After a bad sprain at 19 years old, Talia Favia left L.A. and went home to Phoenix to heal. While she was unable to dance full-out, she began to teach and choreograph. "I realized then that I was meant to be a choreographer and teacher," she says. "When I was auditioning in L.A., I would feel guilty, because I knew there were dancers there who wanted to perform more than I did. It took sitting out for me to realize that I just loved being behind the scenes."

Since then, Favia, 27, has thrived as a choreographer, setting numbers on studios around the country, creating viral dance videos, creating pieces on "So You Think You Can Dance" and "Dancing With the Stars," and receiving the top prize at the 2014 A.C.E. Awards.


Dance Teacher: Tell us about your road to winning the A.C.E. Awards.

Talia Favia: I submitted for the A.C.E. awards three years in a row. I wasn't a finalist the first year or the second year, and I was pretty defeated by the third time around. I was very young, and I knew that, but when you hear the word "no" so many times, you get defeated. The third year I didn't tell anybody that I was submitting, but when I got the e-mail that I was a finalist, I told everybody that I possibly could. I was just so excited!

The thought of winning didn't even come to mind until the day of. I was just so happy to be there and was so proud of myself and my dancers. You invest so much time and money, and it's the first time you put your work out in front of a lot of important people. It's just an intense moment in a choreographer's career.

Within the first two eight-counts, I was screaming because I was so happy and proud. There's a picture of me after I won, and my eyes look like they're popping out of my face. It'll go up there with my wedding day—it was one of the best days of my life.

DT: How did it impact your career?

TF: I feel like the year after winning changed me as a choreographer and as an artist. When you take home an award like that—one that's judged by the best of the best—it makes you realize that if other people think you can do this, maybe you can. It made me hustle and fall in love with what I do even more, and it gave me the opportunity to create my show [her prize for winning was $15,000 to produce a full-length show], The Difference Between Actions and Words, which is my favorite thing I've ever created. Not to mention it introduced me to all of the studios that I get to work with now. As much as I love being a choreographer, I think teaching is my life's calling.

DT: What's your philosophy for approaching class?

TF: I try to make my students feel very comfortable. Because I ask a lot from them, there's a sense of fear already in my work. The last thing I want a student to do is fear me, too. I don't try to come across as higher than them. I want them to feel as comfortable as possible, because I know how uncomfortable they're about to feel when we begin to move.

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