Areanna Triliegi – Muscle Is a Legacy

Areanna Triliegi

It’s really a family thing. It’s who we are, it’s what we all do.

Areanna Triliegi

Activities: Dancer – Ballroom, Jazz, Contemporary, Hip-Hop, Ballet

Social Media: IG: areanna_triliegi tiktok: @areannatriz snapchat: @areannatriz

Career: Professional Ballroom Dancer

Song: “Who You Are: A Message to All Women” spoken by Jon Jorgenson music “Sailing Again” by Joe Mendick and Kyle Selig

A legacy, is something that is passed down from generation to generation. Oftentimes, people equate legacy with material things, or collegiate attendance. Rarely is it equated with talent, abilities, or faith, but when you look at the path Areanna Triliegi’s life has taken, you can’t help but believe her family legacy is dance.

I found Areanna on Tiktok. A video of her performing a dance challenge popped up in my “For You” feed. Anyone who knows me, knows I love movement, so I immediately went to her page and looked at a few more of her dance videos. My initial thought was, “wow, she’s pretty good,” but as I watched more of her videos, I thought, “she has trained in something, she moves like a real dancer.” I scrolled down a bit more and, BINGO, I was right. I immediately reached out to her because not only was she a trained dancer, she conveyed a sense of joy in her videos, but I also loved she was not the “typical” professional dancer.

I enjoyed this interview because it is a culmination of legacy, talent, faith, self doubt, self acceptance, love, a knowledge and understanding of purpose, and a fight to be seen for the gift that is her talent. Thank you Areanna, for sharing all of this with me and the readers.You are amazing and your talent does stand on it’s own because everything you need in you, is in Christ.

I hope you all take the time to read this blog and then join us on the @mcbmi IG page Sunday Aug. 15th at 4 pm (EST) for a live chat. Come ready to listen and ask questions.

Q:  Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. It’s in the panhandle, I usually just say Destin, Florida because no one knows where Fort Walton is lol

Q:  What was your childhood like, were you an active kid involved in sports? If not, how did you spend most of your free time?

My childhood was mostly centered around traveling with my parents. My parents were dance partners. Probably the best ballroom couple of their time. They were ten time world champion ballroom dancers so I grew up in their studio. They own the Fred Astaire Dance Studios so my childhood was mostly just dancing, and traveling with them to competitions, or traveling with them to train other dancers. I loved every minute of it. I got to see and do things that a normal kid probably wouldn’t have been able to. We would go to school and then spend the rest of our day at the dance studio. If we were sick, we spent our day at the dance studio (lol). It was really my second home and still is to this day.

Q:  Do you come from a family of dancers? If not, what drew you to dance?

Yes, I come from a family of dancers. As I said my parents were dance partners. Most of my aunts and uncles were dance partners. My brother and sister dance. My cousins all dance. It’s really a family thing. It’s who we are, it’s what we all do.

Vegas show

Q:  What age did you start dancing and what styles did you study?

I’ve honestly been dancing since I can remember. Once I started walking I was dancing. I was originally trained in ballroom dancing. When I got to middle school I did Jazz, Contemporary, Ballet, Hip-Hop on top of ballroom dancing. Really, any style I could get my hands on I wanted to take classes, learn, and train in it. 

Q:  You  graduated from college last year. You were a part of their dance team, Do you feel it prepared you for the professional dance world? If so, in what way? 

This is a hard question because I feel like in many ways my whole life has been preparing me for the professional dance world. My mom has always tried her best to prepare me for it and growing up she would make sure we were exposed to what professionals had to do and what sacrifices it took to make dancing your dream and your career. When I went to college, the dance team was just a way for me to get involved with my school and make friends while  earning my degree, since I was going to school away from my hometown. It didn’t necessarily prepare me for the professional dance world since it was more of an activity at that school than a sport. Don’t get me wrong, it was one of the best experiences I had in college. It brought me forever friends and memories that I’ll never forget, but it was more a fun thing to do rather than something that helped me in my dance career. I still continued to travel and train, as much as I could, in all styles while I was on my school’s dance team so that I could keep up that part of my life that I knew I wanted to pursue after college.  

Q:  You are a professional ballroom dancer. Was dancing professionally something you always wanted to do?  If so, why ballroom, what drew you to it? 

Areanna at her first pro event

Growing up and watching my parents career is really something I’m grateful for. I think it’s one of the main reasons I wanted to do it myself. I’ve always known I wanted to make this dream my reality like my parents did. Not because they wanted me to or because we were raised around it but because I saw how much joy and how many experiences it brought them. I knew if I got the chance to do it myself that it would bring me just as much joy. My mom always told me she never felt like she was working or never minded how many hours she had to put into it or what she had to sacrifice to do it because of how much she loved dancing. That’s something that’s always stuck with me, because I love dancing that much. I love dancing so much that I never minded having to miss prom for an audition or having to miss a friends party so I could go compete. It’s something that doesn’t feel like work or sacrifice to me. 

Areanna and Instructor at pro/amateur competition

Q:  How did you find your partner? Talk about chemistry, what makes good chemistry among partners? Is it instant?

So you need a little back story for this one. I  competed in the amateur division up until I graduated college. I’ve always wanted a professional partner but it’s hard to find one that’s the right fit for you and your dancing. Especially one that would be okay with me still going to classes, other dance practices and all of the things. I would always compete with my instructors or my uncle and I won a lot of titles in that division but I knew I went as far as I could in that level and I needed to go pro. It was kind of a now or never thing. So I graduated from college and moved home during the pandemic. I was home for about 6 months. One day we were at a dance competition (I was working this one not dancing) and my mom walks up to me and says, “hey Areanna one of my studios in Orlando has a new guy and they want you to audition with him because he’s the perfect height for you to compete with and he’s a GREAT dancer” so we walked over to the Orlando studio owners and the guy they wanted me to audition with and we auditioned on the spot. I was in a full formal dress and just kicked off my heels so I could dance. We auditioned right then and there and it went pretty well. We got home the day after that and I packed my things and moved to Orlando to start practices. I wanted to tell you all of that because it happened so fast. I literally moved in ONE day. My dance partner’s name is Arkadi Atasuntsov. He’s originally from Armenia and he’s been here in the United States for about three years. We’ve been dancing together now for five or six months. Honestly, at first it was a little awkward, which is normal. We were complete strangers. As ballroom dancers you get real close and real personal REAL fast. Fortunately, we got along right away. He is literally my best friend. Our chemistry is natural, we just naturally fell into our friendship which I’m very grateful for. I couldn’t imagine having to spend almost all day rehearsing and practicing  with someone I didn’t get along with. Chemistry among dance partners is VERY important. You have to go on the competition floor and almost make people believe you’re in love. In my opinion, it’s not an instant thing. It’s something that grows with your dancing and your comfort levels with each other. 

Q:  What has the hardest thing been about your dance journey so far?

The hardest thing about my dance journey so far has been trying to stay confident in myself and my body. As a ballroom dancer you have to have a certain look. You have to be tiny and in shape. Your legs can’t be too big, your stomach should be flat, the list goes on and on. I’m reminded of that almost everyday. I’m a thicker individual. I work hard on my body, and I push myself to stay in shape, but my legs are thick and that’s how it is. I don’t think my body should be a defining factor in how good of a dancer I am, but sometimes that’s the harsh reality. It’s a hard thing to be confident in yourself when you’re told almost everyday you need to lose weight. It’s something I continue to struggle with but I’m working on loving myself and my body through every phase it goes through and still believing in my dancing no matter the size of my legs or my stomach or how much I weigh. 

Q:  What does your training routine consist of?

My day usually consists of practice with my dance partner from 9 am until noon, personal trainer at 2:30-3:30, I try to squeeze in a hip hop, jazz, or contemporary class at different studios, and then practice again at 9pm until midnight (sometimes later). 

The Fred Astaie World Championships 2016

Q:  I found you via social media and one of the reasons I wanted you to be a part of MCBMI was aside from the fact that you exude personality and you’re a great dancer, you are not the typical super thin ballroom dancer. How accepting of this has the ballroom world been? Have you received any criticism and if so, how have you handled it?

I’m so SO glad you asked this question. I briefly went over it in my struggles in the previous question. But YES I get criticism (lol). I’ve literally been told, “your legs are so big you can’t even fully put them together in your routines.” I’ve been told, “if you want to be a champion you have to lose more weight.” Now don’t get me wrong, I diet and eat right, I go to the gym, I work my ass off to keep my body in shape. But I am a thicker individual, that’s how God made me. It’s hard honestly. It’s hard to believe in yourself and your body when everyone’s telling you, “your dancing is amazing but if you would just lose weight you’d be so much better.”  It’s like why can’t my dancing just be amazing and that’s the end of it? Why does it have to be about my body or my legs and not just my dancing? Some days I don’t handle it well. Some days I cry and beat myself up mentally, and I think that’s okay. I think it’s okay to allow yourself to feel that way because people’s words hurt, but I always try to remind myself that I’m working hard. I’m putting my all into this and it WILL pay off. I WILL hit my goals, I will show those people I can when they told me I couldn’t, I will become a champion because of how good my dancing is, NOT because of how skinny my body is

Q:  The dance world in general seems to pigeon hole dancers by their appearance. Have you seen major changes from when you started until now? If so, have the changes been for the better? What do you believe has spearheaded the changes?

I have seen SOME changes. Honestly it still seems like most successful dancers have a ‘certain look’ tall and skinny. But I have seen more shapes and sizes than ever before in the dance industry. It’s a great thing to see change but I think there needs to be more. I’ve said this once but I need to say it again. The size of our body should not define how talented we are. 

Q:  One of your social media posts was of you as a young girl and you now, What advice would you give your younger self?

I would probably tell my younger self to not be afraid to go for ANY opportunity that presents itself. Always just go for it, don’t worry about what anyone else has to say. People are always going to have negative opinions, and people are always gonna try to tear you down but you can’t let them. You’ll never be able to make everyone happy, so make yourself happy first. 

Q:  What do you love about ballroom dance?

I love so many things about ballroom dancing. I love how unique it is. I love how you get to share your passion with your dance partner that loves it as much as you do. I love the feeling I get when I’m dancing. I feel invincible to be honest. I feel like my most authentic self when I’m dancing.

Q:  What song motivates or inspires you?

 There’s this poem song that I danced to my senior year of high school  that always inspires me when I hear it. It’s called “Who You Are: A Message to All Women” spoken by Jon Jorgenson music “Sailing Again” by Joe Mendick and Kyle Selig

Q:  Give me a favorite healthy recipe?

Spaghetti squash is one of my favorite healthy things to make. You cut the spaghetti squash in half salt and pepper, put it face down on a baking sheet and put it in the oven for 40 minutes on 400. I usually use my family’s homemade Italian spaghetti sauce on it!!

Q;  Why did you agree to be a part of MCBMI?

I agreed to be a part of MCBMI because when I went to look at the site it was honestly inspiring. Reading other women’s struggles and then their success makes you want to push yourself to go for what you really want to do. I want to inspire people through my story and my dancing. I want other women to know that it’s okay to struggle as long as you pick yourself and keep going.