Have you ever considered trying belly dance via a Youtube video or a class in your area? The beginnings of the style of belly dance I have come to enjoy started in 1949, but I didn’t begin my own journey until 2018. The belly dance community is displayed in many countries and many cultures; it is truly a unifier. The community includes toddlers, octogenarians, women, and men; everyone is welcome. I travel often and take every opportunity I get to participate in a drop-in class in many of the cities and countries I have visited. The vibe is always one of pure joy! I was gifted the opportunity to connect with Iona, a phenomenal woman and owner of Lotus Belly Dance based in Charlotte, NC, and ask her a few questions about her experiences in the world of belly dance.
Q: Iona, what inspired you to start Lotus Studio?
A: After dancing for five years, I thought it would be neat to expand a bit further into having my own studio. We were experiencing a bit of change in the belly dance community at that time so I felt it was a good time to see how I could contribute to the dance community. I opened the location in the University area in July 2007. It was a bit of a learning curve taking on the role of business owner in addition to professional dancer and we had some rocky moments, but consistency and drive paid off. It’s one of the attributes that I believe allows Lotus to be successful and grow to this day.
Q: What are the benefits of belly dance?
A: There are almost too many to count! When I ask students what they feel benefits them I often hear that it builds confidence in their bodies, it has a health benefit, and they get to build a community of friends to dance with.
Q: Your studio continues to offer fun choreography and dynamic energy. What is your personal dance practice/style that makes that possible?
A: Thanks so much for the compliment! While my personal practice will help influence the choreographies the students perform, I’ve learned that my personal practice is ultimately separate and truly for me. Making sure that I practice for myself is what helps keep it fun for me and not feel like a job. The ways I hold myself accountable are reviewing (and sometimes posting) my practice videos to really see my movement in a different way. They’re not perfect, and that’s OK. I also attend workshops and classes of other instructors as a student to continue my education in belly dance. My style is fusion, but my roots in belly dance began in the Egyptian and American Cab format.
Q: As the owner of a community-based dance company, how has your presence in the community impacted it (locally/nationwide/globally)?
A: I never in all of my years thought I was making a huge impact in belly dance. It felt like I was simply dancing, and I had these amazing friends who would entertain my wild ideas and dance with me. It wasn’t until recently when I was sought out for advice on dance community issues did I realize that I am viewed as a one of the leaders in the Charlotte belly dance community. When I graduated in the first class of Datura Style teachers, I felt like my visibility as a leader in belly dance was beginning to expand beyond the city. This past February I was asked to join the Black Belly Dance Bundle series highlighting Black belly dance instructors in the community and suddenly there were people dancing to a class I taught in at least 10 other countries. It’s still surreal, but I’m grateful and happy to serve.
Q: What’s next for Lotus Studio?
A: We’re growing and optimizing at the same time. I’m so much wiser about the business of belly dance thanks to the investment in business coaching and having a council of trusted advisors. We’ve added guest teachers to our roster to help diversify the students’ exposure to belly dance and I would love to see it go even further. But most importantly we’ll keep dancing and having a good time doing so!
Lotus Studio offers virtual and in-person classes for the beginner to advanced belly dancer, as well as Datura style. If you happen to be in the Charlotte area in May, consider checking out the much anticipated “Spirit Of The Dance,” belly dance recital highlighting adult belly dancers from near & far. Tickets are on sale right now at: Spirit of the Dance 2022 (ticketspice.com)
As a person who believes what Maya Angelou said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside of you." Lucy Sams tells her stories with a focus on life's pleasures; laughter, sunshine, and new places.