Hi, I’m Helen
I’m a bellydance coach, performer, choreographer and blogger.
For the last 16 years of my life I’ve been helping women, like you, to be bold with their bellydance dreams and offer the tools and coaching to get there.
There’s nothing that bums me out more than receiving an email from someone asking me if they can join my class even though they have no dance experience/are shy/are “curvy/are too “old”.
I believe that there’s no such thing as a late starter. So, if you think you’ve left it too late to become the dancer of your dreams, think again because I believe that nobody is to shy, old or “curvy” to master bellydancing.
Over the years I have become to be known for giving step-by-step, easy to follow bellydance coaching which I offer at my local classes here in Reading UK, plus online here at Santa Maria Bellydance Online. For the last few years I’ve also shared masses of free tuition through my blog and newsetters.
Starting out in 2005 with nothing more than a deep love of bellydance, an old boom box and a university classroom that I managed to blag for free, I’m happy to say that I now run a Bellydance Academy that has taught thousands of women to bellydance since 2005.
How did you get to become a bellydance instructor, performer & mentor?
To help answer this question, it’s probably easiest if I tell you my story and a few defining moments that led me to where I am today, helping women like you bring out their feminine side and sparkle with confidence by teaching you how to bellydance.
Rewind 12 years …
In 2001, I was working my first office job and my life was pretty much made up of work and a bit of a social life. I didn’t have any hobbies or interests to get excited about and each week was pretty much the same. So when I heard about a ‘bellydance taster session’ happening one lunch hour at work, I was immediately intrigued. I had seen a real life bellydancer before and also little snippets in films and had always been fascinated by the way bellydancers moved their hips (“how do they do that?!”)
However, actually turning up and having a go myself was another thing entirely. On one hand, going to a bellydance class seemed like a different and exciting thing to do; on the other, it felt a little silly and embarrassing. Although part of me was super curious about giving it a go, I didn’t feel bold enough to get out of my comfort zone and turn up to the class. Thank goodness the curious part of me was persistent.
I went to the class and I absolutely loved it! My first bellydance class opened my eyes to a brand new hobby that I was already getting excited about. In that decisive moment I found my very own “thing” that was just for me, that I could look forward to every week and see myself develop with.
I realised that as well as enjoying the class and the company of the other women there, I was actually getting the hang of it pretty quickly. So decided to dedicate more time taking bellydance classes, courses and workshops to see what more I could learn. I wanted to know EVERYTHING there was to know about bellydancing. There was no such thing as YouTube or video tutorials at that time so I made it my business to find out which teachers were in the country and what they were teaching and to make sure I was there. With no car it was a bit like planes, trains and automobiles! I sought out the best coaching I could find and gathered together the money to pay for the highest level of bellydance training I could.
Fast forward 4 years …
The years went by and I became even bolder. I began performing at every single possible opportunity at student bellydance showcases and, after a while, I had the occasional person asking me where I taught! It had never occurred to me that I would ever be good enough to teach or do bellydancing professionally.
So when the chance then came up to dance in a venue and actually get paid to dance, I realised that I would need to get a professional – and expensive – bellydance costume. Being a student for the third time round at university, I wasn’t exactly flush with money and I was spending most of what I had on my bellydance training. When a teacher suggested that I could start a beginner class at the university to make a bit of money it seemed like a logical plan.
I had no idea what to expect or if anybody would want to learn with me, but, thankfully, lots of curious ladies turned up to my little beginner class and I taught them how to isolate their hips and do some simple bellydance moves. They loved it!
I thought I was just teaching for a few months to make some money to go to Egypt and buy my first professional costumes. But this became a defining moment for me and I had an epiphany: I enjoyed seeing the results that my students got so much that it became equally (if not more!) important to me to teach bellydance than pursuing my own performance career. I realised that I had given my students a place and time where they can bring out a different side of themselves and develop a new confidence through learning bellydance with me.
I worked my day job during the day and taught bellydance every evening and performed professionally every weekend. I soon found a way of systematically teaching women the essentials of bellydancing in quite a short space of time. I was continually astounded at how special it made my students feel to able to move elegantly and gracefully. I began to think of my bellydance classes as a kind of “rocket fuel” for self-confidence!
I had step-by-step, easy-to-follow methods for teaching just about every single element of bellydance. I loved watching the transformations that my students made and seeing them become self-assured bellydancers as a result of coming to my classes.
As much as I enjoyed my blossoming career as a professional bellydance performer, it was teaching others and watching them transform into dancers that became the most exciting and fulfilling part of what I was doing. It was clear to me by then that bellydance was meant to be my professional life. And so it was.
I gave up pursuing my next day job and made a professional commitment to give women a clear and easy route to put their self-esteem into overdrive, bring out their feminine side and see themselves sparkle through learning bellydance.
I’ve now been a bellydance instructor, mentor and performer since 2005 and helped hundreds of women feel confident about themselves by bringing bellydance into their weekly routine. I founded the Santa Maria Bellydance Academy (SMBA) and created the Bellydance Essentials Course, a step-by-step 6 week bellydance ‘bootcamp’ where women quickly learn how to bellydance with confidence and poise.
I also created higher level Shining Goddess Programs where we take students beyond the basics towards profound, in-depth and authentic understanding of how to bellydance. I coach ultra ambitious students privately to enable them to take a giant leap to the next level. Fledgling professional bellydance performers and instructors can undergo professional breakthrough coaching and mentoring on my specially designed programs.