Put on your dancing shoes.
Whether you’re two or 102, there is a dancer’s spirit itching to burst out to the right musical chord.
For Karisma Jay, founder of AbunDance Academy in Prospect Heights, every chord has a movement – even the positive affirmations that helped shape the creation of her dance school.
“I’m the ambassador for abundance,” Karisma said. “I am a firm believer that once we are ready and we have done the work, our blessing, our wealth of knowledge or money or whatever is to come it rushes in.”
Technically trained in a range of dance genres including African, Tap, Ballet and more, Karisma – much like any college graduate – thought she had it all figured out. She put in the long hours at LaGuardia Arts and New York University Gallatin School, got the degree and anticipated the world would open up and expose her oyster right after waltzing across the stage.
Like most graduates, she was proven wrong. “I was in a particular space after graduating college and trying to figure out my life and what to do. I wasn’t getting very far or as far as I thought I should’ve been,” she said. “I’m a performer so I was going on all these auditions and geting really depressed because I would get to the end and then they would cut me — every time.”
Teaching dance since the ripe age of 10, Karisma consistently gave her knowledge of style, edge and technique to children for various programs.
Welcoming abundance into her life through a verbal affirmation turn dance that resonates in a big welcoming movement of her arms, the pieces to her life’s puzzle organically created an unforeseen but destined picture.
“I would say this affirmation that ended with ‘I now accept my abundance of good.’ Every time I would say the affirmation as a natural mover my body would go and my arms would go,” she said. “I’m a choreographer and a teacher so I’m always editing myself. I looked at my hands and my body and thought ‘this isn’t big enough for stage, what are we doing with our hands’ so I made an abundance dance.”
Folding in the abundance dance and affirmation into her regular routine, Karisma was introduced to Cheryl Smith who owned Full of Energy School of Dance Inc. Initially asked to teach at the school — which she was unable to do though she was able to send one of her students to fulfill the role — Karisma was shocked to then be charged with taking over Smith’s school.
“Within a month or two months of adopting this abundant mentality, I was calling the woman to make sure everything was going ok and she asked me if I wanted her school,” she said.
Karisma moved the school to the current location at Rogers and Lefferts Avenue and changed the name to reflect what helped her start this new chapter in her life. “Even when it came down to change the name over I was scared to name it abundance; but abundance had been the theme of my life so why would I be afraid of abundance. Then it just hit me that in the word abundance there’s the word dance,” she said.
With just one year under her belt, Karisma services 100 and counting students from tots as young as two through adulthood for a range of classes including Hip-Hop, African Remix, Zumba, Ballet, Tap and more.
Six-year-old Brooke-Lynn Williams said, “Ms. Karisma helps me to pay attention and move my body in different ways. I like to learn the different kinds of dances and practice my steps over and over until I get them right. I love Ms. Karisma because she makes me feel like a real dancer.”
“I love Ms. Karisma more than the food on this earth! As my mentor, dance mother, supporter and teacher, she gives more than anyone can ask,” said 15-year-old Kaylah Reid.
Opening her mind, heart and soul to take on the challenge of running her own studio comes with some challenges she gracefully tackles head-on. Consistently striving to be the best, Karisma views each hurdle of entrepreneurship as a well-taught lesson.
“In this last year, I’ve always been good at multitasking but this is another level. Right now, I’m getting a PhD in multitasking because there are so many different elements that I have to maintain,” she said.
Karisma manages a small team of 15, a parent’s association and not to mention her students while teaching. She shoulders the pressures of having to constantly see the big picture to ensure AbunDance Academy is always technically sound. “When I’m dealing with my little three-year-old student, I have the pressure of instilling in her morals that are going to help when she becomes 23 years old. Sometimes the teacher doesn’t have that pressure that I have, but I’m not only her artistic director of the dance school she attends, I’m her mom for that moment,” she said.
Now, Karisma is finding her world to come full circle with her first end-of-year performance. Choosing the theme of the classic 1978 film “The Wiz” starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, Karisma recalls also performing the same piece in her youth.
“‘The Wiz’ changed my life,” she said. “What I loved about it when I did it, they got these costumes made that looked like the movie and the adults played the main character so in ours we’re doing that. What’s great is that the woman making the adult costumes and some of the other costumes is the same woman who made the costumes when I was in ‘The Wiz’ so it’s a complete full circle for me.”
Paying that experience forward to her students, Karisma was sure to host screenings and encourage her students to watch the film at home. “My students are completely in it and into the song and it’s a great moment that I’m having to experience again,” she said.
It is with these screenings, her persistence and love for what she does daily she stands as a testament to prove that despite what may be broadcast the arts are very much alive.
Karisma is already thinking of the next level for her dance school. Already outgrowing the space, Karisma is hopeful to open a facility that will allow her students to achieve the best them. “In 10 years we’re going to have a building. That’s a fact,” she said. “We need a building, we’ve outgrown this space which is crazy and abundant. I want to have a Lincoln Center for Brooklyn but I want it to be geared towards bringing up the youth and helping the find whatever it is they’re passionate about.”
AbunDance Academy’s first annual end of year dance concert will take over Prospect Heighs High School on June 28. Visit AbunDance Academy’s website for ticketing options, class schedules and more.