As a founding instructor at FORWARD__Space, Keith Alexander spends his days helping people connect to their bodies and to the people around them. The New York City-based business offers in-person and virtual sweat sessions that blend cardio dance, athletic training, and moving meditation. Through his classes, Alexander brings joy and presence to the thousands of clients who flow through FORWARD__Space’s physical location and the even larger number who log on to their streaming service (they have viewers in over 100 countries and counting!). Here, he talks about the power of dance and movement.
For someone who has yet to experience FORWARD__Space, can you describe it?
FORWARD__Space is an immersive, inclusive sweat-inducing experience. Our flagship space is located in the Soho neighborhood of New York City. If you move with us there, you step into the club, or you can connect with us on the FORWARD__Space Virtual Hub. Through both our physical and virtual sweat sessions, you are guided through a non-stop dance journey set to great music, all the while moving, grooving, sculpting and connecting to your present self.
How did you get involved in FORWARD__Space?
I was in a place that many of us can identify with. I was stuck, feeling like I needed to shake everything up and go back to the drawing board. I had picked up Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and was dedicating time and practice to heal and gain clarity. While taking myself on an “Artist Date” to a dance class in the city, I ran into the founder and CEO of FORWARD__Space, Kristin Sudeikis, and she told me about this new venture she was creating. She was looking for instructors to help usher in this new brand. I said yes, showed up to the audition and never looked back.
As an artist and dancer, what does your typical day look like?
Typically, I start my day writing a few pages in my journal, then I meditate. I find that my day goes smoother when I take time to pause and breathe first thing. After that quiet time, I usually listen to the “NPR: Up First” podcast while I foam roll and stretch. Over coffee and a light breakfast, I look at my calendar to see what’s on the schedule for the day. In between teaching, I do my best to continue to train by taking classes myself.
In what ways do dance and movement help people connect to themselves and the world around them?
In a time when so many of us have been living in a fog of anxiety, confusion, frustration and fear, I have found great healing in dance. When my body has the opportunity to move freely for a minimum of 10 minutes, the movement gets my heart rate up while oxygen begins to pour into my body. As the endorphins release, the immediate sensation is joy and presence. That “trance” is lifted. It’s like the video playback of my life is no longer buffering, and I’m receiving the full, clear HD image. My perception has changed, and I understand that everything is ok, just as it is. I really connect to the saying, Move a muscle, change a thought.
How does FORWARD__Space bring people together?
The community that FORWARD__Space has created is steadfast and strong. Everyone meets on the dance floor as their singular selves, bringing with them whatever experiences they’ve had that day. Then the beat drops, hips start swaying, the head gets to boppin’, and suddenly, no one is alone. We are sharing this experience and moving as a collective. I’ve seen strangers connect on the dance floor and leave friends.
What would you say to someone who may feel self-conscious walking onto the dance floor?
First of all, your feelings are valid. New things can make us nervous. FORWARD__Space is for everyone—those that used to dance, those that want to dance and those that love to dance. If you have checked any of those boxes, you are in the right place. All you have to do is follow the music. If I go left and you go right, you’re the one that’s right. And, when in doubt, just hit that step-touch.
What motivates you as an instructor and as a dancer?
It starts with the music. All I need is a great drum beat and some horns, and something takes over. I am also deeply connected to freedom. When witnessing another dancer express themselves honestly, free from their inner critic, I am motivated to push past anything that may be keeping me from experiencing that same radical acceptance.
Last question! Can you share a few songs that really get the dance party started?
“This is America” by Childish Gambino (Todd Terry & Louie Vega & Kenny Dope Remix): The drums on this remix are mesmerizing! “Yoncé” by Beyoncé (Electric Bodega Trap Remix): Again with the drums! I also love how Bey brings that Houston drag to her flow. My mom is from Beaumont, so it just makes sense to me. “Higher” by VINCINT, featuring Alex Newell and Princess Precious: This is a great pop anthem that will get you jumping and smiling. And there’s a gospel choir doing the background vocals!
Interview by Bethany Heitman