Open Your Heart
In the 1960s they called it “The Generation Gap”—that disconnect, a lack of understanding one age has for another. Within the ELYSIAN family we seek to bring together women of all ages, encouraging conversations that will promote understanding and respect for the ideas and values of each generation. The Inspiring Women featured within the pages of ELYSIAN have achieved success by hard work and, often times taking the the road less traveled. Their insights can help younger women navigate their chosen paths and give them the courage to try new things and look beyond their experience—to empower them.
To this end, we introduced Inspiring Woman Martha Wiedemann and our cover model, Cassi Sherbert, whose story as a young girl in some ways echoes Martha’s. Several months ago, they met in New York with our publisher, Karen Floyd, for a conversation.
Cassi is an accomplished and disciplined dancer who has trained from a young age to gain confidence and poise. Martha, too, traces her success to childhood.
At the age of 14, Martha was living in Australia and though she loved the country and its citizens, she found herself searching to identify with her Indian roots. Her family’s lifestyle was based on Ayurveda, a traditional Indian form of holistic medicine. While she had always been drawn to “lotions and potions” in jars, struggles with teenage acne caused her to question and to think seriously about skin care. As an adult, she has taken her Ayurveda practice and applied her years of learning about skin care to helping others. Martha’s years of health care practice have earned her international respect and opened up a variety of exciting avenues to promote holistic health: among her career highlights, Martha directed the renovation of the spa and wellness facilities at the Badrutt’s Palace Hotel in St. Moritz, Switzerland.
Cassi has a keen interest in skincare. For any performer, looking one’s best is important. For Cassi, it was also a matter of building confidence. Though she had a natural beauty that was evident to the casual observer, she had not learned to take proper care of skin—and it made a difference. “It wasn’t until I started using makeup and taking better care of my skin that I was able to feel beautiful inside and out,” she says.
Now, Cassi hopes to one day launch her own cosmetics company. She was inspired by Martha—and by the idea of helping other women become more confident, helping them find their inner and outer beauty.
Martha and Cassi also talked about the practice of meditation. “It allows you to block out the rest of the world, to look inside yourself and focus on something you would like to improve about yourself,” Martha said. “The way you practice meditation,” she explained, “is first to decide what you want out of meditation. They say meditation is to quiet the mind. Well, it is—but it is also opening your heart and making the one thing you want the loudest goal.” She told Cassi, “Your goal is your part; that is private. If you sit there quietly you will hear your heartbeat, and you make that the strongest voice within you and you’ll get there.”
Cassi says there are still times when she lacks self-confidence. Her focus is to work on finding her inner beauty and letting it shine without makeup.
Martha’s advice: “Find out what you love about yourself, and build on those things—your skills, abilities, and the way you are as a human being. To recognize your inner beauty you have to love yourself. Beauty is really just being the best version of yourself.”
Cassi started dancing at the age of two at a dance studio in Charlotte, North Carolina. She recalls that it was “just something to do—something for fun.” She turned out to be a natural, and by age five was asked to join the competition team—rare to be asked so young. She started competing with tap, lyrical, and jazz, and by eight-years-old, had performed her first solo.
After nearly a decade of achievements in the world of competition dance, Cassi shifted her focus to ballet. She was born for ballet. A natural in point shoes, Cassi is hyper-mobile and, more importantly, she discovered she has the innate ability to tell a story through movement.
“Ballet requires the ability to show emotion—it’s a very dry type of dance,” she says. “With jazz, lyrical, or contemporary, it’s very easy for a dancer to get the story across. But with ballet you have to be born with the talent to tell a story. That was something I was always good at.” At age 12, her ballet teacher and mentor, Lisa DiPaolo, encouraged Cassi to audition for two ballet company summer intensives: The American Ballet Theater and Nutmeg. Both are world-renowned programs, and at her age, it was a long shot for Cassi to get into either. She was accepted into both.
“Having a teacher who really believed in me played a big part in my dance career. I wouldn’t be where I am now if it weren’t for Lisa.” Around the same time, while training at The Charlotte Ballet, Cassi received a call from the prestigious South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts & Humanities. They recruited her to come in a year early to join their high school program. She continued to earn opportunities to further her study during summers away from school—including at the acclaimed Hubbard Street in Chicago and the Boston Ballet.
All of it took a good deal of sacrifice. Unlike most kids, Cassi couldn’t hang out with school friends in the afternoons. But she cherishes the life lessons dance has provided. “Dance has taught me the importance of being part of a team. And it taught me to trust other people.” Cassi’s rigorous training also instilled good habits for overall wellbeing. “Dance taught me a lot about my health, my body, and what I need to do to stay healthy.”
Ultimately, dance has given Cassi an appreciation of the arts in ways that impact every aspect of her life and worldview. “Dance taught me how important art is to the world—art touches everything around us,” she told ELYSIAN. “I’m always thinking of ways to incorporate dance and the arts into my day-to-day life.”