This week’s blog is very special to me as it came from an email from a young gentleman named Kevin Kess who was looking for some insight about belly dance and my views. With his permission I am going to share my answers to his questions and invite you to reply in the comments below with what your answers would be to some of these as well to give this aspiring dancer as much support as possible.
“Dear Ms. Jennifer,
Hello. For a long time, I have had quite an interest in bellydance. For me, it had begun at age 14 when I first watched some performance DVDs. My interest in such a subject has continued to grow since then.
In any case, I have made it a point to gain a much greater understanding of the belly dance community along with those who practice it (and possibly help them get to a new era of respect with possible better opportunities for work among other things).
So, if you’re interested, I’d like to ask you some questions in order to not only bring me closer to this goal, it would also provide me different perspectives and may give me an idea of what I can do to help out these communities.
First up, the first batch of questions on belly dance:
1. Was being a dancer something that you’ve always wanted to do?
2. What was the first BD performance that you saw and how or in what way did it have an impression on you?
The first actual live belly dance performance I saw was by my first teacher Jolie of Elements of dance. I went to try belly dance and thought she was the most beautiful, elegant woman I had ever seen and remember thinking that I wanted to be as amazing as her. I saw her dance and I knew that this genre was something I wanted to learn about deeply.
3. Who would you say is or has been your biggest influence in the BD community?
Oh my there isn’t really one person. I have an appreciation for what many bring to the table in various styles. From the early days it was most definitely Sadie, Didem Kinali, Orit, and Racheal Brice. Now I can add so many more to the list such as Alla kushnir, Zoe Jakes, Randa Kamel, Yamil Annoum, Hind Haymour, and so many others it would be too long to list on one blog.
4. If this person is an inspiration to you, why?
These people are inspirations for several main reasons. One being that the slimmer dancers such as Alla Kushnir, and Didem Kinali for example always gave me hope that I would be able to dance bigger and be able to do big movements even with as slim/muscular as we are. Randa and Yamil I love for their extensions, energy, and level of difficulty. Racheal Brice and Zoe Jakes I adore for their innovations and fluidity and stretch, Hind I admire for her genuine authenticity to the dance form and inner beauty and support. Orit I respect for her amazing facial expressions and humor. Each brings something to the table I truly look up to.
5. What have been some of your most favorite moments throughout your career as a dancer?
Making people cry of joy or sorrow when they watched me perform. It is a compliment I am so humbled by. Another favorite moment is when little children make me things or do the sweetest and innocent gestures of appreciation. Another big moment was winning in all categories in world. There are many, but these are what popped immediately to mind.
6. What have been some of your least favorite moments?
Least favorite has been a group of jealous belly dancers who tried to have a sponsor not allow me perform at her event when I was starting to gain popularity here. Another was a dancer who moved to Orlando who I genuinely opened up to and supported in moving here to be successful, who turned her back on me as soon as she moved and spread lies. Another would be dealing with piece of garbage restaurant managers in the past who I should honestly have given my two cents two and never have worked for.
7. Would you still have chosen to become a belly dancer had you known then what you know now?
Yes. I made the choice after going to college, having a job in marketing, and I decided to drop it all, go to world and do this. It is the hardest thing ever to succeed in this industry and I am still trying to figure out how to gain a comfortable economic living off of this compared to the corporate world, but I absolutely love what I do!
8. What does belly dance (both as an art-form and in general) mean to you?
Belly dance to me is a responsibility and an expression. It is the responsibility to learn about and represent a culture very far from us here in America. To preserve an art that has passed countless centuries. It is the responsibility to respect it, to innovate if we choose, but still be mindful and knowingly know what you are doing to it. There is also the responsibility as an instructor to cultivate students who understand all of this just as well if not more, and can pass it down themselves responsibly one day.
I say it is an expression because it is at its core (in my eyes) an expression of joy, passion, sorrow…life. Every time I dance I become someone else, I reach deep into the emotions and everything inside me and express it and ask for energy in return. Nothing is more thrilling or beautiful.
9. What was it that most attracted you to the culture and/or world of belly dance?
The exoticness of it all. I am Hispanic and to me seeing the colors, the music, the different costuming and dress, the dance styles, the food (yum)…. it was so different and keeps me so interested as I learn more about each region that belly dance has touched.
10. Do you feel that there will come a day where belly dancers such as yourself and others like you will enter into a new era of respect and recognition (as well as bigger and better opportunities for work) much like how the way that hula and its dance community has become?
I work hard every day so that this can happen. I hope beyond hope that one day all genres of belly dance whether authentic or modern, can be educated and respected enough to where they represent the art form to a higher degree, and in turn are respected that much more. There are too many one day belly dancers and hobbyists who do it ‘for fun” and what they are dancing is almost nothing related to belly dance. They probably have no idea belly dance is even from the Middle East, they think it is from India! This is what I and many others who are passionate about this are working hard to fix, but it will take many, many more and new standards of learning and curriculum in belly dance schools before this happens.
11. What would you like to be most remembered for?
For the quick abdominal combinations, emotionality, and innovations in belly dance I am working hard to achieve at a higher and higher level each day through my body of work. I also want to be remembered for the academy style curriculum and the dancers who come out of it, and their body work because of this style of dance school I am cultivating.
12. What would be the one thing that you could tell your younger self if you had the ability to travel back in time?
Wow many things, but mostly, to have studied a different major in college so that I would have been able to have done something more with my schooling during the day and belly dance the other half of the day. I would have told myself to have told several managers to bug off from the beginning. I would tell myself to have from the start, to have begun with folklore and then done all the modern mayhem as now I am going back to the authentic roots more in my studies and dance. Finally I would have yelled at myself for not putting my website and marketing myself much sooner out of idiotic fears I had when I was younger.
Hope This Helped!
Hope this helped Kevin, and hope to read other dancers comments below. Would love to see your answers to one or more of the questions above, do not be shy. To learn more about me and my belly dancing here in Orlando, FL or workshops internationally, visit my home page: bellydancebyjennifer.com