Tell me a bit about yourself and your family.
I’m a 40 year old homeschooling mother of two teens, costumer, professional tribal fusion performance artist and belly-dance instructor. We live on a small homestead in Bradford NH, which is still a work in progress since we’ve moved in just a year and a half ago.
Where did you learn belly-dancing?
I actually discovered belly-dance back in the autumn of 2001 when I picked up a belly-dance workout video on a whim: “Neena and Veena’s Belly-dance Workout”. It only took a few minutes of practice for me to fall in love with the art.
Since I couldn’t find a teacher that was less than an hour drive away, I sought out every belly-dance book and video I could find. This was before the days of YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, so trying to connect with local dancers was a challenge!
Eventually I was able to get in touch with a dancer named Zahira and went to my first belly-dance workshop. It was half class, half audition for a new belly-dance show that was touring the world. I got a chance to speak with the workshop teacher who suggested I attend as many workshops as I could. I remember she said to me, “you can learn belly-dance from videos and books. It is possible! But it is also crucial to get feedback from a live, in person teacher.”
So I kept on learning from every source I could. I’ve traveled throughout New England to learn from some of the best dancers in the world, and I am so fortunate to have been able to do that!
How long have you been teaching? What made you decided to start teaching?
I started teaching in 2007, just friends and family out of a home studio. I really just wanted to share the art form with people around me for the sake of having other people to dance with. That, and I really felt like I wanted to break through some of the judgments people still have about what belly-dance is.
Even now when I say I’m a dancer and then tell people that I belly-dance, I get comments like, “Oh, I thought you were a real dancer,” or “So you’re basically a stripper, right?” It’s really important to me to share belly-dance as a valid art form, that requires serious dedication and consistent hard work and training to perform.
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Do you do any marketing or advertising? What kind?
I am part of several online belly-dance groups where I can advertise upcoming belly-dance classes and events for those already interested in dance to see. Sometimes I will have posters made up to share around locally. I don’t usually leave business cards at places other than with those places I’ve performed at, or post ads with newspapers or online like on craigslist, simply because in the past that kind of advertising attracts mostly people who confuse belly-dance with “exotic” dance, and that’s not what I want.
What are your favorite business tools/apps?
I have recently found a great app called “band” where I can add others to in order to share ideas, video, and events with. This has been surprisingly helpful while working on organizing dance events and performances with people who aren’t close enough to meet up with in person on a regular basis.
Any tips for balancing working for yourself and taking care of your family?
Making a time budget has really helped with that! I estimate how much time I need to put into my own training, teaching, choreographing, paperwork, etc for belly-dance, then fit that into each week. That way, I know I have say, two hours to practice on a Thursday before I teach the hour and a half class.
I might have to wake up a little early to fit that in around family time and my day job, but it’s a good way to know what the week ahead will be like and prepare for it.
I notice if I make a time budget at the beginning of each week, I feel much less stressed and can enjoy my family time more.
What tips would you give to a mother who wanted to start a new business?
Plan as much as you can, and then just take action! Having a good support system of friends and/or family is great, but even if you don’t have that, just be brave and get yourself out there. I guess that’s the biggest piece of advice I could give, just be brave. Do the work, know your stuff, and then take action.
What are your goals for 2017?
Building up new student base for me is really important, right now. Belly-dance has taught me so much about accepting and loving myself and those around me, without judgment, that I want to spread that knowledge as far as I can!
Starting back up with teaching a “mommy and me style” class is something I’d like to get going again, so that will probably happen in the spring or summer. I’d like to get a few belly-dance shows going up this way too!
How do you practice self care?
Really, dancing just for myself is a wonderful way to let go of the day’s stress, and just “be.” In bellydance circles, we sometimes call class “dance therapy” and for good reason!
Other than that, I make sure at least once or twice a week, I take an hour or so to do exactly what I want to. If it’s eating potato chips and watching old Bollywood movies with my kids, I do it. If it’s taking a long bath with scented oils, candles, and all that, I do it.
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Being mothers, we become experts at taking care of everyone around us. It’s so fulfilling raise children, and see them grow into wonderful people! At the same time, it is easy to lose who we are as individuals. Working for yourself, and being able to make money doing something you love to do is a wonderful way to achieve a sense if accomplishment and pride in ourselves that’s separate from parenting.