So last month I finally got around to launching my website, a task which took nearly ten years to accomplish and written about in depth here.  Some years I was just too busy with other more interesting endeavors, while others yes, I procrastinated and frittered away ample time to move forward with it.  If I’m honest though, I’d say it was also in part, a fear of success.


This has brought me to explore the question: what does “success” mean?  I’m considering this more than ever these days as the pressure to feel like I’m making my mark in the world is fierce. And I know many ask themselves this question at the start of a new year.


Few women attempt to make the leap into bellydancing full-time as their sole source of income and succeed, while for most it is a part-time job and a full-time passion. Looking back, I sometimes wish I had taken a different path and developed my artistic goals within a more practical container as my longing for security grows stronger with each passing year.


On the flip side, I sometimes sit back and marvel at having lived entirely on my art on my own in NYC for more than a decade. That, in itself is a success.  And I’m proud to be a distinguished member of the group of elite NYC bellydancers that are considered to be successful.  But what does the future look like for us?


After enjoying a prominent performing career for many years, some dancers start teaching practices, which may transition into heading their own studio or dance company.  Some become booking agents for their own entertainment troupes.  Lots of dancers go on the competition circuit in hopes of creating a name for themselves and become touring workshop instructors. Others may start a new career and continue dancing minimally within the community.


And some find a niche that is all to their own by mixing genres or fields, discovering a new medium to work in outside the realm of conventional bellydance gigs or classes, yet still in some way connected to it.  I find this last option to be the most inviting, perhaps not any more secure, and also by far the most mysterious.


How to be all that I can be, continue to dance, offer some service to the world, and live with passion, integrity, AND security.  Tall order.  My journals are packed end to end with ideas, longings, philosophies on life and dance, and a thousand ways to try and package something that doesn’t seem package-able.  Me.


You can relate, as we are all multi-faceted beings and not defined by any one aspect or longing.  The point, I think, is to feel we have come into some kind of harmony within ourselves, so that life and work and love all flow together with ease and fulfillment.   We don’t have to suffer, in doing or not doing our art.  We just have to find a way to be who we are, and in turn life rewards us for that.


That is my holy grail, my definition of “success”. In those terms it seems not as scary as maybe it once did for me.   But I’m still here dancing my heart out for my livelihood and searching for clues as to how all this can begin to take shape for me as the future draws near.

Layla Isis
*above image taken by Cathy Weeks, City Park, New Orleans