Torontotime

I haven't been writing as much as usual lately-- crazy things have been happening in my life. That's what this entry is dedicated to!

To start out then, I've been saying since I started keeping this blog that it's not easy to try to make it as a professional belly dancer in Newfoundland-- although it can be a very fulfilling place to enjoy belly dance and to learn. Some of the reasons belly dance in Newfoundland, and specifically St. John's, is great:

  • It's a fairly large community (per capita) but we all know each other-- maybe I don't know everyone who has taken a class but I'm pretty sure I can put a name to a face of every dancer who performs regularly or teaches in the city.
  • The St. John's belly dance community has relatively few quarrels about modern belly dance or what is or isn't belly dance-- people are generally open minded about the content of a performance and promote and accept most of what has been self-identified as belly dance.
  • There are several different styles taught and performed in St. John's-- I practice modern belly dance, OhMaya does fusion that draws on cabaret and some aspects of tribal. There's cabaret, a sort of Algerian-folk style and even Romani-inspired fusion belly dance. Sadly little or no Egyptian or American Tribal Style, but there's lots of variety. Belly dance shows are never boring because none of the acts look the same.
So I've had a good place to grow into belly dancing. Lots of people who love to dance and to talk about dance, I've been exposed to lots of styles by the different groups and individual artists and there's a reasonable degree of openness to interpretation of the vocabulary and tradition within the community.

But on the other hand, there are significant drawbacks to living in Newfoundland and pursuing belly dance professionally. Some of the reasons for this are:

  • There aren't a lot of opportunities to learn-- I haven't had a regular weekly instructor since about six months into my belly dance journey. I've had the OhMaya girls who I've learned with, and some amazing instructors (in particular the darling Monique Ryan and Audra of the Dark Side Studio, the most influential teacher I've had in my dance career so far). But they only have the chance to visit rarely! I've traveled half a dozen or so times to squeeze in more learning, but I can never be sure it's working without someone to note my progress!
  • There are few opportunities to perform. I work a lot with burlesque dancers and I sometimes help to produce belly dance shows but the larger dance community completely fails to understand or have any interest at all in serious belly dance and there is generally little interest in collaboration. With such a small community overall of professional dance artists, we should all be working together.
  • There are 0 belly dancers belly dancing full time in St. John's. 0. It would be rad to be the first, but right now I'm not sure our city can support it.
So when my long-term partner was offered more or less his dream job at a company in Toronto last week I decided that it was time to take my passion and my need to learn and ship them to a bigger city. Audra, my favourite teacher and a huge influence for me, lives and teaches there and it provides much easier access to other cities where large belly dance events and workshops are held. I'm excited about the opportunity to dabble in Egyptian, which I've always wanted to study more closely, and to continue my ballet and modern training.

I'm also nervous. I get to perform as often as I want here in Newfoundland and by all accounts things are going well. If I said I didn't know that it'll be a long while before I get to teach and perform there like I do here, I'd be lying. I know the dancing in a new, bigger city is a whole different calibre and that I will definitely have to step back for awhile to catch up. If I even can!

But it's a challenge and I can't resist it. Besides, at this stage, turning down this kind of opportunity because I'm happy enough being a bigger fish in a smaller pond would be fatal to what I'm trying to do. Time to put down the old ego and go learn, learn, learn.

I can't wait though. I can't help but think this is the start of something very big and very exciting. My goal as I grow into this dance is to be able to travel and perform and teach. I don't know if this step takes me closer to that but it certainly feels like it.

I'll be writing lots more about the upcoming move over the next few weeks, but for now, there's the announcement-- Heather Sara is officially moving to Toronto!

Comments

  1. I'm going to miss you but it seems your calling is now banging at the door. I hope you will continue your blog here and inform us.

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  2. That's really sweet :)

    I'm definitely not going to let my blog go, it's been such a good experience for me so far. I like to think that this is my calling letting me know what's what, but we'll find out soon enough for sure, I guess!

    I'm going to miss the community here lots! But I'm excited that I'll be able to share what I've learned when I visit home.

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  3. You will blossom so quickly with all of this new energy to feed off of. The community will only have to meet you and I'm sure all the doors will open for learning, performing and even teaching...you will take them by storm. Just you wait and see! Your laughter and joy will be missed in sin city <3

    Helen

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  4. Ohhhh thank you Helen, you have no idea how much that means to me <3 Thank you! I can't even begin to express how great you guys have been to me in the last year and I can't wait to come back and work on shows and teach workshops. Hopefully I'll be able to establish myself a bit there and maybe have the opportunity to help you and your girls if they visit :)

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  5. I wish you weren't leaving but I'm glad you'll have more opportunities to grow with the dance that we love so much. and I'm glad that you man got his dream job. thats awesome! I agree that it sucks that there isn't a whole lot of ATS or Egyptian around but I have been able to dabble in it where Andrea taught ATS and the Turkish delights in Cornerbrook are and Egyptian troupe (although they don't do a whole lot anymore where Elanore's ankles tend to be bothersome to her. It would be nice to see more of everything
    around here and to collaborate more often. Anyways have a great time, you will be missed dearly and we will look forward to your visits! have fun! xo!

    - Mallory Beth Power

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  6. I have a blog now too!

    I'm happy for you that you're moving to Toronto, but I will miss seeing you in NFLD.
    And I'm really jealous that you will be able to learn from Audra on a regular basis.

    xo

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  7. Heather, your story sounds EXACTLY like mine when i left Halifax! (minus the partner getting a job here) I love the Maritimes but my bellydance training had hit a wall and the performance opportunities were slim. When I moved here I went from feeling like one of the top dancers in Hali to what seemed like the bottom of the barrel in TO. However I took it in stride and in the 4 years I've spent here i have grown exponentially as a dancer and I am so happy i made that choice. The opportunities, both in training and performance, are just incredible here. I'm not sure how long I'll stay, as Halifax still feels like home, but I can tell you it's worth it to come here!
    Please don't hesitate to contact me if you need any help or advice in the TO scene. Good luck and have FUN!!

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  8. Hi Laura!
    I'm really glad you posted. Thank you so much for the encouragement and support! It's nice to know I'm not the first person crazy enough to pack up and move from the east coast to make a go of learning and performing. And I'm really, really dreading and anticipating that feeling of going from the top straight to the bottom too-- but at the same time just knowing that will happen drives me to want to go even more-- I want to be better!

    I'm really excited to grow and learn. And I will definitely get in touch when I get in town (7 days!) and get settled. It'll be nice to know more people I have things in common with :) And are you the Laura who is going to the Mira intensive in December? I'll be there too!

    Heather

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  9. Yes I'll be there! Good for you for going, it's going to be AMAZING. Haven't started my homework yet, eep! Good luck with the move and definitely be in touch! :)

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