We had the good fortune of connecting with Helen Estrella and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Helen, what principle do you value most?
Hands down, it’s EMPATHY. It has taught me how to be patient, understanding and enables genuine human connection. In my line of business, I have to be able to connect with dancers from ages 3 through 18 as well as their parents. Before I had children of my own, I saw so many of my clients as “crazy dance moms”. Now I understand that they are just protecting the most important thing in their lives: their children.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I grew up the youngest of 9 children. I truly believe that is where so many of my personality traits stem from. Although my family is very close and loving, I grew up the “bottom of the totem pole”. They even called me “runt”. All I wanted as a young child, and even into my adult years, was to stand out and be different. This is the one quality that I value most in myself. People say you can’t compare apples to apples and that you should compare apples to oranges. Well, in a world of apples and oranges, I want to be a dragonfruit! My love for dance started later than most. I grew up as a competitive gymnast and didn’t even step into a dance class until I was 16. Most dancers start at the age of 3. So, again here I was, at the bottom of the totem pole determined to climb my way up and stand out. I opened my first studio in California over 18 years ago when I was only 21. Looking back, my reasons seem selfish. I wanted to prove to everyone that I could be the best, win the most and do it as a young, female entrepreneur. After moving to Colorado, I worked for other studio owners for the first 5 years and realized that I didn’t like other people calling the shots, but mostly I noticed a void in the industry. There are generally two kinds of dance studios: A recreational studio where dancers go “for fun” and competitive studios where your entire life revolves around your child’s dance schedule. Once I had kids, I knew that neither of those was something I wanted for my own children. I wanted a place where kids can come to train hard, but without strings attached to a competition studio (time commitments, financial commitments, the mental toll… just imagine “dance moms”). Dance was my “first love”. I get a feeling in the pit of my stomach that stretches to my heart whenever I dance. I get the same feeling from watching others dance and even more so when I see the excitement on a child’s face as they first fall in love with movement. That to me is the most important part of what I do. I feel so fortunate to be able to fully support my family financially by doing what I love every day of my life.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
First, we would go eat at Avanti Food & Beverage. It’s perfect for people who all want something different to eat. From there, we would head to Red Rocks. Seeing a concert there is a must. I also love hiking out there. Although it’s not open yet, I can’t even tell you how excited I am to go to Meow Wolf!
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
So much of my success in the dance industry is because of my brother, Melecio Estrella. He is the Artistic Director of Bandaloop in Oakland, California. We both took very different paths in the dance industry and seeing his successful journey has made me both inspired and proud.