Essence of Bellydance

by Coco

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ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE™ Teacher Spotlight Lea

"Why walk when you can dance?"

Interview from February 5th 2022.

Born in Munich, Lea dances ever since she can think. No wonder dance became her life's passion and profession. In doing so, Lea was shaped and inspired by the artistic work of pieces by Pina Bausch. She is a certified ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE teacher since 2021 and perceives this method as a great enrichment for her work with other women.

How did you get in touch with the Bellydance and what does it give you?

After giving birth to my son, I was looking for gentle and effective postnatal recovery. In a postnatal exercise class, I looked into the tense faces of the other women, while we were told to imagine pulling up a pea with our pelvic floor into the 10th floor. I thought there must be another way. When searching for “pelvic floor integration” on the internet, I found Coco, bought her book “Pussy Yoga” and danced along Cocos online program.

Through ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE and Wiebke's loving postnatal care, I re-discovered my dancing body. As a pleasant side effect my pelvic floor became supple and stable and my diastasis recti slowly reversed. Today, my body feels like it did before the pregnancy and, in addition to that I discovered new interesting muscle groups in my pelvic area. While Wiebke and I were dancing, my son was fascinated by our hip scarves and veils. Through Bellydance, I returned to myself and felt centered again.

Bellydance opened up space for my feminity. Every woman and every body type is being embraced here. That is perhaps one reason why so many women are drawn to Bellydance. Behind the glitter is the archaic dance, which connects us to each other and, maybe, to our subconscious memory. Bellydance is not about peak performance. The focus is rather on the enjoyment of the dance, music and improvisation, and on the interaction with the audience. There is something magical about it. I am diving deeper and deeper into the origins and history of this dance. The women who keep this art alive fascinate me.

You are not only an ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE teacher, but a professional dancer. How do these passions fit together?

A dancer remains a dancer. Although I am not on stage anymore my heart continues to beat for dance. One thing I learned in my career is to precisely perceive the nuances of life. In my artistic exploration, I identified the beauty of everyday movements. For me, dance is a nonverbal expression of my emotions and represents boundless freedom. I wouldn't consider my career completed, since I have just started to become creative again as a freelancer.

Already during my studies, I gave morning classes at Folkwang University of the Arts. Later on I taught kids' dance and Pilates as well as courses for a healthy spine and fascial fitness until I developed my own course format with the name “Spiral Flow”. I wanted to let the women feel their own body and modified the classes in a more dance-like way. Coco's teaching met my intention, I sensed her spirit of discovery and her captivating positive energy. ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE was the missing piece of the puzzle; it's well structured method connects my joy of teaching with dance and my kinesthetic sensitivity as well as my knowledge of anatomy.

Why did you decide to make dance your career?

I didn't decide. Dance picked me. After graduation I got a scholarship from Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes. It wasn't easy for me to choose a profession. After 13 years of school, I didn't know where my own particular strengths were. I had university places for medicine, psychology and nutrition sciences. Due to a deadline, I signed up for nutrition sciences. With 900 other students visiting basic courses in the main lecture hall, I was lost. After only a very short time, I found myself embarking on a dance adventure, participating in latin dance competitions. My dad shook his head. My cousin Carina, a flamenco dancer in Sevilla was a welcome retreat. When I was dancing, I was happy. For the first time, I could see it. From then on, I had no other choice than dancing.

How did you begin, and what were the most important insights and milestones on that path?

At the age of 3, I was allowed to join a ballet class for the first time. I was trained by my teacher, a former principal of the Royal Ballet Company until I was 18 years old. She taught me the effect an upright and confident posture can have in a job interview and how dance carries you through all phases of life, including puberty. Dance was my home.

An important milestone was learning the perseverance to realize my dreams. I wanted to get into Folkwang University of the Arts and I got kicked out in the final round of the audition. I was devastated. After a detour over the Northern Ballet School and Iwanson School of Contemporary dance, I tried again the following year. I auditioned right after I recovered from a bone fracture of two metatarsal bones and I got one of the last free student places at Folkwang University of the Arts. Keeping at it pays off!

An important finding was the fact, that I am responsible for my body. My body is my instrument. I can't put it down like a violin. I also can't take vacation from myself. Body, mind and soul have to work together and balance each other out. I learned to listen to my body, trust it and not push myself with my mind, but to let my body lead me. It is so much wiser compared to my mind. Bellydance is a great teacher for exactly that.

Did you have any doubts or reservations about the training?

No, it was the right decision at the right time.

How did the training change you?

Coco showed me how important it is to enter any training with an open mind and an open heart. Many of us might have expertise in a specific field and we come with certain expectations. If I attend a training as a “blank page”, I can fill this page and profit much more, in contrast to having filled half of my page at home with all that I already know.

What was the best moment in your dance life so far?

There was one unforgettable moment on stage. We performed the Tannhäuser Bacchanal of Pina Bausch. The Bacchanal was staged as an orgy on Venusberg to the music of Richard Wagner. Our costumes were practically non-existent, since they were so transparent. During the rehearsal phase, it was a challenge to expose my body and devote myself to the dance. When the music started and 24 bodies started to move and stretch out on the floor, immersed in warm light, something in my perception started to change. Time began to stretch. The lifts, the other dancers, the music, our breath, all became one. We were one dancing body. It was a flow state that I will always remember. It opened my eyes for the beauty of this world.

Is there something you regret?

Definitely. I regret a lot that my performance was more important to me than my physical health for a long time. My mind is limitless, but my body is exhaustible and needs breaks. Unfortunately, this was quite a late insight. I repeatedly crossed my own physical boundaries, danced in pain and ignored my most important instrument, my body. In Bellydance, this won't happen to me again.

What 3 tips would you like to share with women who want to pursue a similar dream?

1. Don't compare yourself to other women. We're all unique and we have our unique gifts within. Competition stifles the artist's creativity.

2. Listen to your heart and to your gut feeling. Your body never lies. If something feels like a “full body yes”, do it.

3. „Eat the apple!” I got this tip from my cousin Carina. I was day dreaming and talking about dance, but I didn't take actions on my dreams. Carina said: “If you are hungry, it is not helpful to talk about an apple. You have to eat it. Think big. Don't just look around the corner. Find out which artists inspire you and what kind of feelings you want to embody and express.” A mentor helps. The Adam-and-Eve-analogy just became apparent to me while writing. Be aware, though, here is no sin.

Besides dance, bodywork is your passion and you have your own practice. What training has shaped your work and to what extent do these disciplines complement each other with ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE?

Due to my own injuries and the nearly unbearable feeling, having to watch my own colleagues dance while I was sitting at the side with broken bones, a desire arose to explore body-friendly and healing movement systems. I was introduced to Gyrotonic and I was trained at almost all the specialized Gyrotonic equipment, as well as in Gyrokinesis. I started to help my colleagues when they were injured. Gyrotonic was my first movement medicine. I met my breath, the rhythm between expansion and relaxation. All my chronic inflammations disappeared.

The more I worked with “hands-on”, meaning guiding my colleagues and clients in their movement, I wanted to know which anatomical structures were beneath my hands. The Rolfing training gave me that knowledge and a lot more. Rolfing® gave me a soft body, the effortlessness of an upright posture and a good sense of my own and other bodies. The circle with my interest in medicine is almost complete, since I am nearly done with my training as a naturopath. For me, bodywork is linked to a great responsibility towards my clients. I want to see them in their wholeness.

ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE complements my trainings in a wonderful way. Here, I can combine my knowledge from bodywork with dance. The method is brilliant, because it is body-friendly, it contains practical knowledge about women's anatomy and physiology and it allows me to dive deep into my body, while I connect with other women. I can let go of my competitive mentality when dancing with other women, I can feel them, encourage them and flow with them. I am one of them, and together we can change the world.

You work very closely with Wiebke, how did that come about and what has been your experience like?

I found Wiebke in the teacher list of the ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE homepage. She teaches in Munich and gives Bellydance classes for pregnancy and after birth. Perfect. When I contacted her, she was temporarily based in Mexico. The first time we met at a Pelvic Floor Integration workshop with Coco. I was fascinated of “team Wiebke”, a group of women who followed her with full trust and enthusiasm. She must be doing something right, I thought.

We started a conversation about dance, women and graceful aging. We inspired each other so much that our collaboration started off with meetings in my Rolfing studio with two other women. We called the meetings “Inspiration and Tea”. Later on weekly Zoom calls followed as well as interviews with other interesting women, and finally the idea came up to start the weekdays together with an online Bellydance session. Being together, we are an inexhaustible source of inspiration, women power and fun. Everything feels so easy with Wiebke.

You founded the popular ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE morning flow together and have been giving a 30-minute class every morning for over a year. What was your biggest learning/surprise from this project?

Half an hour of dancing is enough to feel great and energized. Wiebke and I support each other in living our dreams each day. We learn from each other at eye level and combine our strengths. It is not seldom, that we turn our weaknesses into strengths, by exposing ourselves to positive stress, jump in at the deep end with new ideas and expand our comfort zone, bit by bit.

The Morning Flow is surprisingly addictive. We realize it each time when we are on holidays. We miss the flow, we miss each other and the other amazing women, who dance with us. Due to Corona, we got to know and appreciate the online teaching possibilities a lot. Now, we can meet in the mornings, whether we are still in pyjamas or not. Our mood always improves, when we connect with other women and dance together. This is priceless.

How are you dealing with failures?

In the past, I collapsed when I didn't get what I wanted. I can be quite stubborn as a Capricorn and I often became very rigid. Failure taught me that it is also possible to rise in failing. If I didn't get what I wanted, almost everytime something greater was already waiting for me. In hindsight it always made sense. I like the mantra: “That, or something better.”

In dance, I experienced my biggest highs, but also painful depths. At Folkwang, I was addicted to my brain chemistry with high levels of dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline. After the last shows of the summer, just before I wanted to start my final year, I spiraled downward into a severe depression. I got to know my own darkness, which profoundly changed my perception of the world. Life is a gift. At the end of my lifetime, I definitely can't accuse myself of not having lived. “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.” - Pina Bausch.

What are the 3 books that shaped your life?

“Let me tell you a story- tales along the road to happiness.” by Jorge Bucay I often find myself expressed in it. It is revealing human behaviour and our psyche in a loving way.

“Der heilige Tanz- Orientalischer Tanz und sakrale Erotik“ by Eluan Ghazal. Wiebke provides me more than others with reading material for the soul. This book has given my understanding of Bellydance a whole new dimension.

“Seelengevögelt“ by Veit Lindau Veit Lindau is not writing a book. He is writing to you. A refreshing and much-needed kick in the butt.

I could go on forever. I hoard books and I have a big collection of specialist books from knowledge about the vagus nerve, to fascia research, to osteopathy or self-realization. To me it matters to put my knowledge into practice.

How does a day in your life look like?

Since my pregnancy, I became an early bird. Our son wakes me up even earlier than I would like. Therefore, we sometimes have a lot of time before sunrise. We have breakfast, we play, and I bring him to daycare between 7.30 and 8.00 am. After that, the Morning Flow time starts. I like lying on the floor, stretch and move gently before class. Then, Wiebke and I start the Zoom meeting, chat and wait for the women who are dancing with us. This time is essential. The Morning-Flow consists of a gentle warm-up followed by the ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE technique and a shaking part, finally a combination and a meditative cool-down.

It has established so well, that we offer a total of 9 Flows every week, which means that we sometimes teach twice in a row. After that, I am usually very productive. I study, work on organizational tasks, write or create in another way. I give one or two Rolfing- or Gyrotonic sessions and I enjoy taking time for my clients, since I like to focus on them completely. In the afternoon, I pick up my son, we spend time together. Whenever my husband takes over, there is a chance of going to my dance studio and teaching with Wiebke. I go to bed early. I like reading before going to sleep and sometimes I treat myself by turning my night into day. I usually regret that a little the following day, but I can have creative streaks at night.

What is your vision for the future?

My vision is, that the ESSENCE family grows, that we can support and see each other and that we live feminine connection. Not in the sense of representing a lifestyle or a product. It is enough, to shake our hips together. The entire energy lies there. It is not a secret.

Thank you so much for the interview Lea! You are an inspiration.

Do you love to dance and want to inspire other women? Then join our international community of excellent dance teachers and start teaching your own ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE™ classes. You can do it!

Bellydance Teacher Training with Lea from Munich, Germany
ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE™ teacher Lea from Munich, Germany
Bellydance Teacher Training with Lea from Munich, Germany
Lea performing the Tannhäuser Bacchanal of Pina Bausch: "We were one dancing body. It was a flow state that I will always remember."
Bellydance workshops with Lea from Munich, Germany
Wiebke and I support each other in living our dreams each day.
Bellydance Teacher Training with Lea from Munich, Germany
Listen to your heart and to your gut feeling. Your body never lies.
Bellydance workshops with Lea from Munich, Germany
I got to know my own darkness, which profoundly changed my perception of the world. Life is a gift.
Bellydance Teacher Training with Lea from Munich, Germany
I learned to listen to my body, trust it and not push myself with my mind, but to let my body lead me.
Bellydance workshops with Lea from Munich, Germany
When I was dancing, I was happy. From then on, I had no other choice than dancing.

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