Meet Elise Kruger, the L.A. Ballerina Hosting Psychology Education Pop-Ups

May 30, 2024

When American Contemporary Ballet principal Elise Kruger found herself stuck at home amid pandemic lockdowns, she signed up for an online psychology class. It’s a subject that’s always interested her.

“There are so many basic psychology tips and tools you can learn just from understanding how your brain works,” she says. For dancers, a bit of neuroscience can help find “a way to push yourself that is actually helpful and doesn’t make you feel so anxious and stressed and worked-up all the time.”

Kruger, who joined ACB in 2016, realized through her classes that these insights don’t have to be discovered alone, and they applied to far more than just the studio or the stage.

Inspired, Kruger teamed with her friend (and nondancer) Sandra Milosevic, to found Club Rewire, a mental health pop-up company with the slogan “Think psychology class, but more fun.”

Starting Small

ELise Kruger and Sophie Milosevic, two women in their 20s or early 30s, stand close to each other in front of a yellow backdrop. They both wear jeans, white t-shirts and high heels. Kruger leans against Milosevic and puts both hands on her shoulders.
Elise Kruger and Sophie Milosevic. Photo by Haley Gilbert, courtesy Club Rewire.

Club Rewire began in 2022, when the duo invited a few friends for an afternoon of socializing in Kruger’s backyard. They wanted to test out their concept and get feedback. Milosevic, who studied psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, spoke about attachment theory while the group enjoyed refreshments.

Just two years later, Club Rewire now hosts weekly pop-up events featuring a range of psychology and neuroscience experts in partnership with national brands. Each pop-up features a topic—some this month include neuroplasticity, self-identity, and anxiety—with a licensed therapist, a neuroscientist, or a neuropsychologist presenting their expertise while attendees enjoy drinks and an activity related to the day’s topic.

At a recent neuroplasticity pop-up, for example, Kruger and Milosevic partnered with a graffiti artist who specializes in repeated phrases. “Building a new neural pathway involves so much repetition,” Kruger says. “After the talk, everyone took a word or a phrase and designed their own art piece with that phrase.”

Other events have featured lessons in flower arranging, decorating baseball caps, sessions in pointillism and mural painting, with event sponsors like Girl Scouts, WeWork, clothing design company LoveShackFancy, health performance app Breathwrk, Truly LA, Brooklinen, and more.

Offstage Help, Onstage Results

Balancing her dance career with the demands of running a business is not easy, but Kruger says her routine keeps her grounded. “I’ve gotten into a good groove of, I wake up early, I get, like, two and a half hours of work in before I get to ACB and take class and do rehearsal all day,” she says.

Plus, the Club Rewire experts continue to help Kruger personally, onstage and off. When ACB returned to performing after the pandemic, she found herself caught off guard with intense performance anxiety. “One tip that one of our speakers explained to me was [to learn about] amygdala hijacking,” she says.

The phrase is a fancy term for our fight-or-flight responses, which often kick into gear in high-stress situations like performing. “I felt like if I didn’t get nervous, I wouldn’t do as well,” says Kruger. But understanding the biology behind anxiety and using grounding tools from Club Rewire’s speakers “made a big difference.”

Plus, Kruger adds, being a dancer helps her run the business. “The level of discipline, consistency, and resilience you have to have as a dancer are skills that have been essential to Club Rewire,” she says.

(Bonus points for a great co-founder, too! Milosevic now works full time for Club Rewire, but previously had a career in the tech industry. “We bring different skill sets to the table,” Kruger says.)

A long, low wooden table is set with plates and wine glasses on a sunny beach. Throw pillows act as seats around the table. Off to the side, a bar cart and blue cooler is shaded by a floral-print beach umbrella. A chalkboard sits next to it with the words Club Rewire Work Shop written on it in white chalk. The ocean is in the background.
Photo by Beau Campbell, courtesy Club Rewire.

A Vision for the Future 

Club Rewire is now well-established in Los Angeles, and with the help of a therapist speaker who happened to be moving across the country, also recently expanded to New York City. Nevertheless, the heart of that first day in Kruger’s backyard remains. “We like to have structure, but then leave a bit of space for the magic to come in,” Milosevic says.

Both she and Kruger speak passionately about the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2023 declaration of an “epidemic of loneliness and isolation,” and they see Club Rewire as part of the answer—events are loosely structured, with flexibility for attendees to maximize their group learning, wherever they are.

“Our vision for the next few years is that anybody would be able to go on their phones, open an app, look up an event anywhere, in whatever city they’re in, and just say, ‘Okay, there’s this community that we know that we can go to,’ ” Milosevic says. “We can pop up anywhere.”

Kruger agrees: “That’s a huge part of our psycho-education,” she says. “We want our audience to be able to approach mental health in a fun and accessible way.”