Jodie Gates is a luminary in the world of ballet and dance. After a long career on stage, she has developed into a beloved teacher, choreographer, and mentor—pushing the art form forward with her commitment and passion. Currently the Director and Vice Dean of the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance, Gates is also the founding director of the award winning Laguna Dance Festival. In 2014, she won Artist of the Year at the Laguna Beach Art Star Awards.
This week, the longtime Laguna Beach resident took a few minutes to talk about her first visit to town, her favorite places to relax, and her best bet for Sunday brunch.
Fisherman’s Cove is my “go-to” place to unwind and relax. The small cove is fortunately only a few steps away from my home and I make weekly visits, especially during the warmer months. Sitting on my beach chair, reading the Sunday Times, and listening to some chill tunes is a luxury that I embrace and look forward to every Sunday afternoon.
We created the Laguna Dance Festival 10 years ago to acknowledge the importance of dance in our society as an educational, informative and exquisite form of expression. For me, the art forms of dance and music have always been a large part of any cultural tradition. The dance festival completes our town’s thriving arts scene. Laguna Beach is known as an arts colony and is filled with creativity—I look forward to the Laguna Dance Festival having a large impact on our youth and being a significant part of the town both for entertainment and for education.
Jodi Gates_Laguna Beach Dance Festival 
My spouse and I try to support all local restaurants by trying new places as often as possible. We love 230 Forest for their Sunday brunch (but you need to get there before noon). For dinner, it’s Carmelita’s, Nick’s, the LumberyardSplashesK'ya Bistro Bar or Tommy Bahama. For Sunday happy hour it’s Mozambique.
When I have guests visiting town I take them on a stroll through Heisler Park in North Laguna. We take the walking path along the ocean down to Main Beach, walk into town, do some shopping and eat lunch—followed by a drive to Montage Laguna Beach for cocktail hour.
Heisler Park_Laguna Beach
Laguna Beach heals the soul and fosters creativity. I took my first visit when I was a young ballerina in the Joffrey Ballet and it was love at first sight. At that time, I was touring the world, with many aspirations and hopes and dreams. I am a California girl, originally from Sacramento, and have always said you can take the girl out of California but never California out of the girl. During my dancing career, I lived in New York City, Philadelphia and in Europe—knowing one day I would be back to make a difference for the community through dance education and presentation. I knew even then, 30 years ago, that I would one day make a home for myself in Laguna Beach!
Jodi Gates_Dancing 

‘My Laguna Beach' is a new series of interviews in which some of the city's most prominent fans give us a virtual tour and share their Laguna Beach secrets. Tweet or Instagram your own Laguna faves to us @VisitLaguna with the hashtag #MYLAGUNABEACH.

*This interview was edited for length and clarity.