By Ilana Kisilinsky and Chavi Charlap
Photography by Chaya Ross. Check out her Instagram!
Chavi Charlap hails from Woodmere; she is a senior in Syms majoring in Business Management and minoring in Marketing. What she is really famous for, though, is her avid interest in all things health, fitness, and dance. She has taken dance classes in New York and LA and now teaches dance all over the New York area. She starred in So You Think Stern Can Dance, played on the basketball team, and is teaching a master dance class on May 1. I sat down with Chavi to get the inside scoop on her super cool life and got some great health tips in the process.
Ilana: When did you first get into dancing?
Chavi: I started when I was really really young. It sounds so classic and cliché but really when I started walking my mom signed me up. We had a studio near us, so I was doing ballet for eight years. I was doing hip-hop also, but not as much. I got really into it, like professionally, when I got older. I started living in the city for college, and I got really into Broadway Dance Center. It’s amazing, like one of the best dance studios in the world. I started going there for open classes, and it was really hard, nothing like I’ve ever done before. Then I went to LA to try a bunch of studios [for a couple of weeks at a time just to take classes], which was even more intense and professional, so I learned a lot and then started teaching on my own.
IK: Are you looking to make dancing a part of your career?
CC: I was actually never going to go to college. I just wanted to do health and fitness, but then I realized it’s such a saturated industry. There’s so much competition and so much going on; it’s not steady. So I wanted to have that backup plan. I also thought if one day I wanted to open up my own studio it’s important to know the business side of it. Maybe eventually I’ll do it full time–that’s my dream–but paying city rent and life is expensive, it’s not so practical.
IK: What is your favorite part about teaching?
CC: Watching people get better. People don’t believe it can happen and I tell them, “You’re gonna get better, you’re gonna get better.” But there are two types of people: the people who don’t believe me and get discouraged and don’t come back or the people who really, really practice and watch videos of themselves and can’t believe the improvement. To me, that’s what makes it all worth it.
IK: What is your favorite kind of dance?
CC: Hip-hop and street jazz are my favorites.
IK: You’re also on the basketball team. How is that?
CC: I loved it. I’m happy I did it for two years because I loved it. I loved being a part of the team, and I loved the workout. I wasn’t going to push myself to do suicides, but it’s a great workout. It’s really cool to be a part of the NCAA, the team is great, we were like sisters, and I’m still friends with them even though the season is over. And I love the sport it’s my favorite sport.
IK: Have you always been into health and fitness?
CC: Yeah. I’ve been a vegetarian my whole life, not even because I felt bad for the animals, necessarily, it just grossed me out. So until I was 17, I was totally vegetarian. Then I slowly started eating other things, and now I’m not a vegetarian anymore. But I was always health conscious as a kid: I was always active, I loved dancing. I always wanted to know what was going in my body, what’s it made of, how does it make me feel. I’m always doing research about why is gluten bad for you, why is dairy bad for you, what should I be eating, what should I not be eating. It’s a life-long journey.
IK: Was health something your parents encouraged or was it something you did on your own?
CC: My parents definitely weren’t the cause of it. I chose to do this on my own. My mom would bring me Little Bites for snack and ketchup chips and all this crap, (excuse my language) and I would look at the ingredients and be like “I don’t know what this is so why am I eating it?”
IK: What is your favorite form of exercise?
CC: I actually don’t believe in doing one type of exercise because I think it overworks the body and it gets boring. I’m a big believer in everything: spin, yoga, dance, cardio, weight training. I try to make time for a little bit of everything. I guess I would have to say dance is my favorite, but I do enjoy all forms of fitness.
IK: Have you tried any of those new crazy exercise fads?
CC: Yeah, I’ve tried a bunch. There are so many boutique fitness studios; I tried Rumble, I tried SoulCycle, I tried Berry’s Boot camp. There are so many of these things, but they’re so expensive and because I like doing different things I never committed to one of them. Y7 is super cool. It’s hip-hop yoga: it’s fast-paced, candlelit, heated. You’re listening to Drake and Kanye West and flowing through these sequences dripping in sweat, and it’s dark so no one sees you. It’s really cool.
IK: What is your favorite healthy food?
CC: I have a few, it’s not like one thing. It’s the typical foods that I eat in my daily diet: avocado, quinoa; nothing out of the ordinary, just good healthy fats like nuts – I eat a lot of nuts. I try not to eat so much meat, chicken, or dairy. I’ll have it once in a while, like on the weekends. It’s so processed that you don’t know where it’s coming from.
IK: What is your favorite unhealthy food?
CC: It’s overrated how unhealthy it is, but I would say pizza. If it’s whole wheat, it’s not that bad for you. But, yeah, that’s my cheat food.
IK: What tips would you give Stern students on how to stay healthy while eating in the caf?
CC: For eating, I get very creative with the caf. I shop at Trader Joes a lot, so I’ll take things from the caf and combine it with what I got from Trader Joes to make something healthy from it. You have to think outside the box and not only look at the packaged things that they sell.
IK: Do you have any examples?
CC: Like today I wanted a salad. So I took the lettuce and the quinoa from the salad bar, put on olive oil and lemon juice, and I went to the sushi bar and got sliced avocado and sweet potato to combine into one salad. Other times I’ll take cottage cheese and healthy chips that I find in the caf and have that as a snack. I’ll get just the raw salmon and cook it in my apartment, or eat tuna.
IK: And what about exercising at Stern?
CC: When I used to live in Brookdale I would work out in that gym [the Brookdale gym] all the time. But I know that a lot of people aren’t so motivated to work out themselves, so there are so many classes near us in the city. Yoga to the People is donation based. It’s yoga for anybody, you pay a suggested amount of like $5, and there are a bunch of locations near us. There’s also a gym on the 11th floor in 245 Lex, and I work out there a lot.
IK: What is the best tip you would give our readers?
CC: This something that I struggled with and is from my own experience: don’t compare yourself or your fitness journey to anyone else’s. So much easier said than done because people all day are like, “Well she did that and she lost weight, maybe I should do that.” Or “she’s gluten-free, so maybe I should be gluten-free” but what she is has nothing to do with you. We’re all different in that way. It’s just important to stay focused on your own goals and do things to reach those goals and not worry about anyone else. Just do you.
IK: Is there anything else you want to share with our readers?
CC: I think it’s always important to ask questions. People are not educated nowadays, they take things at face value, they see something, and they repeat it. You have to filter out what’s correct and what’s not. So if anyone has questions, you can always reach out to me on Instagram and ask me. And always do your own research and think for yourself.
Thank you Chavi for giving us the inside scoop! Make sure to check out Chavi’s incredible Instagram account, _eyeworkout, where you can see her crushing those dance moves or learn about where to take her latest class.