By Heidi Simmons
There is a spring in Heather Coladonato’s step as she moves about the Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce.
When we sit down for this interview, Coladonato wants to know about her competitors in the Desert AIDS Project’s Dancing with the Desert Stars. I share very little, but Coladonato reads between the lines. I sense she may step up her game.
“I’m a very competitive person,” laughs Coladonato. She may be the only female contestant who has had dance training. As a performing arts student she learned tap, ballet, modern and jazz. She was in a dance company with actresses Alyssa Milano and Christina Applegate.
“I could say ‘been there done that,’ but it doesn’t count what you did as a teenager. And being older you’re not as limber, hips don’t move the same way, ” said Coladonato. But at the same time, she points out that ballroom dancing is very different and this will be her first time.
Choosing to do this event for Coladonato was more than just helping DAP. A busy working wife, and mother of three, she wanted to do it for herself as a birthday present. “I recently turned 40 and this project allows me to focus on myself,” said Coladonato. “My partner, Dennis Jimenez, says he’s helping to bring my sexy back.”
There is a lot more to Coladonato’s story than just getting her sexy back. She is getting her life back. After her children were born, she gained weight and had other complications that resulted in her topping the scales at 325lbs. Over several years, she worked hard to regain her health. When she started at the DHS Chamber, she was 119lbs. Coladonato is not quite 5’2” and still has concerns about her weight.
Dancing has forced Coladonato to take another look at herself. “I don’t feel comfortable in my own skin,” said Coladonato. “And I’m working on my issues while dancing. It has made me consider my relationship with food again, my body, my physical fitness. And my issues with perfection.”
During rehearsals, Jimenez would stop practice because Coladonato was disconnected. Psychologically she was being too hard on herself. She said her issues were getting in the way of the dancing. She had to let go, trust her partner and just dance.
Coladonato is up for the challenge and her joy radiates. She is excited and energized knowing the women involved are going to be good competition, which will make the whole event even better.