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August 13, 2017

19 To Now 29: What 10 Years as A Bellydancer Feels Like Now

jennifer belly dancer in orlando

As I announced a couple of months ago, this year marked my 10th year as an Orlando Bellydancer. I adore this city and all of the possibilities this market has made possible due to the fact that all the theme parks are nearby, there is a melting pot of cultures that have moved here, and all of the exotic cuisine that has made Orlando a foodie destination. All of these things along with a strong belly dance community has created the perfect recipe to be able to have tried a bit of everything.

10 Years in A Nutshell

Ten years ago, I was traveling an hour each way to take belly dance classes. I was in college, didn’t know anyone, and became drawn to this dance form as it was challenging and fun. Fast track to a year later and I was working as a bellydancer for tourist/convention patrons. I worked there for 6 years and really “got my chops” while there. I had to entertain during a 3-hour shift. It was my crash course into how to become not just a better belly dancer, but a strong entertainer and business woman.

During this time, I continuously trained. No matter how much school I had, belly dancing became my escape and haven. I trained very hard as I soon went from simply dancing at a restaurant to formulating the goal of becoming the best dancer I could possibly be and breaking out of my city. I then began training for a while, then started competing, then winning, and winning some more and from there had 2 full years of teaching workshops and traveling (2013-2015). It was amazing, but not without sacrifices.

In those first 7 years, I dealt with the criticism, jealousy and backstabbing many of us know all too well. It seems that most “intermediate level dancers” (this is what I will call it) go through this “rite of passage” during this time. We aren’t good enough dancers to be highly respected for our craft yet, but we aren’t beginners either, and it seems everyone was just trying to beat me down. I kept going, and trained harder, as I knew my goals, and I wasn’t going to stop.

On a personal basis, I finished school, went through a horrible relationship, but then found an amazing one, and then began working as an SEO specialist by day, on top of being a performer by night.

My First Shift in My Bellydance Career

Then I had to shift. It had been 6 years- 7 years by this time, and performing at restaurants had made me miserable for the past couple of years. I begin focusing intently on just private performances and building up my student base. What you focus on materializes, and so it did. I was teaching 12-15 private classes by day (I quit my day job in order to train and compete for world, which paid off jaja) and was thinking of opening my own studio.

I started meeting with a business consultant, researched studio owner friends of mine, and realized that was not the lifestyle I wanted. Teaching, although I was deemed “successful” due to how may private classes I had was not giving me the income I envisioned myself having, nor the other items I desired. I really like teaching, and still do, but my goal is first and foremost to be a performer.

What It Feels Like Physically 10 Years Later

My body, after 10 years is not what it was when I was 19. I wake up tired the night after a gig. Even though I am very healthy and use a roller to not feel sore the next day, it is simply one difference that is clear to me now. My arthritis affects things and so does 10 years of constant use of my terrible back jaja. I will continue to dance until I can’t anymore, but just a few differences from then till now that are worth mentioning.

Take care of your bodies dancers. You are never too young to learn about movement modifications, how to eat to correctly fuel your body, rollers, massage benefits and oh yes, the ever-important chiropractor.

10 years ago, I was confident but had no life experience. Now I feel much more confident in myself as a woman, a wife and business mogul. I have traveled quite a bit for my young age, have worked so many jobs and worn so many hats. I now am married and have 3 dogs and a house, and family to think of. I love where things are headed, and with it, my priorities and goals are now shifting yet again.

 

My Next Shift as An Orlando Bellydancer

The overall goal is the same (be the best darn dance performer possible). The shift is now due to time and having to prioritize it further. I want my upcoming 30’s to mark a period of “less hustle” and more specialization in what I intend to fiercely master. A hyper focus on both advancing further in my day job as an SEO specialist, and taking over the private events market is where I am headed.

I have reduced my classes down to 4 sessions per week as I cannot fit anything else with my two “jobs”, and may have to further reduce as I shift into my daytime role more. I am taking dance classes in other genre’s too in order to cross train and become a stronger dancer. I intend to sink deeper into folklore studies to further enrichen my modern fusion style and continue to make it more unique.

I plan to continue recording what I have learned along the way and uploading it onto my online studio so that it can reach others. Instead of uploading weekly or monthly, it will be every quarter or more depending on my schedule (sorry but not sorry). My top 2 goals are my main focus. video recording is something extra when i have the time from now on. If I knew ten years ago, what I knew now, boy would that have made things much easier jaja. But nothing comes without hard work. I look forward to what I will learn in the next decade, and where I will be then.

I feel like I “get” Bellydance now finally after 10 years. I spent the decade finding what made me, well, me, and now I have it down to a science. Honing those superpowers in and creating magic with them is where it must be pushed to next.

10 Years of Lessons Learned

I look back and the past 10 years, while full of sacrifice, were wonderful. It gave me a thick skin, it allowed me to find my voice within this genre, and to try everything and be fearless in my business. After 10 years, I now choose to say no to items that do not fit the specific 2 goals I have. It is the best feeling to say no sometimes too. By 2018 I will have reduced my services down to only those that will lead to my end goal.

Some of the things I learned in the past 10 years:
– How to apply makeup (I sucked at it before)

– How to efficiently manage time

– How to produce products and services

– How to create strong performances

– To keep my mouth shut online. The online world can take a sentence and interpret it in too many unforeseen ways

– How to sew costumes

– How to teach workshops. I took me almost all my years to figure this one out. I finally got it down last year after so many blunders and surprises. I am not good at flip flopping in choreo. To the back I face jajajaj!

– How to select the people I let into my inner most circle. I know who my besties are, my hang out friends are, acquaintances and etc. are. Surrounding yourself with good people is all that matters. Anyone negative gets booted. Fake people I just smile and ignore.

– Family is simply an amazing thing to have. I have gone from being a teenager and constantly being angry with my parents to them being my best friends and idols.

– How to love… at 19 I didn’t know what real love was. I thought I did, but now I see the difference. My husband means so much to me. He has been here for 8 out of my 10 belly dancing years and seen me at my worst and how I have risen through all obstacles.

– I learned to not be afraid of the word “no” or of “failing”. If someone says no, not a problem, I will ask another and another until I find my answer.

– In the past ten years, I realized just how much the dance is still evolving. What once was just under the umbrella of “bellydance” in my innocent mind is divided into so many styles and creations. The dance has evolved quickly in the past century, and some groups are not taking it lightly. This too shall pass, but education is where we can all meet at the same level. That Is what must remain constant in order to preserve some of the roots. Be creative, be unique, or be a downright “purist” for all I care, just educate yourself first.

– In the past ten years, I realized just how quickly time passes. It is sooo fast. I am shifting my business now to really focus on the two most important business aspects of my life and then taking the rest of the time to a balance more personal time with family and friends. This is the balance I have longed for, and now will create by 2018.

– In ten years, I learned to use technology. At 19 I didn’t want a cell phone or even have a serious email account. Now I am an SEO specialist. Who knew?

– I have learned that I will never settle. I constantly seek change, improvement, the next step. Anyone that can’t handle that search for perfection…well, they get the boot jaja. I am Pisces, it is how I roll. I am caring less and less what others have to say about me. I am me. If you don’t like me, you get the boot lol!

– It is ok to be a little more sexy. This is constantly a struggle with me. I wore my first “sexy dress” for performance the other week. It took 10 years to get to that point, to not feel shy about wearing something like that on stage. For many it isn’t a big deal, but for me, that clearly took a lot of time to do jajaj.

 

Closing Thoughts

All in all, this Orlando Bellydancer took the past 6 months from Powhow, workshops, and teaching to really examine all of the facets of her life and business and obtain clarity for the next decade to come. I hope you all continue to examine and re-examine your goals and priorities as you change or move into your next role.

All my 10+ year dance sisters and brothers, what has been a pivotal change from 10 years ago to now? Comment below or answer this on my Facebook page.

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