Belly Dance Confidence: A Mother and Daughter Transform
When Sonia Flores’ daughter, Senee’, was having difficulty in school, a recommendation from a music therapist led them to belly dance. Over 14 years later, the mother and daughter duo continue to learn, perform, teach, and work together to bring belly dance into the lives of others.
Sonia, from El Paso, Texas, was a special education teacher for 9 years, and tested students for learning disabilities. So when she noticed her daughter Senee’ had difficulty reading, she turned to a co-worker who taught music therapy. The Music Therapist recommended dance classes.
The mother and daughter tried a few different dance classes before Senee’ suggested they try belly dance. Though music and entertainment was a part of Sonia’s life growing up, she did not convert to belly dance easily.
"I was not one to be prancing around in "veil-y" things and looking like Jasmine; I had muscles," Sonia said.
Finding the right teacher was not easy. Since Senee’ was younger than most ordinary dancers, just 7 or 8 at the time, the highly recommended dance teacher Sonia and Senee’ sought would not teach them.
"She put us on a one year waiting list," Sonia said. "Needless to say that did not ever work out."
They continued to search for the right fit, and the effort finally paid off. Sonia found a teacher who would teach both her and Senee’, and they began taking classes twice a week. Senee’s belly dancing changed more than just her reading scores.
"After 6 months of belly dance classes Senee's reading scores went up 3 grade levels. She became more confident and strong. Her mouse-like personality changed, the way she carried herself changed, and she became a confident and assertive young lady," Sonia said.
Belly dance is now an important part in Sonia and Senee’s lives; they can’t imagine life without it. Even Sonia’s mother has joined in: until recently, she made most of the costumes Sonia and Senee’ wore. Sharing the dance has shaped their relationship in a very different way.
"Senee' tells me that we spend more time together than your average mother/daughters she knows," Sonia said. "If we have a disagreement we have to put it aside because we have two or three performances a week sometimes and we owe it to our clients."
Today, they use their unique relationship to bring belly dance to others. They own a business together, perform in a dance troupe, and host a show every year called, "The Arabesque". Being a mother and daughter team, they can present belly dance in a wholesome light.
"We have performed for people who had never seen bellydancers," Sonia said. "Once they knew we were a mother/daughter duo they softened up and maybe saw bellydance on another level."
When performing together, they dance both solos and duets. Knowing each other so well, they choreograph to each other’s strengths and weaknesses, in dance and in life.
"Most of the time I manage, she creates and that works for us," Sonia said.
It’s apparent through the way Sonia speaks about her daughter that their love is very strong. Their dance studio, located on the top floor of their house, is a place where they can share their love and dance with others. Using their experience, they can hopefully change other’s lives through belly dance.
"When children are disabled or just not successful in school, the fact that they have failure after failure can in time break their spirit," Sonia said. "I feel that belly dancing helped heal [Senee’s] spirit."