This week i was super happy to be able to interview my dear friend Lacey of Florida Tribal dance about her views on the bellydance terminology & business series topic. If you enjoy these interviews share them with your dance sisters and brothers! Read Lacey’s interview below to get her take on these wonderful subjects!

Section 1: Belly dance Terminology

Q: In your experience, how has the fact that belly dance does not have one universal naming standard affected you?

It affects me, and I think that my students that come to my studio and have had other bellydance experiences are like “but I learned things this way or that way”. It doesn’t bother me truthfully. I love language so I think the fact that we even call things to begin with is a good thing considering that this art form was not a spoken art form to begin with. If you go to another country there are no names, you follow what the dancer shows you. I feel that not having a set dance vocabulary encourages us to explain what we want, and that’s big in my own format. As long as you can say “this is this” and explain a move, I think that’s great.


Q: How have you dealt with this?

If you learn anything your going to have an instructor that has his or her own take on whatever that is. There are classical dance forms and they have their stamp and way of thinking. The most important thing is not to tell students that what the other instructor taught them is wrong, it is just different.


Q: Who do you look to as the best source for correct movement terminology when you do not/did not know what the name of a movement was?

The only set vocabulary that I look to is ATS. Everything else is such a conglomerate from what I have learned form everyone. In the big, broad sense, I would say is Jamila, but I border from that because in my format I have a real big mix!


Q: What do you call the following (or do you have another name you use for them) and breakdown what they are:

  1. a)Wrist circles: Fingers play a roll in this movement and the common analogy is “scooping the peanut butter out of the jar” as the middle finger is scooping through.


  1. b)Jewel: hip crescent with a twist forward or back but I learned it forward.


  1. c)Alternating hip lifts and chest raises and drops: depends on timing of your hips… 4/4 or half time. You are going to do locks on the up with layered chest lift or drop and link it to the counts.


  1. d)African shimmy: I havenever heard of this (interviewer shows her movement), but I would call it a pelvic shimmy with a chest.


  1. e)Lotus hands: Indian mudra called Alapadma. For ATS the backs of the hand go together with right hand on top, then you lift open the palms to the ceiling, and then left hand crosses over when you come back down. I only use that in gesture never in performance.


Q: What is your view on belly dance certifications? Have you done one yourself? Do you offer certifications of your own? Pro’s / Con’s?


It is such a loaded question. Yes I have done certifications such as ATS general skills, and currently I have done part of the 8 elements program and have completed Initiation and Cultivation. I do offer a teacher training program, but I do not know if I would call it a certification necessarily. At this time I only offer it for my students here. I think certificates are helpful, but I think you have to ask yourself what does it mean to you? To the generalized population they don’t mean anything, but they do in our genre.

In our world we have to be careful of putting too much stock in a certificate. I don’t think a certificate necessarily means that that teacher is better or more qualified than another teacher. I do encourage people to try certifications, but it isn’t necessarily because of certification that I am doing this for, it is for the knowledge.

Q: If there was one aspect of belly dance you wish could be standardized (if any) what would it be?

None. I do not like the idea of standardizing any of it. This is a folk dance! Here is my problem….who is right? Who gets to be “right”? I think that having people to look to and having mentors is really great but I fear for us saying “it is only this way” because then we become like ballet, and we are not ballet. I know that we have to work harder when we have more options, but I signed up for that when I became a teacher. This is a dance of the people, and that is going to vary based on who you are learning from.


Q: Tell me about your latest projects or research studies, and the reasoning behind it for our readers.

I am really workong on trying to get more live music in our world. Every bellydance community is different, but in my experience here in FL, it is that we do not have a huge amount of live music. There are some live bands, but I would like to see more variety. I learned belly dance in a really casual environment. It was not always about having to perform and “be on it’, it was simply dancing and enjoying the atmosphere. In my classes I am working on exposing my students to rhythms and combinations to them so that they can experience the rhythm. They can play and dance this rhythm and the combination and see how it fits.



Belly dance as a Career


Q: Before belly dancing, how did you make your living?

I was a waitress, I managed a restaurant, and did a bunch of other jobs. Then I dropped all of that stuff.


Q: What is your full time profession? Did you go to college?

I direct Florida Tribal Dance. I am a full time teacher, and a full time dancer. I went to college but did not finish when I moved here and saw how crazy out of tuition was. I was going to be a teacher, but hey, I made it happen through bellydance and pretty much make the same had I graduated and taught in a public school.

Q: Many woman who work a “regular job” dream of being able to dance for a living full time but know that it is risky, difficult to achieve great success, and etc… what would be your advice on this? Should one ever leave their day job?

I think that you could, but I think you really have to think about a lot of things. I struggle everyday…I struggle everyday to make money. I don’t make my living performing, I make my living teaching. The way that I have made my business work is that I had to set my life up for it. I live an hour away from the studio because rent is much cheaper. I do did not have credit cards until literally two years ago, and we drive only one car which is paid off. We go without a lot of things. If you want the same lifestyle as your corporate job I am not saying it is not possible, but you typically wont have the same luxuries of life in that usual “typical job” scenario.

I do not operate by the thinking and hoping that I will “have enough money to keep the thing” and that is why I am still in business after 8yrs. I am very realistic about my financial capabilities.

Q: Have you ever struggled in paying the bills as a successful belly dancer or has it been pretty easy flowing due to your popularity in the dance industry?


Yes I have struggled. I struggle a lot, but it has gotten easier. You make goals and figure out how to make them happen. Over time you figure out what works, and I try to stay working on what works compared to what does not. Of course a recession and figuring how to get students here is always a struggle.

The hardest thing about being your own boss is the motivation. You have to hustle everyday, whether you are sick, do not feel like it, injured or not, you have to get up and work, and that is the part that most people do not realize when they first get into this business and become their own boss.

Q: What business advice would you give to full time belly dancers who have already taken the plunge into leaving their day job in order to pursue their dreams?

Making goals, and chunking it out! If there is something you want then figure out the small pieces to get there. Everything is possible, and I wholeheartedly believe that. Make a plan, follow it, and then know that something will always go wrong, but you have to keep on going.


Q: What mistakes should a belly dancer avoid making if possible as a full time belly dancer?

I think… (oof), doing too much too soon. Think small and manageable. There is some analogy about goal setting that “you need to have your goal somewhat in reach, but not too far out to where it is almost unattainable”.

Q: How do you plan to sustain your career well into the coming decades?

It’s a balance between being true to myself/FTD and also to our community at large. To be aware of not becoming too encased in our bubble that we are not relating to the world, but not changing so much where we lose our identity.
For me classes are it! I need to maintain my validity as a teacher. I am selling solid education and technique in my classes as that is what we are about at Florida Tribal Dance.
To be able to do that I need to have things to teach, so the way I do this is that I continuously go out and take intensives, take from other teachers and learn and grow. That would be my biggest plan.
In terms of personal finances, I have a goal of teaching one workshop a month.


Q: A fear many belly dancers have is the effects of aging on their abilities, is this something you think about often as well?

No. I feel like Tribal Bellydance really encourages this (my mentor is in her 50’s, Rachel is in her 40’s and Carlina Nericcio is also in her 50’s). When I think in terms of aging I think in terms of being valid as I grow older. When I think of FTD as I age, I look to folk dances and Amel Taf Sout. She is still performing and traveling across the world. I feel there will continue to be opportunities for me in this art form as I age so I do not feel I will be limited. I started teaching when I was 16, so I had to prove myself because I was so young, but as I get older, that won’t be the case.

Q: Who are your belly dance idols in performance and in business?

It would be Rachel Brice in terms of business and dance. I think that her really warm and open heart is wonderful and I think her 8 Elements program is genius! I look at Carolina from Fat Chance Bellydance. She is the who I really modeled off of for my own business. I also love Moria Chappell, I think that she is the “Lara Croft” of our genre. She is literally figuring out how our dance traveled across Europe! I think those are at the top of my list. I think Amy Sigil is amazingly inspiring too and I love her coaching mentality. She talks to people like they are a team. I also admire Donna Mejia and how she teaches about being safe and taking care of our bodies. I also love Bozenka too and I hope to one day be that graceful.


Closing Notes


Q: Why do you do this? Why do you Belly Dance?

Simply because I cannot do anything else better than I can do this. I have known since I was really young that I was a good teacher so this is exactly where I want to be and what I was meant to do. I wanted it in college and I figured out how to do it without finishing my degree.



– I love rats

– I do not like things to touch in terms of food, i.e. gravy touching my rice…yuck!

– I love the sun,

– I really wish FL was colder.

– I have the weird laugh everyone knows that I wish I could get rid out of

– I have a weird squishy thumb

– I have never broken a bone

– I am OCD about people touching things and not putting them back! Do not touch anything, put things back. My mom used to go into my bedroom when I was a kid and turn things around just to see if I would notice, and I did!

-I lived in Japan (inside joke). There was this point in time where I used to say that a lot, so now it’s a joke.


Any final words you want to say?

I want people to love Bellydance and if you want to really make this your life, I think that is great and I encourage you to do so, but it is something different to go from doing what you like to do, to making it what you do for your life. I think we forget about how much work it will be.

Also, you are never too old, short, fat, too girl, too guy to do this. It is for everyone, and I think that is wonderful and beautiful and why I became so obsessed with this dance. Dig deep, this is so much more than a surface dance.


About Lacey:

Lacey began her journey into Tribal Belly dance at the early age of 15 in southern California with Patricia Johnson. In addition to teaching weekly classes Lacey is also available for instructional workshops. She prides herself on her upbeat personality that puts students in a fun place to learn and her meticulous breakdown of movements so whether you are a first time dancer or a seasoned professional you will find Lacey’s teaching easy to comprehend and useful in any dancer’ s progression.

Florida Tribal Dance was founded in November 2006 by Lacey Sanchez with a desire to share the rich and diverse style of Tribal Bellydance with the masses. Since it’s inception Florida Tribal Dance has been dedicated to providing knowledgable and thoughtful instruction as well as dynamic and exciting performances to our community in Orlando and Central Florida.

I hope you enjoyed this interview everyone! Check back every two weeks on Thursday’s for the next interview in the bellydance terminology & business series!