Letter to My Teenage Self: Tony Testa

(Photo by Mike Quain, courtesy Tony Testa)

A former comp kid who grew up in Fort Collins, CO, Tony Testa has had what many would call a dream career. By the time he turned 21, Testa had choreographed for Janet Jackson and Britney Spears and performed in the film Dreamgirls. In 2009, he worked closely with Kenny Ortega on Michael Jackson’s This Is It tour. Since then, he’s choreographed for TV shows, K-pop groups and concert performances, including One Direction’s appearance on “Saturday Night Live.”

Testa is now using his dance-world celebrity for a good cause: In 2013, his work “Get Wet” premiered at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art for the organization Heal the Bay, to help raise awareness about overfishing. He’s also returning to his roots on the circuit—he’s on faculty at Monsters Dance Convention and New York City Dance Alliance, reaching hundreds of aspiring dancers and choreographers nationwide. —Jenny Dalzell


Choose courage over comfort. When you feel yourself coming up with reasons to play small, or to not participate, run head-on into whatever you’re fearing. The more you push yourself, the stronger and faster you will grow. And as you grow, hang on to your love for experimentation. Treat your biggest projects with the same playful curiosity you have in a studio by yourself, creating just for fun.

Speak your own truth. It’s OK to admit you don’t have all the answers. Don’t feel like you need to tell everyone how busy you are in order to stay relevant. I know you’re in a hurry to live this incredible life, but be proud of exactly where you are each step of the way.

At age 17 (photo courtesy Nancee Testa)

When you reach your goals, recognize and celebrate them! It’s tempting to just move on to the next project, but don’t skip this very important step. After all, you are living your dreams!

The world is yours,


P.S. If you’re wondering if your creative process will get any easier, the answer is (drumroll, please): Nope! Sorry, bud. But by putting more trust in your final product, you’ll learn to embrace the discomfort.

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