What is your PulsePDX story?

PulsePDX Member DenaI moved to Portland from NYC a little over 8 years ago. When I first got here, I started looking on Groupon for things to do. I love dancing but had never really taken dance classes or anything formal like that. I’ve never felt comfortable or welcome in gym settings– like I was taking up too much space or didn’t belong. My relationship with working out has always been that of punishment and a need to make my body smaller. But here I was, clueless in a new city and wanting to try something. So, I built up the courage and bought a pass.

When I stepped inside the dimly lit, mirrorless, disco ball laden studio, something in the universe shifted for me. I was surrounded by people in all different shapes, sizes, ages and orientations. Strangers came up and introduced themselves. As Donnie started class, he asked if there were any first time students. I tentatively raised my hand, waiting for folks to turn around and stare and judge me. Much to my surprise, everyone started cheering. I was gobsmacked. The music began and we collectively got lost in dancing. An hour later, I was drenched in sweat and smiling harder than I had in a long time. This was my safe space. I had found home.

Dena and Danny

I bought a 4 class membership and religiously went to Donnie & Danny‘s classes. Eventually, my confidence grew and I moved up closer to the stage (not that it matters at all! Everyone should go up front!). I started making real friends with whom I’d hang out outside of class. One day, I did something I never would’ve imagined I’d do: I went up on stage and danced to Sia’s “Cheap Thrills” alongside Donnie. Keep in mind that this scenario of moving my body with all eyes on me has historically been the stuff of nightmares. As Donnie and I danced, I wasn’t even aware of the crowd until I started hearing people cheering me on and screaming. It was an overwhelming feeling of support and acceptance. For the first time in my life, I felt really, really good in my own skin. For the first time since moving across the country, I had real community.

Dena at homeYears later, the pandemic hit and life got really scary and weird. I was so grateful that PulsePDX started offering virtual classes (which you should absolutely take- they are AMAZING!). I did them all alone in my small, 2nd floor apartment for a little while but it just wasn’t the same for me. My mental health started to decline, and eventually I stopped dancing for “a little” which ultimately turned into a 2 year hiatus. Eventually, the world began to reopen and my mental health had begun to heal.

The first time I walked back into the studio following the pandemic, it wasn’t the Pulse I remembered. I didn’t recognize a lot of the faces or the new songs. And yet… it was all deeply familiar. I kept coming week after week, slowly picking up new choreography, trying new classes like Werq and Burn, and introducing myself to new people who quickly became an important group of friends in my life.

My 2nd or 3rd week back in class, I was taking Donnie’s Dance Fitness class and I heard the first few notes of “Cheap Thrills” start to play. My body instinctively began to dance to what my muscles remembered, and my eyes welled up. It was such an overwhelming feeling of beautiful memories and a palpable reconnection with the joy I had long known and lost. I was back.

How long have you been coming to PulsePDX?

7 yearsPulsePDX Members

What are some of your favorite things about PulsePDX?


It’s hard to pick only a few! I love the sense of community and the people who form it. I love that it is a body positive and gender inclusive space. I love that there are no mirrors. And let’s be real, I’m never mad about a disco ball.

What do you do when you aren’t dancing with us?

As for my profession, I’ve been in marketing for over a decade. As for life, I spend a lot of time going to dog parks and birding with my Wirehaired Vizsla named Clifford. He’s the best boy and my pride and. In the summer, I can be found sailing on the Columbia and gardening. I am passionate about all things culinary, especially cooking Jewish food. I make a killer brisket! I also love going to the coast to go whale watching.