Essence of Bellydance

by Coco

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Bellydance body awareness dance classes in Berlin

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ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE™ Teacher Spotlight Sofiya

"Bellydance gives me power. I know my strengths and weaknesses and I own them."

Interview from February 10th 2020.

Sofiya (27) is a professional dancer, teacher and since 2019 a certified ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE™ teacher. Her work centers around emotion, she applies it in her teaching as well as performing. Sofiya has created her unique style, which merges bellydance, tribal fusion, contemporary dance and ballet. She places a special emphasis on improvisation and body-mind centering. In her dance, she focuses on human emotions and creates choreographies that are inspired by real personal stories and strong inner conflicts.

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

It was actually quite funny. I never knew much about Bellydance, I always wanted to do hip hop and never imagined myself going for Bellydance. So the very first time I was so to speak dragged to the class. However, I loved it right away! I had the luck to have a very inspirational teacher (Veneta Gerganova), who taught me to move from the inside, finding an motivation for every move from an inner drive. And that is what makes a dance a dance and not just movement, isn’t it? Feeling every move with your whole body and living in the moment, in the dance.

The moment I started doing Bellydance changed my life forever. It profoundly changed me as a person and acted as a therapy, which cured a lot of the pain and trauma I carried with me. Before I started dancing, I used to be very shy and insecure, and really cared about what people think about me. Now I feel confident and strong, and do not concern myself with the opinion of others. I have grown to learn my strengths and weaknesses and I own them. Having weaknesses is human and no one should be embarrassed about it. Instead, we should acknowledge them and search to improve.

Bellydance gives me power. I can do whatever I want with my body, I can move any part of my body just because I want to. This is a very powerful feeling. Especially when you see the response of the audience, being enchanted by these small and yet magical and powerful moves. It is priceless.

You have a Master in Chemistry, how did you decide to make dancing your career?

This was a true inner struggle between my heart and my brain, between my intuition and what society told me. I felt that something was off already in the end of my Bachelor degree. I hit a point of my life, in which dance made me so much happier than chemistry. However, as most people do, I ignored the signs and kept on going the usual, standard way. Because I was told that this is how life should be… You grow up, get a degree, get a job, have a family… What no one told me was that it doesn’t have to be like this. It can be, but does not have to.

After graduating with a Bachelor degree, I was seriously considering doing a career in dance, but I had strong doubts. I feared that I am not good enough, that I can’t earn a living doing what I love. So I was very kept on following the “standard” way, despite the fact it made me miserable. Truth be told, what made it all manageable was the fact that I was continuously dancing. I was already teaching classes, and was organizing and participating in shows.

Soon after, I graduated with a Master degree and started searching for a job. It took me around 9 months to finally find what turned out to be a terrible job, which made me quite unhappy… I only lasted a year. That was my turning point. I could not continue forcing myself to do something that I dislike when I was ignoring something which I so dearly love and am also good at. I finally decided to quit my job and only continue with my dance teaching and performing.

Four years. That is how long it took me to take this decision. Yes, it is really hard financially, and yes, it is unstable and insecure at times, but it is amazing to do what you love. Transitioning from my strict scientific degree to a dance career was a very hard but necessary step for me. It made me very happy and satisfied with my life. I believe that everyone has to find their own way in life without prejudice and judgment, without comparison to others. You are who you are and you need to find the best way for yourself.

How did you start and what were the important milestones or turning points in your career?

I first started teaching. This was while I was studying my for my Masters degree. It was quite challenging since I did not have any degree in dance or teaching, but I have been a tutor so I had some experience working with people. I was following my instincts and learned how to teach mostly by myself.

Another turning point was the decision to quit my job and to work full time on my dance career. From that moment on, I worked very hard and things started working out by themselves. I had my goals set and worked hard to achieve them, but I was still very uncertain, scared and stressed.

This was resolved by the ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE™ teacher training. It was during the training when I finally managed to achieve inner peace, to relax and accept that whatever happens, in the end things will work out. From that moment on, every day I do a small milestone that brings me closer to my dreams. I challenge myself to be brave and strong, to not be worried about whether things will work out but to make them happen.

2018 you created, directed and perfomed in "La Femme", a full contemporary oriental dance show that celebrates strong women. Congratulations, that‘s very impressive. Can you tell us more about it?

'La Femme' touches on social issues such as social prejudice and pressure, as well as more intimate ones like having a miscarriage and being in an abusive relationship. Three inspiring women came forward to tell their stories. Their words were expressed through contemporary oriental dance and supported by theatrical elements.

My goal with this performance was to wake up something very deep in everyone that sees it. Mostly, I wanted to support women that are in similar situations by showing them that they are not the only ones and that there is a way out. It is important to discuss these topics openly so that people in similar situations do not feel ashamed and can look for help.

You joined the ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE™ Teacher Training in 2019, did you have doubts if it‘s the right thing to do?

I have been wanting to join the ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE teacher training for a very long time, a few years ago already. But I was not sure about it. I felt that I was not ready yet. I had it in my mind that someday, when I think it is time, I will do it.

One late night in mid-2018, a few months before I finally decided to become a dancer, I remembered about the training and wrote right away... at 1 am in the night. It was very exciting, I was so happy! It really felt this was the right decision at the right time. I was in the perfect state of mind once the training began, I could learn and absorb the most. Now when I think about it, once again I realize how powerful intuition and following your heart are.

How did the training change you?

Under the guidance of Coco, I build a very strong connection with my body, which brought me into harmony with myself. This connection turned out to be a missing piece. I felt that I was missing something for a very long time, but did not realize what it was until that moment. Now I know and understand myself better and know what I need to do to feel better.

Another thing, which I already intuitively felt but did not yet realize consciously, was that everyone is different and that is completely fine. Coco welcomes you as you are and teaches you to love yourself. This is such an important lesson to learn, and there are so few people that are ready to teach that to you. I now teach my students to accept and love themselves for who they are and see them becoming empowered.

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

The ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE™ teacher training! It is so hard to describe with words what I felt. I can only say that it was a truly magical moment, an amazing atmosphere with great people. I sometimes wish I can do it again and again! It changed my life.

Is there something you regret?

Regret is not a feeling I want to cultivate. I believe that instead of regretting something, people should learn from it. We are all human and we all make mistakes. It is something completely natural and we should not punish ourselves or anyone else for it. Instead, accept it as it is and learn your lesson.

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

1. Be strong and brave, do not overthink and worry. Do it and see what happens. If you fail once, it is not the end of the world. Accept it and move forward on the next task. Learn from it.
2. Always keep your mind open and your heart in place. Stay humble and allow yourself to improve without wanting to be better than someone. Instead of feeling ashamed for not knowing something, just learn from the ones that know.
3. Focus on the positive things in your life.

How does a day in your life look like?

Sometimes days vary, but usually, I wake up and try to take some quality time for myself: stretching, meditation, reading a book, or doing pelvic floor exercises. After that, I eat breakfast and start working on the tasks for the day.

Currently, I teach classes 5 days out of 7. During the class-free days I aim to record and edit a video or two, which I then publish on my Youtube channel and Instagram. I always want to improve more, so I also regularly visit other dance classes.

My only problem right now is that the day has only 24 hours. My enthusiasm and for what I do give me enough energy to do a lot more and organizing the priorities is not always easy.

What are the 3 books that shaped your life?

“The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne introduced me to the law of attraction.

“Mindfulness in Plain English” by Henepola Gunaratana instilled the idea of awareness and living in the present moment.

“Pussy Yoga” by Coco . I deeply connect to a lot of the content and it made me realize a lot of things I was missing until now.

What is your vision for the future?

To be truly happy and to dance. Everything else will fall into place over time. I have recently found this one feeling of „true happiness“. It is a combination of a feeling of satisfaction with everything you have, positivity for what’s to come, and love towards everything. It is a feeling of being alive with every part of your body.

Thank you so much for the interview Sofiya! 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 professional bellydancer and teacher Sofiya from Berlin
ESSENCE OF BELLYDANCE™ Teacher Sofiya from Berlin (Photo: Philippe Rives)
Bellydance Teacher Training with professional bellydancer and teacher Sofiya from Berlin
When you see the audience being enchanted by these small and yet magical and powerful moves. It is priceless. (Photo: Daniela Incoronato)
Bellydance workshops with professional bellydancer and teacher Sofiya from Berlin
It is a feeling of being alive with every part of your body. (Photo: Vesela Yordanova)
Bellydance Teacher Training with professional bellydancer and teacher Sofiya from Berlin
Now I feel confident and strong, and do not concern myself with the opinion of others. (Photo: Daniela Incoronato)
Bellydance workshops with professional bellydancer and teacher Sofiya from Berlin
Be strong and brave, do not overthink and worry. Do it and see what happens. (Photo: Inka Junge)

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