Milford ballerina opens life coaching studio

MILFORD — Being in the spotlight is nothing new for Danielle Rathey.

A ballet dancer for many years, Rathey has endured feelings of stage fright and of not being good enough. This is why she decided to open Happiness Hut to help performers dealing with mental health issues that affect their performances on stage.

"My career began in the arts as a ballet dancer, and then I became a school psychologist," she said. "I did everything like determining learning disabilities and working with children on social and behavioral challenges, and the whole gambit of possibilities, and I loved it."

Happiness Hut had its grand opening on Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 125 Broad St.

A Milford native, Rathey said she used to live just a few blocks away from her business's location.

"I would always notice this place, and I always thought how amazing it would be to be here, and I didn't know how it would happen," she said.

After working as a school psychologist, Rathey earned a doctorate in education and counseling psychology from UConn.

In her new business venture, Rathey works with individuals on their social and behavioral wellness. She has three main areas of focus: coaching parents of children with special needs to help them be advocates for their child; performance coaching to help performers grow; and personal coaching through the sisu method.

"Sisu is a Finnish term, the extraordinary and indomitable Finnish spirit never to quit and to go beyond all limitations, especially in the face of adversity," Rathey said. "We all have sisu ... this strength, this power within us. It's an involuntary kind of response. It's something we don't have control over. But I am helping to identify (their) sisu. (They) can cultivate and call upon it when they need it most."

Sisu also includes happiness, Rathey said. But it's not just positive emotion, she said. It consists of a sense of meaningfulness, engagement, accomplishment and more.

In her personal life, Rathey had to use sisu to bring positivity while navigating a hard time.

"I got COVID in March of 2020 while working in New York City at NYU," she said. "I remember saying goodbye to my students and wishing them a happy extended spring break."

At the time, Rathey was still performing as a ballet dancer and was supposed to start a program with NYU around ballet pedagogy.

"What ended up happening a couple of months later was my body stopped working the way it should," she said. "I had no muscular endurance, cardiovascular endurance. I was weak, and my joints started locking up. I'm still on my path to recovery from that. But what grew out of that is I understood myself that I love teaching, and I love working with people to make them feel good."