Nicole Seguin photography interviews Virginie from Petits Pas Studio in San Francisco. This is the first interview in the “What is home?” series!
Virginie is a professional dancer who opened her own ballet school for kids and adults. Her home is not just her family but also her business.
You know that feeling when you meet someone you just “click” with, and you don’t feel like you have to put in any thought into connecting with that person? That’s how I felt with Virginie. She’s an artist, she moves, sways, she jumps and whirls, as a dancer, but also as a person. She’s grounded yet spontaneous, rigorous yet inclined to let go and “see what happens” . I wanted you to meet this person, and what she does, but I also wanted to go a little deeper. This is my very first interview on the theme of Home.
Virginie is soulful, honest and she is not afraid of being exactly who she is.
In my photography I am deeply attached to capturing fun and spontaneous moments, but my approach is also about home and connections. I want to capture more of these themes around me, not just because I am a family photographer but also because I’m curious and I truly want to know more about my community and what spurs their creativity, what sparks joy in their lives…
So let’s dive straight in! What is home for you?
Home is more a feeling, a sensation, an atmosphere* than things or objects. For me it’s the feeling of being together, of family. It’s not my house or objects . It’s a very interesting question. In France, home would have been my pictures, my table, but here it’s not that… I can’t be attached to these things anymore. Family really is at the core of that feeling of home. And my cat!
Home is about your connections?
Yes, because everyone we knew stayed in France. The most important thing is US. We tried to create a new atmosphere… it’s funny because I feel like we bought the same things, so maybe objects are important but secondary. Family is definitely more important. It’s a feeling, in your heart, spirit, soul. You know, “Home sweet home” isn’t about the material things or where I am, but how I feel in my body.
That’s my next question. Can you try to describe that feeling? Is home about you retreating from the world?
That’s interesting… for me it’s not in opposition to the rest of the world, it’s a feeling of safety, but not against the world, a feeling of wellness, love, good vibes, relaxation, being together. It’s about starting again together. I think it’s probably because we left family in France so home is our smaller sized family. You’re a foreigner, a stranger at first, so yes, when you look at your family, you recognize yourself in them so it feels safe, reassuring, you hang on to that.
Would you say that you have recreated a home for yourself here?
Home can be anywhere!
Yes, and this experience of expatriation reveals that!
Is there anything that you miss from France?
Family, for sure, my friends. I have a lot of friends here but I miss those friends. Sometimes I might miss food, like bread and cheese, but that’s secondary, again.
So you’re a dancer, and a teacher. Tell me about why you decided to do this here?
I probably wouldn’t have opened a studio in France because I was a doctor, a teacher at the university, a professional dancer, and a physician. We decided to move since my husband had the opportunity to move, and I took this opportunity to try something thing, like teaching and doing something with my passion.
Did you want an experience as an entrepreneur?
For sure! I taught in other schools here but I knew that I needed to feel “free”. All my life I’ve always known how and why I want to do things. I love the idea of being an entrepreneur, the ups and downs, I was excited about the challenge! It’s like you arrive in a new country. You don’t know what will happen, everything is new and different and you have to build everything from scratch. But this was probably the best way to manage and balance my up and down feelings about this business. I became a part of this culture through my business. It was good for me, for my mental health.
Can you describe your business in 3 words?
Passion, community, and happiness – as in mind and body balance, feeling full instead of empty. Happiness as in that feeling of a comfortable balance, no extremes.
Ok, so you have two boys and you arrived here with them?
Yes, they were born there (France).
Did you want to spend more time with them?
Absolutely. We worked too much in France, my husband and I. So moving to the United States… First of all, I was a little scared, then I thought: Let’s do this! Actually, we had been ready for this for a while. We did the opposite of most people! We got married, had kids, full time jobs, and a routine… but we hadn’t found a good balance, we weren’t spending enough time with our children. Time was slipping away and this was the best opportunity, not just to discover a new country and city, but to focus more on our family, not our jobs.
Do you see the connection between your need for building this business and the idea of home?
There are 2 connections! Wow, I never asked myself this. First of all, the focus is now more on ourselves, the opportunity to reach new goals, and for me bringing my passion here.
So what you’re saying is that by focusing on your passion and giving yourself this opportunity, you’re also focusing on building that “home”?
Yes, I always tell my students: you can’t be a good caregiver if you don’t take care of yourself. People would tell me that before but I never really understood this, it never resonated with me. As a teacher, this is even more obvious. If you feel good, you will communicate that to your students. If you don’t feel good, then it doesn’t go well in class.
The second connection, I realize now, talking to you is that when I was a child, dance was my whole life. I started dancing when I was 13 or 14 (late), I would dance 8-10 hours a week until I graduated, became a professional. Dance was omnipresent, and I remember my parents, they were so proud of me! The look in their eyes!!! So the second connection is that relationship between dancing and my parents. My parents called me the “courant d’air” (draft). They wouldn’t see much of me (laughs) but it was great. Dancing really is tied to that feeling of togetherness you mentioned.
How do you feel about your job as a teacher?
I love your question! I think that a year ago, I wouldn’t have known what to say, but now each Monday, Thursday and Friday, when I teach I feel so blessed to be doing this. In the modern jazz class, I am part of the group, not standing on the side giving directions, I feel very involved. One of the other students said thank you the other day, and it made me feel so good! I feel like I grow wings every time, and I want to give back even more.
Your energy is great in the class, and I love your smile
Am I smiling?
Yes! When you start dancing you have a huge smile across your face, you make me want to smile, I’m like, yay! Let’s do this! And I like that you always tell your students to not strive for perfection, but the feeling that goes with the movement.
Yes, because I am a perfectionist, so I don’t want anyone to feel that pressure, I want people to reach their own potential. Everyone has their own story. Teaching is a great way to create connections, be “together”. I am so happy with the kids as well. I have been teaching them for more than a year, and I am so proud of what they have accomplished, and their motivation. Yesterday, the teenagers didn’t do as well as usual. So what? I said that the first goal is to feel happy when dancing. Personally, I feel fulfilled, and full of energy. I go home and I’m not empty like before. I give so much energy now but in a different way. For example, I stopped looking at my phone, and getting frustrated because something was not going well at work.
Going back to the idea of togetherness, … when I look back, the memories I have of my career in France are not about our research, but about jokes, like someone falling off their chair, our dinners after the conference… all the personal connections, and small anecdotes were meaningful. Today, I carry around this feeling everywhere and in everything I do.
What do you want to remember about this time in your life?
I want to remember how much I have grown, and learned about myself. I know myself so much better than before, it’s incredible really!!!