Life Stories

LIFE STORIES: International dancer becomes wellness writer

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jul. 2, 2018 7:25 am Updated: Jul. 5, 2018 10:09 am

EMERYVILLE, Calif. -- Krisna Hanks has taken the grit and determination that allowed her to sustain a professional dancing career into her 40s and applied those skills to helping others lead healthier lives.

Hanks grew up in Quincy, a daughter of long-time Quincy High School and Quincy College basketball coach Sherrill Hanks. She was inspired by her father's discipline and work ethic, and by 6 years old, she was practicing at a dance studio at least three times per week.

"Growing up at that time, there weren't a lot of sports for girls," the 61-year-old said. "I did cheerleading, gymnastics and was heavily involved in the dance community. I was 3 the first time I attended a dance lesson."

Hanks' mother, Sondra, took her daughter to her first dance lesson. Sondra didn't know if the family could afford the pursuit, but Sherrill said, if Krisna took to it, they would find a way. She danced with the Pamela Bedford Dance Company through her teenage years. Two peers from her company, Curt Jacobs and Ann Westhoff Sorvino, also went on to pursue professional dance careers.

"I loved it, and I never refrained from loving it," she said. "I think there are certain people who find something when they are very young and just stick with it because it's the right fit. For me, dance was the right fit."

Training rigorously for most of her young life paid off when she studied dance at Indiana University. After spending many years dancing across Europe, she returned to the university for a year to teach and perform -- an invitation that she saw as bringing her career full-circle and offered her the opportunity to obtain her master's degree in kinesiology in the process. She later obtained a second master's degree in business administration.

Her career -- she retired at 43, a long run in the professional dance world -- took her overseas for two decades. She danced with the Dutch National Opera and Aspect Theater in London before starting her own dance company, Raw Materials Dance Theater, based in Amsterdam, which she operated for eight years before returning the states.

"I couldn't believe it was me doing this," she said. "I got to see a lot of the world through my work, what an incredible opportunity that was."

Several years abroad led her to speak fluent Dutch and French and some Italian. She obtained dual citizenship in the Netherlands and, while performing there, met her husband, Robert Surenbroek, a Dutch citizen working as a cameraman at the time.

Those years were devoted almost entirely to the art form. Her days began with dance classes, and rehearsals consumed her afternoons. When in a production, performances filled her evenings six nights a week. Most jobs in the dance world come with an expiration date, and so, even when she was cast for a performance, Hanks was constantly seeking out and auditioning for the next role.

"Dance is a hard life. You have to have grit," she said. "You won't make a lot of money, so you better love it."

The couple moved to California in 2002 and opened the East Bay Pilates Studio in 2005. Health and wellness had been a constant through most of Hanks' life, and in the final years of her dance career, while running her own theater company, she had taken on a coaching position with the company's dancers.

"I gained some of those leadership skills that my dad had," she said.

Six years ago, she launched a wellness blog, square1wellness.com, on which she writes about all aspects of health. She serves as a wellness consultant for Emeryville and, for 15 years, has been an executive coach for Executive Performance Training, a company that specializes in communication and coaching courses for CEOs and senior level executives.

"As a dancer, you can't forget to take care of yourself, otherwise you won't have any work," she said. "That's a skill I was able to carry over."

The natural progression of her blog was to write a book in which she distilled down the most important aspects of wellness, a process she recently completed after a year and a half of work.

"I was seeing more and more people struggle with getting a grasp on how to take care of themselves," she said. "I wanted one small, concise piece of work that breaks everything down in a nutshell and makes it seem simple."

"Finding Lifestyle Sanity: A Survival Guide" was the result -- a compilation of Hanks' experiences in the wellness world geared an aging population. The first printing sold out, and the book is on its second printing. The book is available in Quincy at Potter & Vaughn or online.

"People are responding in a way that makes me feel great," Hanks said. "I hope it inspires people to start taking care of themselves."

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