thrilled me. Finding passion and purpose again was probably the biggest challenge of the past two years, because it really has been a process and continues to be a process. I don’t think that choosing a specific purpose is something that is defined; however, making the choice to really examine what it is that thrills you is what’s important. Moreover, actively choosing to deconstruct the walls that are going to prevent you from following that thrill is a whole other journey in itself. Tony Robbin’s quote has really stayed with me throughout these two years and continues to show me that your long term is shaped by the decisions that are made now. I just turned 24 years old, and I will continue to take this quote with me as I continue to explore and learn from this “defining decade” that has already been a whirlwind.

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.
Choreography and movement coaching are actually two different things, but sometimes when I am on jobs the terms get used interchangeably. When I choreograph for class, a team, or a project, I am creating an actual dance that will be set on a group of people or someone else. When I am movement coaching, I am usually working with an artist on how they want to be presented on stage or on music videos. This can bleed into a range of avenues, but typically I am helping an artist reach their potential as a performer in building their confidence and stage presence. Usually, I will give them movements in their body that allows them to feel more natural on camera or the stage. My biggest thing as a movement coach is creating a clear line of communication between myself and the artist to let me know whether they feel comfortable and confident with what they are working on and how they feel with what we are creating. If the artist doesn’t feel authentic to what we are creating, then we have to go back to the drawing board with our goals and see what other avenues we need to approach in order to get that star quality to come out.

I have been fortunate enough to work on movement coaching and choreography jobs for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, RollingStone’s Twitch series, preparing for Bonnaroo 2021 before it was sadly canceled, and a series of music videos from artists that are with 300 Entertainment and Big Machine Label Group. Most of these jobs occurred in 2021 for me, so reflecting back while I write this makes me feel really grateful for what has been placed in front of me. The work I have put into my craft has been occurring since 2018 when I first started to train seriously in dance when Millennium Dance Complex Nashville first opened in March of that year. Ever since then, I never really knew where dance was going to go for me, because I was a full time college student trying to enjoy my 4 years while maintaining certain grades, my student involvement on campus, and taking the steps I would need to land music industry internships. I would have never guessed I would be a movement coach or a choreographer. However, in the years leading up to now I would always take class in my free time and invest in myself by taking private lessons from some of my biggest influences in Nashville and from those who would visit from L.A. just because I loved dancing so much.

I wouldn’t say it was easy by any means, but I did feel like it was a natural path that was supposed to happen for me especially because I have always had such a passion for dance and concerts as a kid. The biggest challenges I have had, in all honesty, have been with myself. Growing up as a first generation Mexican-American who would be the first to go to college, I always grew up with this pressure to always be the best in anything I was involved in. I used to be so hard on myself when I first started dancing that I would leave class so frustrated with how I did, because I didn’t get a combination down a 100%. It even translated in my movement when I would dance that I would have teachers tell me to slow down and not attack a routine so aggressively. Over the years, I started to grow away from all the pressure and let myself just dance which has ironically helped me grow at a quicker rate in my training. Yes, I’m still hard on myself from time to time because I really care about what I am involved in, but now it comes from a place of focus and calming my mind to produce the best results. I think that what I want the world to see about my story is that you can really put your mind to anything to want to do, it is never too late to try out new things that have been in the back of your mind, and that you owe it to yourself to be authentic with your intentions and goals if you really want to see them start to appear right in front of you. Finally, I would say stay committed to being a “forever student” in your passions and in life. With dance, I always feel the need to make space to train and make space to also enjoy. The world is changing at a constant rate, so I believe that we also need to make sure we take that time to study up and grow towards our goals.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Alright, the first stop on the Nashville trip would be to East Nashville for lunch at Greko! The small business has amazing Greek food that provides an authentic taste and vibe to the city. We would spend lunch here catching up with each other. Then over to 5th and Broadway to walk off all the food we had just ate. Walking through Broadway isn’t a locals first choice, but showing your visitors what Nashville is known for is cool when you get to show others.

Depending what time of year it is, we’ll be headed to either a game at Bridgestone Arena to see the Predators play or the Titans play at Nissan Stadium, and then after see the night life in Downtown or Midtown.

To revive ourselves in the morning, we will check out J. Christopher’s for breakfast and drive on over to Portland to top it off with a signature Rainforest Mocha as we plan the rest of our day. This city has a lot of drinking and eating, so obviously we will continue the theme for a lunch at either Prince’s or Hattie B’s Hot Chicken so my friends can really understand the fuss about hot chicken.

After we have finished yet another meal, we will take a trek out to Natchez Trace Parkway Bridge so that they can see the nature that surrounds Nashville, as well as sprinkling in visits to the Percy Warner or Percy Priest trials.

Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have learned from so many important people in my life! I definitely have to shoutout Karynn of Fresh Talent Group, Tamera of Millennium Dance Complex Nashville, my personal trainer Justin, and my little sisters Giselle and Sofia. They are encourage me to be the best version of myself.

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ericjrivera97/

Image Credits
Acacia Evans Natia Cinco Kate Gallaher

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