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Dancing Diva

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Hip-hop artist Symonne Hornaday lights up the dance floor.

Photo and story by Gretchen M. Sanders

Who knew Symonne Hornaday could get down like that?

Every Tuesday night at Balance Dance Studios in South Austin, the 25-year-old busts moves that would make Beyoncé jealous. Hornaday, who has always loved to swivel her hips, signed up for DivaDance not long after she moved to Austin from Tucson, Ariz., last summer. She wanted a way to meet like-minded people, have fun and get a great workout.

DivaDance classes are taught at six Central Texas locations and promise a sweaty, sexy, stress-free hip-hop dance experience.

“We learn moves that allow me to tell an emotional story through dance,” says Hornaday, who has been a ballet student since age 5.

Growing up, Hornaday also took jazz, tap, hip-hop and lyrical-dance classes, performed in The Nutcracker every year and captained her high school’s pom line. Today, DivaDance lets her childhood passion live on.

“I like the sassy choreography we do so much that I’m training to become an instructor, ” Hornaday says. When she’s not dancing, Hornaday fits in a full workday at Skills Fund, a student-financing and quality-assurance platform for higher education.

But it’s when Hornaday practices with DivaDance’s Performance Squad—a group of 20 dancers who learn three routines during a period of 10 weeks, culminating in a recital—that she really lets loose.

At a recent session, Hornaday sported a T-shirt reading “Slaying is my cardio.” Twirling her body like a corkscrew, she whipped her hair back and forth and snapped her fingers like a drill sergeant. High-energy, calorie-burning steps set to Grace’s You Don’t Own Me and Lady Gaga’s Telephone left her breathless—and thirsty. “

Dancing lets me be the confident woman I aspire to be. I leave practice feeling empowered,” Hornaday says. “I leave feeling like the boss.” Here’s how this soul sister keeps kicking to the beat.

The a.m.:

“The first thing I do is hit the snooze button. I get up by 7:45 a.m., shower and pick out my work
clothes. Then I make a smoothie with banana, coconut milk and protein before I go. I’m usually
running late.”

The workout:

“I do three hour-long DivaDance classes per week, plus 90 minutes of Performance Squad every Tuesday night. We always begin with a warmup and end with a cool-down, and every dance we learn includes cardio. Low poses strengthen our leg and core muscles, and snappy upper-body moves work our arms. Every routine is a full-body workout that makes me sweat. When I’m not dancing, I lift free weights at home and do a daily 30-minute walk near my job downtown.”

The diet:

“I’m trying not to like Mac and cheese—my downfall. I love it, and I’m very specific about how it’s prepared .Eastside Tavern does it well. I joined Weight Watchers recently, which has forced me to cook more and cook better. I enjoyed looking up recipes and preparing meals at home. I love baked veggie dishes with Brussels sprouts, zucchini, carrots and bell peppers. Because of all the dancing I do, I carry a huge Hydro Flask and fill it with water several times a day.”

The gear:

“I dance in black boots, but any supportive shoes with a good heel will work. I like to wear sassy leggings with mesh on the side from RunGirlRun, an activewear company I found on Instagram, plus a loose cropped top over a good sports bra.. I also tie a flannel shirt around my waist to hold up my leggings. I keep my hair down because I flip it to the music and it makes me feel sexy. There’s a lot of ‘hair-ography’ at DivaDance. Some of our choreography includes props too. We hold landline phones when we perform Telephone.”

The motivation:

“My pure love for dance motivates me to do it, but I really like the feeling I have after class. I’m happier, healthier and more confident. It’s a great workout.”

The mindset:

“I want to give 100 percent. Even when dancing gets hard, even when I feel discouraged, I must push myself to do my best. It’s not always easy. I try to keep an open mind to all that I’m learning.”

The p.m.:

“Dance practice doesn’t end until 10 p.m. on some nights, so I get home pretty late. I need time after that to slow down. I’ll have a snack, watch Will & Grace and fall asleep around 12:30 or 1 a.m.”

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