Brielle Friedman is Rustic’s Marketing Director. She’s also an internationally-ranked professional salsa dancer. And she’s managed to do that while figuring out how to balance her full-time job with her passion for dance, while still having time for a personal life. So we wanted to share Brielle’s secret.
Name: Brielle Friedman
Current job: Marketing Director at Rustic Pathways
Current city: Brooklyn, New York
Education: Brown University, BA in International Relations
What does a normal day look like for you?
My days vary a lot throughout the week, but the first thing I do everyday is make coffee and listen to music. Those first few minutes are essential for setting the tone of the rest of my day. Because I work from home, it’s really important for me to wake up and do something for myself before I start checking email or jump into a meeting. Some days I wake up a little earlier and head to the gym or to a yoga class. On days when I know my body needs more sleep, I set my alarm a half hour later and read or write for a while before I make breakfast and open up my computer to start my workday.
I try and wrap up work by 7 p.m. Once I close my computer I usually need to take a few minutes to mentally check out of work. I’m at the studio around 8 and ready to jump into class, followed by team rehearsal. Practice usually finishes around 11:45, which means I have about an hour to get home, shower, and be in bed before 1 a.m.
So how many hours do you work per week? How many hours do you dance per week?
I probably work between 55 and 60 hours and dance about 15 to 20. Some weeks I work more and dance less (when I’m traveling), and some weeks I dance more and work less (when a big competition or show is coming up). I still find time to see friends, date, and re-energize myself. I’m pretty introverted, so even though I love spending time with friends, I definitely need “me” time to be able to put my best foot forward in work and dance. It sounds kind of crazy, but it actually all balances out.
I’ve found the key to making it all work is being deliberate about how I use my time, especially the time I spend in transit! I make an effort to listen to podcasts or read whenever I’m on the subway or walking to the studio. Those 20 to 40 minutes really add up, and it’s a great way to stay on top of the news and industry news. Learning new things also keeps me inspired and helps me think creatively and critically about any challenges I’m facing at work, dance, or in my personal relationships.
How did you discover your passion for dance?
Through travel! The summer after my sophomore year of college I took a solo-trip to Guatemala. I spent five weeks learning Spanish and exploring the country. One night I went to a local club to take a dance class and that’s where I learned salsa for the first time! I remember really liking the music and picking up the steps pretty quickly. Later in the evening when the professional dancers came out on the floor, I fell in love with salsa!
What gave you the confidence to take that trip by yourself in college?
I had traveled a few times in high school with Rustic Pathways and spent a summer living with a host family in France, so by the time I was in college I felt ready to explore on my own. I’m so glad I had those experiences as a teenager. They really set me up for success later on.
Do you think dancing energizes you and makes you a better employee?
Definitely! I really love my job, especially everything that’s challenging about it. Finding solutions to those challenges is one of the main things that keeps me motivated and invested, but that also means it can be exhausting and all-consuming at times. When I’m dancing, I disappear into this other world for a while. I’m not thinking about work or friends or that cute guy I texted an hour ago. Having that outlet really gives me perspective and helps me re-focus at work. Whatever’s stressing me out always seems a lot more manageable after that kind of break.
Everyone at work—from my co-workers to my boss, and even our CEO—is super supportive of my dancing. Their support and the fact that our executive team believes in creating a company culture that allows employees to pursue passions outside of work, whatever that may be, also makes me work harder.
Why do you think it’s so important to have a balance between work and your passion?
Each one has its own challenges and its own rewards and together they allow me to do things I love, that make me, me, but don’t necessarily fit together. I would feel like part of me was missing if I was only a marketer or only a dancer.
Was there a moment that you seriously questioned if you could balance dance and your career?
Everyday! Everyone has good days where all your dreams seem possible and tough days when you feel like giving up. Thankfully I have good friends that keep me in check on those tough days. I’ve also learned to give myself a break when things start to feel a little overwhelming.
What advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?
You are not too old to start pursuing something that you love! I remember being 18 and feeling like I was too old to start dancing seriously, and definitely too old to “be a dancer,” especially because so many dancers start training really young. But if you want something, and you’re willing to work really, really hard for it, you can make it happen at any age.
Set your own rules, define what makes you happy, and when you find whatever it is that sets your soul on fire, whether it’s a certain profession, a passion, or a relationship, go for it and don’t let anything, or anyone, stop you.
Liz first developed a passion for travel while summiting Mount Kilimanjaro as a Rustic student. This taught her at an early age the importance of experiential education for students around the world. She has since graduated with a bachelor’s in marketing communications from Emerson College in Boston. When Liz is not hopping from restaurant to restaurant in San Francisco or buried in a New York Times bestseller, she can be found packing her bags to spend time with family and friends.