Belly Dancers... Their Stories, Their Experiences and Their Confessions

From Shaping Skyscrapers to Sculpting Shimmies

Belly Dancers break out of stereotypes and expectations every day and Luisa is one of those multifaceted people. Luisa is a children's belly dance instructor, she has put her career on hold to do her passion. Luisa once had dreams of building Florida's’ skyscrapers and now teaches little belly dancer super kids to reach for the stars. Dilara found her so interesting she decided to interview her. Here is the Questions & Answers from Luisa.belly motions, kids belly dance, HipMix.net

Q.What brought you to belly dance?
A. Fun and fitness!  I have my Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Architecture and Belly Dance became a serious hobby that I studied with love, passion, and respect and is now my full-time job!  In May 2009 I found myself without work (unfortunately like many architects today), and thanks to the amount of time I had dedicated to my “hobby” during the previous 4 years I was able to make a career change that “made sense.”  I never thought I would take Belly Dance on as my career and always taught classes and donated my time to perform and teach just because I loved it.

Q. How long have you been dancing/performing/teaching?
A. I took my first class in June 2005 at Belly Motions with Portia.  In 2006 I was performing on weekends as a student in group numbers and solos.  I began teaching a Beginner’s Course in January 2007 after having completed my first Teacher Training Certification at Belly Motions in 2006.  I was “unofficially training” for my future and didn’t even know it!
 
Although I had performed for many years, I personally consider January 2010 to have been my first year performing as a professional.  My mind was focused, I had specific goals and I called myself a true “Belly Dancer” for the first time ; )
 
Q. Who is your biggest inspiration?
A. My biggest inspiration is my mentor, Portia, the founder, CEO and Artistic Director at Belly Motions®, Inc.  Her professionalism, hard work, and guidance continuously inspire me to be strong and to work towards raising the bar for Professional Belly Dancers everywhere.  Although this job seems (and many times is) glamorous, glittery and “fun,” it requires confidence and pretty thick skin to be successful.  Portia exemplifies what is, in my opinion, a true Professional Belly Dancer.
 

belly dance, kids belly dance, Hipmix.netQ. Did your architect background help you in anyway while teaching/preforming/practicing?
A. YEEEEESSSS!!  So much- I could write a book on it!  This was actually the reason behind a recent photography project I worked on called “When the Art of Architecture meets the Art of Belly Dance.”  The project was more visual because it’s easier for the connection to be made.  Essentially, Architecture is about points, lines, and planes within space – dance is similar in that through our movements we are creating points, lines, and planes with our bodies within space!
The process of creating a design, any design (a building, a chair, a dress) begins with an idea, a thought or a vision (Same thing whenever I select a song to which I will create a choreography).  That concept must then be transformed into a reality through an organized process.  For architects it’s through sketches, plans and models (As a choreographer I naturally think spatially and in “plan” and I always sketch).  Elements of design such as rhythm, patterns, and symmetry are all found in both dance and music!  Many architects actually look to dance and music for inspiration on their projects!
The other element that helps is my experience dealing regularly with clients as Project Manager, being in charge of schedules, creating presentations, running meetings, meeting deadlines… all of this I bring to my work as a Belly Dancer and it has truly helped me succeed.

 
Q. What was your “Ah-Ha! I’m a belly dancer moment”?
A. Oh dear, I feel like I have these on a regular basis!  It’s a very personal question because to be a practicing Belly Dancer can mean many different things to each of us.  For me, every time I see a big, bright smiling face from a student who just finished taking my class, or maybe just performed at a student show or community event, or even an audience member for whom I just performed – I know I’m doing something right!  This is what inspired my towards the end of 2009 to make an official career change.  It’s never been about making a name for myself, but it has definitely always been about sharing the beauty and benefits of Belly Dance with others.
 
 
Q. Any obstacles that you faced or still face as a belly dancer?  Please share.
A. Undercutting by other “professional” Belly Dancers.  It’s the on-going battle that   typically comes hand-in-hand with an improper and un-authentic presentation of the dance.  An educated, properly trained dancer is aware of his/her value, the amount of time and overall work that goes into preparing our shows and classes (everything from training to costuming to travel expenses), and would never sacrifice the quality of their worth as professional in their field.  This topic deserves an article all on its own ; )belly dance, kids belly dance. ,HipMix.net
 
Q. What advice would you give to a newbie?
A. To a newbie student:  Take your classes with an open & happy heart – you have just given yourself the wonderful gift of learning to Belly Dance!
 
To a newbie aspiring to go “Pro:” Ask yourself and be very clear in your answer “Why do I want to become a Belly Dancer?”  There are MANY positive reasons we make the decision and many ways to go about “making it” as a professional.  Set realistic goals and make them happen within a reasonable amount of time.  Always value your worth and stick to your guns.
 
Also very important is to choose a mentor wisely.  Once you’ve answered the first question find a Belly Dancer whose work reflects that which you would like to achieve in a similar manner. 
 
Q. What’s in your practice bag?
A. My stinky Capezio Half Sole Sandasols (I can’t take a class without them!), a veil, a pair of old zills, a crochet hip scarf, and a coin belt! 
 
Q. What do you wish people outside of belly dance knew?
A. Lack of education amongst the general public with regards to both Belly Dance as a performance art and to the benefits of practicing Belly Dance as a form of fitness. Because of this I believe that to take on the role of a Belly Dancer, whether you are a teacher or a performer or both, means that we must strive to educate through our work.
 
Also that it’s not as easy as we make it all seem – I mean this in all aspects from preparing a class and then presenting it to preparing a show and then presenting it. 
 
Q. Anything you want to leave us with?
A. Don’t be afraid to live your dreams.  You can achieve your goals with good hard work, determination, and an open yet focused mind.  Choose your mentors wisely no matter what it is you do for a living.
 
Belly Dance to me is like a room full of shimmies, you never what you’re gonna get (since no two shimmies will ever be the same)!

 

Q. Have you considered going back to your original career path?
A. Of course, the thought has definitely crossed my mind and I get asked this quite often!  The honest truth is that I do not miss it.  Architecture is a beautiful profession but you really need to find work in the areas of the field that truly inspire you because to be great at it takes a lot of time, energy, and dedication.  Although I enjoyed working in the industry for about 6 years, I was not involved in the areas of the field that really move me.  So if in 5, 10 or 15 years some sort of project comes along in which I can get involved with because it makes sense - I would do so!  And why not, who says I can’t be a part-time Architect!  I used to be a part-time Belly Dancer ; )