If you haven’t yet heard the name Mia Michaels, you’ll want to get familiar ASAP. She’s a multi-Emmy Award winning choreographer and So You Think You Can Dance judge from the US who recently travelled to Oz for the first time to lead dance workshops for aspiring dancers. Here, we chat to her about all things dance and fitness, from staying healthy to managing injuries. If you’re looking for some serious #dancespo, Mia’s your girl. She’s killing it, one step at a time.

Her dance workshops are ‘Mia-centric’… “My approach is a very human experience. There are three levels of classes – eight to 12 year olds, a harder class which is 13-mid 20s, then a class for choreographers, dance teachers and studio owners. The dancers leave feeling really fulfilled and pushed; certainly very inspired and that’s my goal.”

Mia with one of her Emmy awards

She gets inspiration from everything… “I would say that real life is what inspires me. Experiences, different kinds of music… Even the kids inspire me, which is really cool. You never know when the magic is going to hit. You just have to be open. I’m also big fan of European dance and I love Latin ballroom – I have a secret obsession!”

Her job is physically demanding but fulfilling… “I’m used to the lifestyle of it. It is exhausting but to think that you change people’s lives, it gives you so much energy back. It makes me realise that this is why I’m here. I make a difference in people’s lives. That gives me a surge of energy.”

She exercises every day… “I’ve always been a plus-sized girl but I try and eat as healthy as I can and I exercise as much as I can. I do boxing, yoga and I do this class called ‘bari’ which is a trampoline and toning workout. Ballet barre is awesome because it maintains your strength. Athlete strength is different to dancer’s strength. If you can be both, it’s a great balance.”

At her Melbourne workshop last month. Photo via Noni Carroll.

She knows how far to push myself… “I’ve had the wear and tear of teaching my whole life. My knees and my back, those two are my little issues but I’ve found a way to tame them. I know how far to push myself so it doesn’t take me down. You learn your injuries and how to deal with them. Being a dancer, I understand my body. Stretching is super important, as well as foam rolling and drinking a lot of water.”

She’ll defs be back to visit Australia… “It feels like the right fit here, that’s the only way I can describe it. From the moment I stepped off the plane, you guys had your arms open to me. It’s the beginning of many, many more experiences with me and Australia. My workshops here had an incredible turnout, around 500 -700 people. I feel like I’m laying the groundwork for something that’s going to be big.”

She’s not slowing down just yet… “I have my book coming out at the end of year called A Unicorn in a World of Donkeys. It’s about authenticity, not conforming and celebrating who you’re meant to be. I also have a fitness clothing line coming out for all sizes. I used to buy men’s workout clothing because there was nothing else for anyone who’s past a size 12. My line is fun, colourful, textured and focuses on celebrating the body. And then I have a global master series and mentorship program that I’m launching online in spring. I’m also working on motivational speaking but in my own way using movement and getting people on their feet.”

Interview by Jacqui King. Words by Sophie Fisher.