Interview: Krisna Lee Hanks


Name: Krisna Lee Hanks

Where do you live: Emeryville, California USA

Known for:
Former: Professional dancer, Current: Worksite wellness consultant and Pilates’ studio owner.

Currently actual with:
Square 1 Wellness and East Bay Pilates.

When did you realize that you were going to work with this?
From the perspective as a professional dancer, my mom would say it started at age 3 with my first dance class! As early as I can remember I wanted to dance professionally, this spirit never wavered. My subsequent career paths and reinventions since then spring from this passion for the body, how it moves and what it needs to perform successfully, mentally and physically.

If you could choose one place only to live, where would that be and why?
I would love to live six months a year here in California and six months in Europe or as an alternative New York City. As a dual citizen, American and Dutch I have a strong affinity for both cultures. Plus I miss our friends in Amsterdam and in the Big Apple!

How would you describe your creativity?
Entrepreneurial spunk! Having worked so many years for myself as a dancer, choreographer and now as a consultant and business owner survival demands that one be very adaptable at working with minimal tools, maximum effort and steadfast spirit. Creativity for me means absolute belief in what I do. Preparation, discipline and consistency are the tools that enable the belief.

How and when did you start to work with this in a serious manner?
In my early youth I very seriously studied dance and acrobatics. I spent 4 to 5 days a week after school at the local dance studio. Definitely one could say the first “real” dance job was with, The Pamela Bedford Dance Company, a Midwest Ballet Company, at age 15.

What do you do at the moment?
At the moment my work is split in two halves. I own, along with my fabulous husband Robert, a Classical Pilates studio East Bay Pilates in California. We also run the Pilates’ program for Pixar Animation Studios. Both of these endeavors have kept us busy since emigrating here in 2004 from Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The other half of my work life is as a worksite wellness consultant for Square 1 Wellness. For example, right now one of my consulting projects is for the Center for Disease Control (CDC), in conjunction with their Work@Health™ program. As a subject matter expert in worksite wellness I advise companies of all sizes, shapes and industries as they strive to incorporate wellness initiatives into their work cultures.

A recommendation for those who think about starting and running a creative business?
Love it, live it and work at it relentlessly. P.S. Don’t be afraid to reinvent yourself from time to time.

Tell us how it all started.
I grew up in a relatively small town, 50,000 in the heart of the Midwest, Quincy, Illinois. Our parents were uniquely different, father was a highly successful basketball coach/athletic director and mother was of the era, a stay-at-home Mom. She, Sondra, actually was probably the spark of creativity that set my fire on the artistic path. Our Mom was self-taught in many creative avenues, seamstress, decorator, designer and overall make it yourself type of person. She always had a variety of creative projects going on at one time in the house. Mom might be redoing an old piece of furniture with new coverings, teaching herself calligraphy, or sewing clothes, all the while having something cooking in the kitchen. I inhaled her passions to create and transferred them to the body.

On the other hand my father’s talent for coaching was definitely influential in both my artistic career and current work. I grew up in the public eye as the “Coach’s daughter” understanding all the highs, lows and spaces in between that revolve around successful competitive sports. I learned a host of physical and mental habits that I to this day integrate into daily life. Just a few of which are, being good at something demands consistent dedication, the learning process is never over, if you want to lead walk the walk day in and day out. On building teams, teach good fundamentals, be strict, demand high standards even if it’s challenging and positively contribute to the community.

What is the most important thing in a workplace/studio for you?
Natural light and ample floor space. As a former dancer I need floor space. At any time I want to be able to lie on the floor and stretch out. Right now our studio has both of these qualities good floor space and huge ceilings with lots of light flowing in. A definite benefit to living in California, there is no shortage of sun. Plus, in our space our front wall is actually a garage type door that can roll up, making it seem twice as big with double the light!

What is your favorite film?
Oh that’s impossible there are way too many. I’m a film and book addict! Growing up I adored all the dance films with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Gene Kelly and Danny Kaye. I’m also a fan when a movie is utterly thought provoking and or with powerful intensity such as The Deer Hunter, Sophie’s Choice or films like Training Day, American Beauty and Hurt Locker.

Right now I think certain television series do an excellent job of character development and drawing you into their world. Series such as The Wire, The Sopranos and House of Cards are definite standouts in that genre. Also since we are close with folks who work at Pixar a couple of their gems are WALLE and UP. See I could go on and on, not to mention all the great documentaries like Food Inc., Citizen Four, Atomic Mom and Pina on the dance oeuvre of choreographer Pina Bausch.

Who would you like to invite for a dinner and why?
Well, any dinner with my husband is an amazing adventure because of his incredible culinary skills! But I think it would be really special for him and I to have had the opportunity to dine with Joe and Clara Pilates. There are so many urban myths around Joe and Clara it would have been quite special to meet and share a meal together. Especially since we are also a husband and wife duo owning/running/operating a Pilates’ studio similar to Joe and Clara.

How do you like to spoil yourself?
Definitely I find a really good massage at the top of my “self-spoiling” list. Also being self-employed taking time off in theory shouldn’t feel like spoiling but in reality it does!

What is luxury for you?
Owning a small place near the coast somewhere in Italy, Spain or France where all our friends could come congregate and connect, with nothing but cooking and being outdoors on the agenda. Or even simpler, sleeping in, no agenda, reading the NY Times, hanging at home.

What is the nicest compliment you’ve received for your creative work, and from whom?
Quote from a reviewer in a Dutch newspaper on a duet I performed with Elco Roovers in a dance/theater piece “Overlust” choreographed by Lisa Marcus in Amsterdam – “This is one of those duets you see and will never in your life forget.”

What do you fear most?
Losing my husband.

What is a happy life to you?
Being healthy, active, enjoying good food and wine with lots of sunshine, having work that inspires me. Which is what I have right now and hope to continue!

What does a regular day look like for you?
I’m an early riser, espresso drinking and morning newsreader. I spend a little time on social media to keep abreast of topics pertinent to my fields, worksite wellness and Pilates. Then depending on the endeavor I’m usually off to the studio by 7:15 and then either working with private clients or delving into a worksite wellness project. I find (or rather make) time most days to work out, a definite highlight of the day! I work pretty long hours, meaning often not home until after 20:00. As my husband and I work and commute together, every day is finished with a home-cooked meal and a glass of wine. We are in that respect total Californian foodies!

Tell us about your dream project.
I’ve had for a long time I desire to write a book. That flame still burns. Additionally I’m working with a colleague Cindy on building a grassroots wellness initiative back in my hometown in Illinois, which is very exciting to me as a give back to the community. Thirdly I would love to be “the Pilates person” for a professional, college or high school basketball team or European soccer club.

Who is your professional role model/inspiration?
I’ve been very lucky in that many individuals have inspired me over my 50+ years on the planet. Of course our parents as previously mentioned were iconic role models. Dance teachers that shaped my passion to perform such as Louis Williams and Pamela Bedford in my youth. Two other dance teachers Mary Strow and Emily Stuart continue to inspire me in their ability to maintain creative lifestyles at each and every new decade of life. Also my brother Mike has always been the ultimate “big brother” role model,supportive, encouraging and just a darn good friend.

How would you describe your work style (academic field or fashion style, or both, or something entirely different)?
Disciplined, physical practicality with a touch of global humanity.

Which is the one thing you can’t live without?
My brain!

What inspires you?
Individuals who have drive and passion! Be that a hobby, lifestyle or profession, if they are inspired it’s super contagious.

A book that has changed/made the most impression in your life?
From a wellness perspective Gary Taubes’ book “Good Calories, Bad Calories” was a game changer for me. Why? As a health and fitness professional whom others look to for advice this was a paradigm shifter, particularly as concerns exercise and its role in weight loss.His methodical research demonstrated that “a calorie is not a calorie.” That our body processes calories more on the type of food consumed than just the pure number of calories. Thus, the more carbohydrates and sugar one consumes the higher blood sugar levels, the more the body stores fat and thus the higher risk of weight gain.

This theory on calories correlates strongly to the exercise dogma that losing weight is merely a question of energy in and energy out, which Taubes deconstructed. For as long as I can remember people have been told, “Oh you just need to exercise more and burn more calories”.Well no, not exactly. Exercise is great for many things, and certainly coming from a dance background it can even mean life itself. But if weight loss is your goal look more to the food consumed than to exercise completed. And stay far away from items that raise blood sugar, meaning sugar and carbohydrates. Taubes’ book changed not only how I eat but also my overall health, particularly joint issues improved dramatically. You can find a more indepth look at my personal nutritional experience on my wellness blog.

A final thought..
Something that wasn’t a question but I feel is integral to one’s creativity as a human being; friendship. As a dancer I not only was on the road a lot but just as a person I moved so many times I can’t count them all. This continuous travel involves a lot of saying goodbye and picking up again in a new spot. One has to get comfortable with new surroundings, another culture and maybe even a different language. You then have a heightened sense of what really matters. Simply said it is not your “things” but your friends. They are the creative source that makes it all worthwhile. Sometimes they might be near you or often far away. The best friends are those you can pick up with at any moment just where you last left off, even if years sneak in between. It takes creativity to continuously be a friend. I’m incredibly lucky to have so many “creative friends” all over the globe.

Connect with Krisna via LinkedIn & Twitter @square1wellness & Facebook
Find out more about her work here & here

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