Choreographer Laurieann Gibson is on a mission to unleash dreams. "I want to use my career as an inspiration for the younger generation," she says. To that end, she's written a book called Dance Your Dance: 8 Steps to Unleash Your Passion and Live Your Dream, released by W Publishing, a division of HarperCollins. With coauthor Mark Dagostino, Gibson tells her own story as a way of sharing her insights on how to persevere despite the odds.
And she doesn't hold back. Her anecdotes—from getting fired from one of her first major jobs, to her longtime friendship with J. Lo (and its brutal comparison game), to refusing gigs with predatory male artists—all come with lessons readers can apply to their own careers, whatever industry they're in.
Why did you decide to combine your personal story with advice and inspiration?
"It came out of asking: How do I inspire the steps to achieving your dreams and not just tell you to do it my way? It was through thousands of doors closing that the revelation was there for me to understand what it takes to persevere, and to sustain your dream once you hit a moment of success. And to remain authentic in a world that's constantly telling you to conform. So my stories help the reader to identify that in themselves."
What was it like sharing those more difficult moments in your life in this book?
"I'm a little nervous, I'm not gonna lie. It was when I was recording the audio book that I was like, 'Holy crap, am I ready for this?' I just expose myself. But in my vulnerability, there's such truth. I have to tell you the very darkest moments because they were transformative, because I made the choice to fight back.
"A lot of artists, I've found, once they get successful, they tailor their stories, changing the narrative. That can't help their fans grow—it makes their success feel unobtainable. So I've always said I wanted to be brave enough to be transparent with a purpose."
What did you learn about yourself while putting your story down in writing?
"I learned that the little girl with all of that creativity is still present. I learned that the fight was worth it. I realized that I'm a prototype, a 'one of one,' and that comes at a cost at times, but I'm okay with that. And I realized how passionate I am about wanting people to dance their own dance. I'm passionate about changing the perception and power of celebrity: Talent and creativity are not based on celebrity."
Did you find any parallels between choreographing and writing?
"I approached it with the same energy and the same rhythm, so it would affect you like that when you read it. And Mark is an exceptionally brilliant writer; he is also a singer and did a little theater in New York. Of course, my writing was too dancy, but he helped me formulate it for readers of all perspectives. Because I want this to reach not just the dance community, but athletes, entrepreneurs, nurses, lawyers, dreamers—I do believe that everybody has a dream, and in that dream, there is a passion that needs to be unleashed.
"Young visionaries today have all this technology. You want to be great overnight, post a picture, put a filter on it and have no emotional interaction. It's all about how you look, how many followers you have. Great. Let's keep the algorithm, but let's understand who you are in that algorithm.
"I literally had a crawlspace of Barbies, forcing my imagination to develop a muscle. These kids don't have the time to dive into that space. And then some people are in a job and wanting to open their own business. Or COVID has forced them to shut down. Now what are they doing? They're at home, and remembering that they like to bake cookies. So I wrote the book for where we are now, so that everybody will be able to find inspiration that will ignite enough creativity to develop something."
Join Dance Magazine on Instagram Live next Wednesday, February 17, at 12:30 pm ET, for a Q&A and mini-master class with Laurieann Gibson, hosted in partnership with W Publishing.