Daydreaming can be a beautifully dangerous thing. Your mind just goes there, way out there. It goes places that you dare not otherwise imagine. And if you really let go, you begin to believe that the daydream can become a reality. That’s what happened to Etang and me during a cross-country gig in November 2011. Exiled from the land of nine to five jobs, and feeling a bit heady about appearing in a historic film about bellydancers of color, we began to daydream.
What if this could be our life? What if we could spend our days helping people of all shapes and sizes feel good about themselves? What if we took bellydance to places that it has never been before, and burst the bubbles of thinking that say bellydancers looked like this and that the dance was all about that? And what if we danced all of the time? What if it was our job, our duty, and our purpose in life to just get out there and shimmy to our heart’s content? What would that look like? How would it feel? Is it possible?
Head in the clouds, Etang and I peeked over the edge of the cliff, took a deep breath and jumped! Falling. The events of the first few months passed us by in a blur. As we came down to earth we were all business. We created a name, a logo, a website, filed our business papers, drafted business and marketing plans, created curricula, and hired a bookkeeper and a business coach. Yes, we put a lot of energy in getting all of our administrative ducks in a row.
Then we had to step out of the comfort zone of our studio-office and actually make it happen. We taught dozens of classes and workshops. We organized, fundraised and hosted the third year of Girls Raks Bellydance and Body Image Program, and produced the Hotter Than July Bellydance Extravaganza benefit show. And of course there was dancing, dancing, and more dancing, nineteen performances in fact! Dancing that required two to three days a week of rehearsals, two new costumes, three new choreographies, new techniques, and lots of glitter and sparkling smiles.
Living the dream wasn’t easy. As with many other small business owners, the nation’s economic climate wasn’t kind to us, but we shimmied on. Etang and I had to learn how to take our partnership from the dance floor to negotiation table as business partners. But it was the dance that kept us united and focused on our goal. And somehow we shimmied through failed promotional schemes, undercutting competitors and cynical naysayers.
Luckily our cheering section was deep and broad. Drowning out the pessimists, they attended classes and performances, donated their expertise, referred us for gigs, “liked” our Facebook page, shared our blogs, and never failed to offer a kind word of support when we were feeling low. And the good stuff doesn’t stop there. From the woman in recovery who was grateful to be able to be move her body with a sense of well being, to the post-performance giggles of women who never imagined bellydance done the Raks Africa way, the moments of grace have been priceless.
It is one year later and Etang and I are still living the dream. We are teaching bellydance through collaborations with community groups like the Women’s Cancer Resource Center. We are storming new stages as featured artists at the Black Choreographers Festival’s Next Wave Choreographers Showcase. And in a few months, we are unveiling a new project for Girls Raks, and producing a special show this fall. But more than anything we are grateful. We are thankful to have the backwind of support of our family, friends and well wishers. We are thankful for the dance. But most importantly, we are still dreaming and dancing.
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