Listen to the full podcast interview with Marinda! Tune in now on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!
This season on Making the Impact, Courtney and Lesley have enjoyed spotlighting guests from across the industry. On this week’s fifth and final Spotlight Feature of Season 2, the co-hosts sat down with choreographer and teacher Marinda Davis to learn about her dance journey.
Marinda grew up in Tampa, Florida, and trained at the renowned Mary Jo’s Performing Arts Academy. She recalls an early interest in dance, always talking about plans to move to NYC to be a dancer. She has no idea where these ideas sparked, as no one in her family was artistic, but she certainly knew what she wanted from a young age. She even created full length ballets as a young child!
Her training growing up was intense and well-rounded and at age 15, she began assisting choreographers on the convention circuit. Around that same time, she enrolled in a performing arts high school where she fell in love with Modern and concert dance. Following her dreams of heading to NYC, she chose to attend Marymount Manhattan College to continue her training and studies.
Though she continued to experience great success as a dancer in college, she also started teaching at a studio in New Jersey, which is when she realized her calling for choreography. Using the students as her lab, she started to develop a signature style that ultimately spring-boarded her career. Her name became a staple on the competition circuit and she began traveling, teaching, and choreographing throughout the country. Ultimately, her success as a choreographer led her to launch her company, Marinspired: The Storytellers. She started with smaller venues like charity events and festivals and in 2011 produced her own show.
Unfortunately, as her choreographic career was taking off, her body started shutting down. She started having injuries and needing surgeries to the point where she had to give up dancing. While she mourned the loss of her dancing career, her transition to choreography happened pretty seamlessly. With her unique blend of concert and commercial styles, Marinda decided to take the leap from NYC to LA to see if the commercial industry would garner more opportunities.
And eventually it did! But in 2015, she got extremely sick to the point where no doctor could figure out what was wrong. She felt like doors were finally opening in LA, but then she ended up in the hospital for several months with eight different diagnoses. Upon starting chemotherapy, she had to figure out how to use her words, not her body, to communicate her choreographic vision to her dancers. Marinda describes this learning as a great exercise in patience, acknowledging how lucky she is to work with dancers who understand her style. She did note the value in loosening her hold on how she envisioned her choreography looking; sometimes, a dancer’s interpretation of her words and ideas could be just as great, if not better, than her original idea! In the end, being less attached to what things look like actually allows her to continue to find more creative freedom.
One of Marinda’s favorite career credits was her time on Dancing with the Stars. At the time, Julianne Hough had been off the show for a while and the show wanted her to come back for the finale. She wrote into her contract that she would only return if Marinda choreographed for the show. Julianne had never met Marinda and only knew her from her stint on the documentary My Last Days and YouTube, which was, of course, shocking and humbling for Marinda. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, Julianne asked to dance in the piece and play Marinda. Marinda was obviously thrilled and agreed.
Upon arriving on set, Marinda received a crash course in dance for television which is much different from concert dance. There are multiple camera angles, not to mention licensing and copyright issues when it comes to music selection. She didn’t know who the dancers were ahead of time and they had to learn the whole piece--which was at least two minutes long--in 45 minutes! None of these dancers had ever done Marinda’s work so they weren’t super familiar with her style. They also all thought that the piece was going to be pre-recorded so they weren’t too concerned about a specific lift with Julianne that hadn’t yet happened successfully in rehearsal. The piece ended up being performed live and luckily the dancers nailed it!
In addition to her time on DWTS, Marinda was also a featured choreographer on World of Dance. Be sure to tune into the full episode to hear about her second big dance TV show experience, and to hear wisdom and insight from this amazingly successful artist!
Thanks to Marinda Davis for joining on this week's episode! Be sure to follow Marinda on Instagram @marinspirations.