OWNING IT #4: REBUILD, REBIRTH, REEMERGENCE

I’ve been reflecting a lot lately. This past year was one of tremendous growth, challenge, and unexpected surprises. When I look back at this year, I see just how a great and terrible beauty this has been for me. I grew exponentially, joyously, painfully. I became more authentic as I hacked away at gangrenous parts of me that no longer served.

A year and a half ago I took on my own restaurant gig. I then experienced a lot of death in the form of family members and relationships. Then I changed day jobs, going back to a job that offered less pay but also less emotional strain so I could have the energy after work to focus on my art and see if “going pro”, i.e. embracing the gig life, was the life for me. I met the man of my dreams who has grown to be the love of my life.

Then I burned out, utterly exhausted from overwork, overstretching, and doggedly trying to add soul and breath into the shallow, entertainment side of the belly dance industry.

It’s been one of those years that has changed me forever and significantly altered my course. I more or less quit gigging in September yet am still processing all I learned and experienced in this momentous year. I could probably write a book on everything I discovered about myself and my relationship with belly dance, but here are 3 big ones:

Know when to stop. I think there are things we can only discover by being on the brink of exhaustion, but it becomes very easy to lose sight of your path when you push yourself to work relentlessly. 

Become familiar with your own natural seasons of work. On her podcast, Make it Happen, Jen Carrington often mentions “season of hustle”. There are seasons where you are going to push a little harder, work a little more, but you also need to embrace seasons of rest, regularly, and without judgment. I’m a chronic overachiever, so this is incredibly hard for me.

Practice patience, practice abundance. My dream was, and is, to build my dance business to the point where I can support myself part time and go down to a part time day job. I said yes to every gig and every collaborative opportunity, because I was afraid if I said no the opportunities would never come again, and I would lose my chance to grow, earn a steady income, and make my dream of supporting myself through my art less attainable. I operated from a scarcity mindset instead of one of abundance. I was impatient. I was hard on myself. There are things that only come with time, and for me this dream is one of them. It’s been hard to slow down, but I’m all the better for it.

As uncomfortable as it has been the past few months I’m enjoying letting go of what doesn’t serve me, I take an odd comfort in plowing through old ways of thinking and behaving, preparing to rebuild, preparing for a rebirth a reemergence of a more refined and authentic artistic vision.

What can you do to pause and check in with your Self, your inner artist, your voice to make sure you’re on your authentic path?

What ways can you start to build moments of reflection and rest into your day? Your dance practice?

Comment below because I’d love to know…

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Owning it #2: Tips and what expect at my shows

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Unfortunately in the U.S. the predominant image of a belly dancer is an exotic, over-sexed woman who is dancing to excite men. I assure you that this cannot be further from the truth for 99.9% of belly dancers, but you, understandably, may not know this if you haven’t been around many belly dancers or seen a lot of belly dance performances.

So, if you’ve been wondering whether it’d be awkward to take your kids or your loved one to see a belly dance show I’m here to help! Below is information about what to expect from my shows at Al-Amir in Portland, OR.

If you’re wanting to attend another show, I’d suggest contacting the individual belly dancer at that particular venue and ask him or her to share details about what you can expect from their show. Many dancers have their information online with details about what to expect from their shows, so even contacting them directly may not be necessary.

Each belly dancer runs his/her show a little differently, so, again, I’m going to share with you what to expect if you come to my regular show at Al-Amir:

1. I perform a roughly 20 minute set of upbeat modern music, mostly Egyptian and Lebanese. I usually perform with a veil at the beginning. Sometimes I play sagat (little finger cymbals), but sometimes I don’t. It honestly depends on the song, the atmosphere, etc. I like to keep things fresh and change it up! 

2. I encourage audience members to get up and dance with me throughout the show, particularly women and children. Don’t worry if you feel uncertain about what to do. I will also show you basic movements, or I’ll just encourage you to dance however makes you feel most comfortable. This isn’t a “let’s embarrass the audience” type of moment, but intended to be a moment of friendly joy and celebration. I will NEVER force you to dance with me and will always respect your desire not to dance if that is your preference.

3. It’s typically acceptable, and even encouraged, to tip belly dancers. However, each belly dancer does this differently, so I encourage you always to ask about what each dancer prefers. I do accept tips when performing at Al-Amir, but unlike most dancers I prefer not to accept them in my costume. There is nothing wrong with this practice, but I have found it misleads my audience so decided to not do it anymore. You may hand any tip to me or give it to the wait staff. I occasionally have envelopes available for bigger parties with instructions on how to tip printed on the envelope itself.

4. I am not dancing to flirt with or otherwise offer any sort of titillation for you, your significant other, friend, etc. Inappropriate behavior is completely off limits and not tolerated by me in any way; my shows have been and always will be a family friendly event. If you have something else in mind I suggest you look elsewhere.

I encourage you to educate yourself and learn more about the history of belly dance in the US and in general. To start, I recommend articles and research by Shira, Morocco, Sahra Saeeda, and articles published in Habibi magazine. If you’re more of a podcast person, check out Belly Dance Geek Clubhouse.

There are also a great number of books out there. Contact me if you’d like some suggestions!


Kate performs at 8pm every Friday and Saturday night at Al-Amir Lebanese Restaurant located in downtown Portland, OR, USA.

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