Naomi Rose and Carla O'Connor created NovaPulse, a work-out-through-dance event platform that is shaking up the exercise scene in China. We met up with these two energizer bunnies to learn about what inspires them and how they help others stay motivated through fitness.
What is your background and how did you get involved in dance/dance-based exercise?
Naomi: I discovered my love of dance while representing my home country of Ireland in the World Hip Hop Championships at the age of 16. From there, I started my own street dance program, sharing different styles of dance and providing dance fitness to my local community.
I continuously performed and competed across Europe. After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Art, I continued my training in dance while traveling the world and ended up in Shanghai in 2015.
Here I focused on developing my professional dance and fitness expertise through continued education, teaching and performing. Fourteen years of leading rooms full of people to dance and sweat has given me the energy and passion to want to share this across all of China.
Carla: I’m a classically trained dancer, choreographer and fitness instructor originally from Chicago. I received my BFA in Dance from Western Michigan University in 2016, where I was a featured dancer for the National American College Dance Festival at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
Then I taught dance throughout the US, Brazil and Panama before moving to Beijing in 2017. Although I first traveled to China to teach Broadway Jazz technique and choreography, I quickly transitioned into fitness after being introduced to cycle classes through cross training.
I first anticipated being a coach would be a fun 'side gig,' but it very quickly became my whole world.
What motivated you to take the leap and start your own company?
Naomi: I have past experience running a small business, and I knew I would find a way of starting one again. Carla is one of the most driven people who was unaware of how suitable she was to found and manage a company with me.
The complimentary differences were undeniable; from the moment the words were put out there, it was like fireworks. We went from working out of necessity to working out of pure passion.
Carla: When we met in 2018, we were instant friends, and since then became each other’s biggest cheerleaders. With very similar past experiences, along with aligned goals for the future, it only made sense to collaborate together.
There are so many opportunities for instructors to have more power in the direction the industry is going with ever-changing technology and trends, and we want to support those conversations. Our experience on the ground with clients and our knowledge through our continuous training and studies adds value to these initiatives.
What is NovaPulse’s main goals?
Naomi: Our main goal is to show people that working out doesn’t have to be a chore. Rather than adding it to a 'to do' list out of necessity, we want our clients to look forward to the opportunity to move their body.
From there, we want them to question other parts of their life they may not enjoy and how they can make changes to live an overall happier, healthier life.
Carla: Elevating the fitness industry is one of our top priorities. There are some amazing instructors, studios and platforms out there. It is sometimes hard to figure out which ones hold the most value in terms of quality.
We want to ensure when people enter into a fitness journey, they are guided in the best way so that they can feel the joy in movement that brings about a higher state of mind.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Naomi: We love to start our day with some form of sweat. We hold memberships at seven different boutique fitness studios in Shanghai and love to change it up to keep it fresh and exciting for our mind and body. One to two classes a day keeps us smiling.
After several years of being responsible for leading classes all day long, it’s nice to take time during our day to have a sweat session just for ourselves. It’s always great to be reminded what it feels like to be a student so that we can be better teachers and leaders.
Carla: We recently started our own bilibili channel, along with collaborating with companies to produce Dance Inspired Fitness content such as China’s leading fitness mirror, FITURE. Our days are either filled with practicing together at each other’s homes, in a studio or filming our classes in front of a camera.
We wear a lot more makeup these days and have a lot of fun creatively designing our online classes in a way that it feels as satisfying as an in-person experience for our students. We combine great music themes, fun costumes and awesome new dance moves to bring a party to people’s living rooms.
At night we unwind at home or with friends. We like to read entrepreneurial books before bed such as Start With Why, The Culture Code, Peak Performance, That Will Never Work, etc. to keep us thinking about the quality of the company we hope to build.
We sleep, get up, and do it all over again!
What are some of the partnerships you’ve formed with other unique athletic, sports, health & wellness and restaurant brands, and how can people get involved in these events?
Carla: One event series we have been working on is our NovaPulse VIP Fitness Experience, where we partner with different studios in Shanghai and invite our student base to come try a class (mostly as first time attendees) and enjoy an after party.
We’re so lucky to have support from Athletic Greens, Element Fresh, Yeyo and lululemon for these events to really provide food, fashion, nutrition and sweat all into one event.
Naomi: We are proud to be lululemon ambassadors and quite often lead events for them. Next up, we will be traveling with them to Shenzhen for lululemon MixC Store Opening in September and again for the lululemon Sweat Games National Finals in October.
We are committed to hosting at least one event in Shanghai each month.
What are the most exciting opportunities, and biggest challenges faced starting NovaPulse?
Carla: Our most exciting opportunity has been launching our bilibili channel. It’s so fun to connect with students all over China through this project. When students in Xiamen, Shenzhen and Chongqing send us videos of them dancing with us, our heart completely bursts!
Naomi: The biggest challenge has definitely been learning when to say “No.” We are so incredibly grateful for the amount of support and opportunities that have been offered to us since we began this journey only a few months ago. However, we have really had to hold each other accountable and stay focused on our main goals.
Sometimes we are tempted to try to do it all, but we know quality is more important to us than quantity.
Where do you see the industry going in the next five years in China?
Naomi: It’s booming! From the latest data from Daxue Consulting, 4.9% of people attend gyms in China compared to 20% in the U.S and 14% in the UK; 22.5 % of all people working out in China enjoy engaging in dance as a workout, and almost 70% also workout through following posts, videos and apps.
As of right now, only two out of 100 people work out regularly in China. That number is expected to double in five years. Since working out is such a new concept, it can be easy for people to be intimidated with it at the start. We feel the demand for exercise options that incorporate entertainment will only increase.
How can people learn more, follow you and attend your classes?
Follow our WeChat Official Account by searching for NovaPulse or 星舞心跳.
[All images provided by Naomi Rose and Carla O'Connor]