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“How do you find the time to do it?” – Guest Author Lisa Jean

As a bellydancing mom of three who dances and teaches, i get asked this all the time.  At first glance, I don’t know how to answer it.  I just do what needs to be done.  But when I look at the bigger picture, I can see how crazy it looks.

But I’m getting a little ahead of myself!  Let me give you a little background.  My name is Lisa Jean.  I’m a dancer, dance teacher, and barre fitness instructor based in Wamego, KS (a.k.a. small town in the middle of nowhere).  I’ve been dancing since I was little, bellydancing for almost 20 years, and teaching for around 10.  I’m also a stay at home mom of three kiddos.  Rowan is 10, Kelvin is 6 and Leah just turned 3.  So yeah, I’m a little busy!

Honestly, balancing everything isn’t something I consciously planned at first.  I just sort of shuffled things around until I got it to work.  And of course, everything changed with the addition of each kid.  After being a dancing mom for 10 years, though, I can give you some tips for what’s worked for me.

  1. Lists.  This is probably the biggest one for me!  Between all the things I need to remember to do for my business, the kid related things (doctor appointments, school things, pokemon names, etc), and just life in general, there is absolutely no way I can keep it all straight in my head anymore.  I use  google calendar that’s shared with my husband, a physical planner, and a daily to-do list to keep it all mapped out.

      The daily to-do list is by far the most helpful.  Let me share how I do it!  Each night I make a list of all the things I want to do the next day, then divide that into three categories.  The first   category is the things that NEED to be done.  I try to put no more than 4 things in this list, cause let’s be honest, between drop-off, pick-up, potty-training and everything else, I don’t typically have time for much else!        

The second category is the things I’d LIKE to get done.  This is typically things that need to be done soon, but not necessarily tomorrow.  If they don’t get done, no sweat.


The third category is the things that probably AREN’T going to get done.  Just those things that you’d like to get done at some point, but don’t really have a due date. 


My goal for the day is to just get those few things done on the first part of the list.  If I can those done, I feel accomplished!  I had to train myself to be okay with not getting the rest done.  It took awhile, but now I can go to sleep guilt free if I only get those first 3-4 things done.  Life with kids has a lot of unpredictability to it, so I can’t really schedule large chunks of down time to do things.  I have to look for the windows.  Boys are at school and Leah’s playing contentedly?  Quick!  Work on something on the list that doesn’t need prolonged focus.  Nap time?  Knock out something that needs a little more focus.  I’ve also just gotten really well practiced at working in small bursts.


2)  Rely on your support network.  I’m still working on this one!  I tend to be of the mindset that I can do ALL THE THINGS and asking for help is a sign of weakness.  Actually, asking for help is a sign of strength.  My husband takes care of bedtime solo two nights a week and keeps the troupes busy for a chunk of time each weekend so I can get some focused work done.  My parents are always happy to keep the little one while the bigs are at school so I can get some serious work done once in awhile.  There’s no way I could get as much done as I do and still stay sane without help.


3)  Schedule in creative practice time.  This one I just recently started doing.  Businessy stuff and drilling and lesson planning I can do at home with the kids under foot.  But just noodling around and exploring movement is something I can’t really do while wearing the “mom hat”.  So here’s my current solution!  I teach my in person classes on Monday nights.  However…when my classes aren’t in session, I still go in to the studio and take that time to dance just for me.  I choreograph.  I play.  I explore.  It’s been lovely!  I’d love to have more regular time to do this, but I know that next year my youngest will go to half day preschool so that will open up some regular time that I can dedicate to my personal dancing.


4)  Keep the big picture in mind.  Your littles won’t stay little forever.  They won’t always need you.  Dance will always be there for you, even if it goes a bit on the back burner once in awhile.  Enjoy your mommy years as much as you can because they’re fleeting and irreplaceable.
I know this list doesn’t contain any magic secrets that will miraculously create loads of free time to get your poop in a group, but hopefully it give you a little insight to creating more balance in your dance/mom life!


If you’d like to follow along in my adventures, be sure to follow me on instagram at lisajeanbellydance or visit my website www.lisajeanbellydance.com


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How the Arab-American community in Southern California greatly affected my dance and changed me for the better

Guest Author – Adrianne (USA)

When I started out taking my first belly dance class I had no idea how this dance would greatly affect my life. I was painfully shy and I had not found my voice or strength yet. I still felt so young and naive, I was 26 when I started my dance journey. But something about this dance pulled me in, maybe it was the glitter or the music. But once I started working with the local Arab-American community here in Southern California something in me changed for the better.


Years ago at one of our local bely dance haflas I meet some of the gigging dancers in town and they asked me if I wanted to work and make some money. The manager would book me at local Arab-American night clubs here in Southern California and take a cut of the money for booking me. I honestly still don’t know why I agreed to join her. I’m a morning person, I can’t stay up past 10pm, I hate being in situations I don’t know what’s going on and I never leave my comfort zone. But for some reason, I said “yes”.

I had “the look” and a basic understanding of the music and culture thanks to my class training from Sa’eeda and Tamra Henna here in Los Angeles.  So my gigging dance career went form zero to 100. It only took a couple of weeks for me to start dancing at multiple clubs each weekend. The next stage of my dance education was about to begin. Seeing how the dance exists among the people.  The doors opened wide for me into the Arab-American community. I was invited into their homes, personal celebrations and life’s biggest moments. I was finally able to see and practise all the knowledge that was given to me in my first dance classes.  What I didn’t expect was how they would change me, teach me to be a better, stronger person.


The Dancer Persona

I have always been a shy introvert. I barely spoke up in school and I was always known as the quite one.  When I showed up to my first solo gig the Egyptian owners assumed not only that I knew what I was doing but I would command their hookah lounge. They made it clear I needed to get every single person up to dance. While I had a very extensive education in Egyptian dance, nothing really prepares you for your first solo gig at an Arab-American establishment. I was absolutely terrified once I walked in, completely out of my element. I’m usually in bed by 9pm, I  hate crowds and loud music and now here I am at midnight waiting to dance as laser lights and smoke fill the room.


I had to pull from deep to find my confidence. It was sink or swim and I needed to really put on a great show. I don’t like not succeeding, so from there I created her: The Diva. They always say fake it until you make, it so I changed my persona and became someone else, confident, full of life and joy. The Egyptians in the room would sing loudly and gesture to the music and encourage me even more. The louder they clapped the more into my character I would dive. They gave my inner-diva permission and acceptance, she started to grow bigger and stronger. It was in these smoky rooms the I  was able to grow my dance persona. I was the boss.


As I would dance I would watch the women and men, I’d analyze their reactions and take notes. After each gig I’d sit and think about which moves and actions I did that had the most reception from the families I was dancing for. The more I fell into the “Feminine but in charge” category the more they loved me. Soon I could easily accept the challenge of convincing  every one in the room to dance or engage with me. Within 3 months of gigging I went from faking confidence to actually having it.
I started noticing this new found confidence creeping into my life off the stage too. I walked a little taller, more sure of my decisions. I knew if I could control a rowdy crowd of men on the dance floor, I can really handle anything. My whole life I had been searching for confidence and I found it on the dance floor in the smokiest, loudest of lounges.


Negotiations

I have always hated confrontation. Any time I had to stand up for my worth or ask for what I needed I would usually give in or give up.  I remember one night early on in my gig career  the manager handed me my payment and it was $20 short. My heart was racing, I was going to have to speak up and convince them to give me the the full promised payment. I stood my ground, showing them text messages and making it clear I wasn’t going to leave without my full payment. This was very new for me and terrifying. I had never really spoke up in my life before! And to my surprise, I got the full payment. I was honestly shocked. I didn’t know I had that in me, and at first I didn’t even know why I won that negotiation.
I soon learned that the art of negotiation was a very big part of the Arab-American community here and it came into all their business dealings. For them negotiation was expected and they enjoyed it too.  I started studying how my clients would approach me for work, the words they would use to try and justify a lower payment amount. I had to quickly learn some solid tactics and approaches to get my preferred payment amount. It was perhaps one of the most challenging learning journeys I’ve ever undertaken. But soon I found that these skills were helping me in my normal life too.


I was easily able to negotiate more transactions in my daytime life. I was able to get bills corrected at a higher success rate and refunds from bad services. I always thought I  would never be able to speak up for my worth, but I found it’s like a muscle that I you need to strengthen and it’s possible. Even at my corporate job I’m now easily able to negotiate with vendors for lower rates, and that has been noticed by my bosses. When my husband and I visited Morocco many shop keepers would say “You negotiate like a Moroccan not an American”. That’s because I learned from the best.


Hospitality & Relationships

I don’t think I ever left a gig without being offered food, ever. Numerous times my payment was followed with “Do you want some falafels to-go?” I’ve had the food at most major Middle-Eastern establishments in the Southern California area. Many times the restaurant managers seemed very adamant about giving me food or tea, they wanted me to stay and chat. My inner American was confused, why can’t I just get payment and leave, we don’t need to be friends this is business.


But I soon learned how important hospitality and relationships are in business for my clients. For years I did graphic design and marketing for an Egyptian family that would host major signers from Cairo here in the United States. All our business meetings had to be done over a meal. Even when we meet in one of their 5 businesses, a back room of an AC repair shop surrounded by scrap metal, equipment and file cabinets from 1987, I was always served tea and lentil soup over our meetings. For them it was rude to pay me and for me to leave. Building that relationship made our business dealings stronger. I was more in-tune with their marketing and event visions because of our meals together.


Soon I was able to easily sit and chat with them get to know why the singers were so amazing and create marketing materials that made everyone happy, including the stars of Cairo. It was sitting and listening that I was able to see just how valuable relationships are in a business. My clients wanted someone they can trust, someone they know gets them. And we’re not going to get there by only talking about the project and payment. It’s deeper than that. We need to make sure we are comfortable and welcome and what better what than sitting at the table with tea and food, breaking bread together.

I found that in my day job I started building relationships. I would bring people in other departments food and check in on them and their families. I soon found my bosses noticing I was one of the most resourceful people at the office since I had connections across so many departments. I was because I took the time to feed people, sit with them, talk to them and build those relationships.

The Music

My family never listened to music. Not while working around the house or on the car, we had family parties with the TV and radio off. I’ve never heard my mother or father sing a song. Music was not something my family brought into my life. Being a 1980’s latch-key kid with unlimited access to MTV  greatly impacted me, but that’s another story for another day. Once I started working in our local Arab-American night clubs it instantly struck me how much they loved to sing along to my set music. Especially the classics. My western-taste assumed they’d prefer my drum solos and modern remixes more than the classic songs, but I was so very wrong.  Early on in my gigging career I saw a dancer play Batwanees Beek by Warda and I was so moved by how into this song the audience was! They sang along , they waved their hands, they sang to each other with such joy in their faces. I immediately added the top classics to my shows.

As the Arab-American community soon started hiring me to dance in their homes for their private celebrations. It was common for me to arrive finding Un Kulthumm playing in the background. I was moved by how much music meant to these families and community. How much it was the background to their lives. It was more than just a song they liked. Personal memories were tied to this music. No wonder I’ve had a few clients scold me for cutting their favorite versus out of 10 minute song. Music is life.
Seeing how the music is so much more than a song gave me a much deeper appreciation in my dance and helped me better connect to the music. It’s more than a melody and rhythm, it’s life’s sound track.  Now when I dance I still imagine the faces of families I danced for,  their gestures and emotions as they sang along. It helps me find in myself those same life experiences to bring to the dance floor. This has really affected my dance and how I approach each song.

These days I rarely gig as I’ve gotten older and I’m done with the hustle. Over the nights of coming home at 4am with smeared eye shadow and dirty sore feet. My stable corporate job allows me the freedom to dance when and how I want. I can live my artistic life on my own terms now. But I’m a much different person because of the work I’ve done over a 10 year period in the Arab-American community here. They challenged me and made me grow. Families encouraged me, fed me and taught me. I’ve seen all sides of their complex lives full of joy and pain. I am forever grateful for the opportunities given to me and the challenges I accepted. I’m a better person today because of the families I danced for.I hope to never stop learning from this community. 

Connect with Adrianne!

IG: @adrianneraqs

www.adriannebellydance.com

Guest Author: Adrianne (USA)

ashley-dance-randa-kamel-2016

Third Place Winner in Toronto, 2016

Ashley-Dance-Randa-Kamel-3rd-Place-2016Ashley is thrilled to announce that she was the 3rd place winner in the Randa Kamel & Mohamed Shahin Crown Competition on October 29, 2016 in Toronto.  Ashley placed 3 out of 11 dancers.  A huge congrats to Oksana Jirnova who won 2nd Place and Monet Deneen who won the Crown!  Ashley thanks the judges Dr. George Sawa, Mohamed Shahin and Randa Kamel for their selection, Nada el Masriya for her hard work putting the event together and all the fellow dancers and competitors – everyone was very supportive and encouraging!