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Life & Work with Laura Barsalou of Longwood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Laura Barsalou.

Laura, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
I had always wanted to take bellydance classes in high school and college, but never got the chance until after I had graduated. I was recently married, many of my friends had moved away, and I was looking for something fun that would keep me active and meet new friends. In early 2004, I came across a website for bellydance classes in Orlando, and a few weeks later, I found myself at a beautiful dance studio, surrounded by gorgeous rhinestone costumes, and enchanting music. I quickly fell in love with the movements and expression of the dance, and more importantly, how it made me feel when I danced. I felt beautiful, confident, and strong. I took multiple classes a week, and when I wasn’t in the studio for class, I was practicing anywhere and everywhere I could – not only at home, but practicing chest isolations when stopped at red lights in my car, or shimmying at the copy machine at work when no one was looking. I eventually joined the dance studio’s cabaret performance troupe, and later on, started studying and performing fusion bellydance with another studio in Orlando. I completed a teacher training course in 2011, and have been teaching classes and workshops at dance studios throughout Orlando ever since. I received my certification to teach Barre classes in 2018, and I currently teach weekly Bellydance, Barre, and additional fitness classes at Serenity Now Yoga in Longwood, Florida.

I am the director of BalaChandra BellyDance, a professional performance company co-founded with my dance partner in 2014. BalaChandra BellyDance has been featured at exciting venues and events throughout Orlando and the state of Florida, specializing in glamorous solo and group presentations we describe as “glossy fusion bellydance.” This year, I have reorganized the business to encompass all my performance and instruction projects, and exploring new opportunities to expand my teaching with online classes. My goal is to continue to showcase the art form of bellydance to our Central Florida community and beyond.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
If you truly have a passion for your art or business project, of course you feel every struggle or roadblock deeply, and for me, it’s been a road of twists and turns, highs and lows. Sometimes it’s been difficult to get support, or to have others take my work as a professional bellydancer seriously. As with any small creative business, I’ve faced the same struggles with finding and maintaining performance and teaching opportunities in a field that often suffers undercutting and drama. My long-time dance partner decided to retire from performing in 2020, and at the same time I was figuring out what the next step would be for BalaChandra BellyDance as a company, the pandemic took hold, freezing all of my business pursuits. While I was fortunate to transition my classes to an online format when the studio closed its doors for in person classes, many of my clients were unable to continue to attend classes at all, due to financial or other constraints. No shows and events led to no bookings for entertainment, and like many artists in Orlando, I was home, trying to reinvent myself and my business in the wake of Covid-19. Now we are slowly coming back, the studio is open, and we’ve enjoyed success with the online class format, so we are offering hybrid classes, both online and in person. I am grateful that I still have such a strong passion for bellydance, despite the setbacks, and still feel inspired every day to pursue my dream.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am most proud of my work through BalaChandra BellyDance. As a student and performer at other studios, I dreamed of working with my own troupe to create my vision for style and choreography. I started studying American Cabaret bellydance, which is what audiences typically envision as a traditional bellydancer. I then spent nine years focused on tribal fusion bellydance, a modern style comprised of various dance influences. For BalaChandra BellyDance, the goal was to meld my training in both styles to create an aesthetic that was glamorous, sexy, and wildly entertaining. We described BalaChandra as “glossy fusion bellydance,” to explain our vision of the dance; polished, but still playful and sassy. I am equally proud of my career teaching bellydance. I love introducing clients to all the qualities of the dance that changed my life when I took my first class. My most cherished memories aren’t on stage, but rather, when a client has told me they feel beautiful in their own skin when dancing. I am proud to offer classes that show bellydance is accessible to all – all genders and backgrounds.

What quality or characteristic do you feel is most important to your success?
I feel my ability to connect with people is the most important quality, and the amount of experience I have in this field has been invaluable. Whether I’m teaching a class, or working with a client on ideas for their event, I feel it’s important to listen and be receptive to how they feel and what they need. I have a background in managing corporate events, so I understand what it takes to run a successful event, regardless if it’s a Gala performance for thousands or a birthday party celebration for a small audience. I have been performing and teaching professionally for years, which has helped me navigate any issues that may arise or surprises that may derail someone with less experience rolling with the punches.

Contact Info:

Image Credits
Adrienne Frankenfield Photography

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