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We met Kelly in Milano where we hosted her in our humble home at her arrival in Italy, where she would have spent some days before departing to visit her relatives in Greece. We knew she was a dancer, a young girl full of energy and ready for changes. God bless Couchsurfing for making us meet such an inspiring person! We started to know her even better following her steps on Instagram: her second trip to Italy, her relocation to New York and the challenge of making a living out of her passion in such a competitive and overwhelming town. That’s when I decided to ask her if she would be so kind to tell us about her life in New York and her dreams.

Let’s get it started and good luck for your career kelly!

Kelly Vaghenas dancer New York

Kelly, what is your favorite neighborhood in NY?

My favorite neighborhood is definitely Astoria! It’s in the NYC borough of Queens, which is the most diverse country in the United States. It’s known for having pocket neighborhoods of immigrants and their kin, and Astoria is famously the Greek neighborhood. As a Greek-American, it is important to me to connect with my heritage, so I moved here in April.

What makes you feel you are becoming a local of New York and your neighborhood?

1. Riding the subway! I was so excited to finally buy a 30-day unlimited MetroCard when I moved to New York City. Before that, I was commuting here from New Jersey and paying almost $3 for any single subway ride.
2. Embracing the fact that you will have to wait in line for 20 minutes, more or less, whenever you choose to do your food shopping at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods.
3. Hustling. Which entails walking fast and jaywalking.

New York Kelly Vaghenas

What is your favorite place to have breakfast? 

1. As a coffee lover, coffee is usually part of my morning or afternoon routine, and it’s best if I don’t have to take it to go and can sit somewhere and really enjoy it. My absolute favorite place to get coffee and a sweet treat to go with it is Intelligentsia coffee shop. It is situated inside a lovely hotel called the High Line (named after the elevated walking paths that wind through some of Manhattan), and there is a spacious, gorgeous courtyard in the back. Also, the baristas’ latte art is on point.
2. I also love doughnuts! My favorite spots are Doughnut Plant and also Dunwell Doughnuts, which happens to be all vegan.
3. Peacefood Café it’s an all-vegan establishment with all categories of food, smoothies, juices, and divine desserts!

New York coffee Kelly Vaghenas

And where do you fancy having lunch or dinner?

Although Astoria is filled with good food, including Greek food, of course, I haven’t checked out all the hot spots yet and furthermore, as a huge foodie, I don’t mind going into Manhattan or even Brooklyn to satisfy a food craving.
1. Whatever, my local ramen restaurant currently is Shuya Ramen, on Broadway in Astoria. I love soup, even in the summertime!
2. There is a chain of 100% plant-based sushi restaurants in Manhattan called Beyond Sushi. I go there for a quick bite or a full-fledged meal.
3. My recent travels in Italy got me hooked on Neapolitan pizza. I love to go to Don Antonio in a section of Manhattan known for its restaurants called Hell’s Kitchen. It is the New York City equivalent of Starita in Napoli, opened by the same owner.

What about places where to grab a drink, a beer or a glass of good wine?

1. Cocoa bar is all about the three things that every woman – or person – always want: coffee, chocolate, and wine. Their hot chocolate is my favorite. Artisanal chocolate is slowly melted down in the steamed milk of your choice.
2. Barcade combines “bar” and “arcade”; it’s a place to go for both drinks (beer, hard cider) and video games!
3. The Top of the Standard is the penthouse lounge at the top of the Standard Hotel, with expansive views of the city. It’s a great place to check out both day and night.

Let’s talk about something a bit more cultural. What about your favorite off the beaten tracks art, dance or music venues? What would you suggest me to check out when in New York?

You Are So Lucky festival 2017 Kelly Vaghenas

1. It might not be exactly off the beaten track, but the Joyce Theater is certainly less known than larger venues. It is home to dance performances, specifically, and thus I feel at home when I’m there. It’s a cozy theater to see some of the best dance companies from the U.S. and abroad, and all different genres of dance.
2. Caprice! It’s a Greek nightclub in Astoria where there’s never someone not dancing. (For us Greeks, it’s in our blood!) And the best part is that it’s about a 5-minute walk away from my apartment, and right in front of the subway station I use most frequently.
3. The Sculpture Center in Long Island City (LIC), which is right next to Astoria. I stumbled upon this place and was pleasantly surprised! It hosts a wide variety of contemporary sculpture and rotates pieces on a regular basis. Also, the space is a former trolley repair shop!

MetLife fun Kelly Vaghenas

What is your favorite bookstore in NY?

That’s an easy one: Strand! This bookstore is known for “new, used and rare books.” In other words, it has everything! I will always remember that on my first visit to Strand: my eyes fell upon a tote bag that said “A well-read woman is a dangerous creature.” Boom. I knew I’d found a great place.

New York Kelly Vaghenas

Well, what if I ask you what is your secret spot in town?

I love the Queensboro Bridge. I own a road bike and love to ride it either for leisure/exercise or to take me from point A to point B if I don’t feel like taking the subway, and I often ride over this bridge, which connects Long Island City (Queens) to Midtown East (Manhattan). There are also walking lanes for those pedestrians without bikes. As you follow the arch of the bridge, you see the Freedom Tower, Chrysler and Empire State buildings in Manhattan, and Astoria Park and Roosevelt Island, plus the East River, which can look quite beautiful with the right weather, down below.

I usually like to ask for a suggestion and motivational tip for anybody sharing the same path as the person I interview. What would you suggest to those hoping to start a dancer’s career in New York now that it’s more than one year you are living in town?

Pointe and Shoot Kelly Vaghenas

I would say to keep going with it, if it is truly your passion. Even with the talent, even with formal training through the university level, there is so much that is only learned through experience. You must experience rejection but focus and persist, and understand what that cyclical routine feels like. You must be observant and attuned to the industry and how it works. Make friends and good connections in the process; you will feed off of each other’s energy and successes, and that will lift you higher. Most importantly, stay true to yourself.

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish what you’ve set out to do, and this includes echoes of past voices. You are ever growing; you can only go forward.