Jeanette Hedley caught the travel bug early on. When she’s not teaching for UGOT Active Kids, you might find her trekking through Uganda, sky diving in Mexico or swimming with the sharks in Figi. “My family did quite a bit of traveling,” explains Jeanette, “and it immediately got me interested in exploring new cultures and the beauty of new environments.” Her Father was the first person to open the world to her with one simple map. “My dad would get out a map and that was it for me.”
While traveling abroad people are often amazed to hear that she is a professional dance teacher for a living. “People always think it’s surprising when I tell them I am a dance teacher while I am overseas. And then they immediately want you to show them your moves,” laughs Jeanette. As one of UGOT’s regular instructors, she is only pleased to break it down.
Jeanette started taking dance classes when she was four years old. But it was a slower start in the beginning. “My Mom wanted me to be a ballerina and I said, “no way. But my best friend next door was taking ballet classes and since we were attached at the hip, I went along.” And in true form she was hooked. “Today my friend is a Doctor and I’m a dance teacher.” She laughs. “ I guess the rest really is history.”
Today, Jeanette does all forms of dance: hip hop, jazz, musical theatre and has found her zen in teaching yoga. On an average day you can find Jeanette getting her ‘om’ on with junior toddlers and infants in daycare centres around the GTA. Her favourite part is getting a personal welcome by a group of 18-36 month year-olds with a simple, “Hi yoga!” She can’t help but grin from ear to ear. “It brings a huge smile to my face. And when the kids learned to say Namaste to say goodbye to me it was just too cute!” Just another day at the office.
Jeanette has been one of the leaders of the UGOT Active Kids team. Her passion for teaching is evident in her dedication to making each class unique and fun for her students. She explains the benefits of bringing yoga to pre-school aged children who wouldn’t otherwise have much stillness in their day. “Yoga Creates mindfulness in the children. The moments of stillness in the class are so important. To the children it might be more of a game but we are teaching quiet focus and awareness of breathe.” With today’s hectic and busy schedules it is something that the young students might not otherwise get in their everyday life. “Its so important to experience these special moments. Even for just a few moments in a class.” We couldn’t agree anymore, Namaste.
Interview by Hillary McCarrel
10 - Question Pop Quiz
Q. What would people be surprised to learn about you?
I’ve done some really adventurous things! I’ve been white water rafting in Uganda, sky diving in Mexico, swimming with sharks in South Africa and Fiji and zip-lining in a dozen different countries. And I’ve done all those things not because I’m an adrenaline junkie, but because when something scares me, I do it to tackle the fear.
Q. If you could travel anywhere, where would it be?
I spent 7 years traveling and working abroad so I’m fortunate to be able to say that I’ve seen the places that were top of my travel list. A few places I’d still like to see are New Zealand, India and Egypt.
Q. If you could live any place, where would that be?
If I could afford to fly back to Canada to see my family anytime I pleased, then I’d live in Fiji or Hawaii.
Q. What languages do you speak?
English and French
Q. What's the worst part about dancing?
Is there something bad? It’s difficult to pick anything bad, let alone worst, about something you love so much! I guess it would be nice if it were possible to have a higher income from dance and the arts in general, across the board for all artists and teachers, not just those who gain fame/celebrity.
Q. What's your favourite food?
I’m such a foodie! I love eating out as well as cooking and baking at home. I eat a vegetarian diet and love discovering incredible new restaurants or trying new recipes. And I love hosting dinner parties where all my carnivore-friends eat vegan for a night and leave full and satisfied. If I had to pick a favourite meal, it would be eggplant parmagean with pasta and red wine.
Q. Do you have any post-dance career ideas?
I’ve always said if I had to change careers and do nothing related to the arts, children or travel, that I’d go to culinary school and be a chef. So maybe that?
Q. Do you have any other interests?
Aside from the performing arts and working with young people, I love travel and have spent a lot of time abroad. I really enjoy time in the kitchen preparing food. I’m also pretty crafty; I can knit and sew. I love curling up with a good book or watching a movie or a live show. I volunteer for the Toronto Vegetarian Association and the Toronto Humane Society. And I enjoy spending time with my family, friends and boyfriend.
Q. Does dancing run in your family?
My mom took a year or two of tap when she was little. My sisters also took dance as kids and one still takes recreational adult classes. I also have younger cousins who have danced a lot and one who is a student teacher now.
Q. What's your least favourite exercise?
I really dislike the gym. I find working out on machines really boring. I prefer the class environment or just getting out and doing an activity that gets me moving.