Recently Laetana Bellydance marked its 20th year serving the dance community in Eindhoven with a spectacular party that featured dancing with friends, wine, hors d’ oeuvres, and professional performances in a variety of dance styles.
About 150 enthusiastic friends and supporters of Laetana and her students attended the celebration of dance and of a community 20 years in the making, hosted by Laetana herself at Danscentrum Verspaandonk. Performances were given by Laetana as well as several of her students and colleagues and represented many styles of Bellydance, tribal fusion, Spanish Arabic dancing, Salsa, as well as Odissi and Cuttack, both hailing from India.
Having started dancing in various styles at age 17, Laetana first encountered Bellydance at a Moroccan party when she was 22. “I had never seen such a feminine dance ever. That was what attracted me. This was a turning point that changed my life.”
Laetana was so in love with the dance that she largely self-studied using videotapes and practicing in another dancer’s home. “There were no Bellydance schools at that time. I contacted the dancer (from the party) and she gave me lessons in her living room.” After just three months of study and practice, Laetana gave her first performance.
Laetana has now been performing for 32 years and teaching for 21. She has performed internationally in Greece, Bahrain (near Saudi Arabia), Jordan, Poland, Egypt, Spain, Germany, Belgium, and America. She never intended to become a teacher.
Her friends asked her to teach them how to dance, and although she declined at first, they persisted. She decided to give it a try. “I realized that this is a gift. To be a dancer is something that comes from above. God gave me this opportunity and these skills. It is the most beautiful thing in my life.”
Annelien van den Braak has been dancing with Laetana for 15 years. She says that Laetana has a rare gift in that she is both a beautiful performer and also a great teacher. “She can help bring out the best in her students. In a group she knows how to bring out the individual.”
“The reason why people stay so long in her classes is that she is a very good person. She sees further than the dancer. She sees into your personal situation. She is always asking and always interested.”
Laetana has been lauded by her students for her ability to teach and inspire dancers and would-be dancers of all levels. She offers high-level classes for experienced dancers, as well as classes for beginners and everything in between. Annelien told me “Sometimes people who are teaching and dancing for such a long time forget how it is for a person making their first steps. Laetana can go all the way back to the basics. She is very patient. You don’t feel clumsy the first time you start with her.”
Laetana’s High Level students travel from all over the Netherlands to refine their skills under her guidance. One of her High Level students, Agnes van Naamen, expressed her enthusiasm about working with Laetana: “We learn about posture, travel steps, turns, improv, and much more…. We all decided to perform at her anniversary, as a thank you for the great times we’ve had at her lessons, and because of the good harmony we have among the whole group of dancers.”
One of the most challenging things about running a studio for 20 years, Laetana told me, is “keeping my students inspired, satisfied, and that they have the feeling that they always learn new things or improve themselves.” One of the most wonderful aspects of what she does: “…that I can change an audience’s mind about Bellydancing, because it is not always accepted or taken seriously by everybody. People say to me afterwards, I didn’t know that Bellydancing was like that. If I can change these thoughts, then I have reached my goal.”
In addition to Laetana’s classes, there are several other teachers and movement classes happening on a regular basis at her studio. Among the offerings are Zumba, Biodanza, Pilates, Tai Chi, and Latin dance classes. The studio is located at Hoogstraat 105A in Eindhoven, and is also available for private rentals for workshops, personal practice time for dancers or musicians, gatherings, or even healing treatments.
Laetana reflected excitedly and fondly about her years as a dancer and teacher, and about the party; “The most beautiful thing about the evening for me was all of the people who came – the dancers, all of my friends, the audience. Everyone who enjoyed and appreciated the evening.”
Photos by Rozalind Photography, except where otherwise noted.
Author: Jennifer M