Q & A with Sara Beaman
This month’s interview features another dancer from my dance community, Sara Beaman. I’ve known Sara pretty much since I started belly dancing in 2005. She was, and still is, a fixture in our local belly dance scene. I’ve taken a few workshops with her and have watched her style evolve from ATS to the contemporary fusion that she performs today. I encourage you to check out her YouTube channel to see what Sara means when she describes herself as a contemporary fusion dancer.
Sara has also recently released her first instructional DVD, Fluid Transitions: Drills and Combinations for Fusion Bellydance, and is a novelist.
Read more about her thoughts on belly dance, the community and how she cultivates a positive body image for herself.
Name (or stage name): Sara Beaman
Primary style of dance: Contemporary Fusion
Favorite dancers: Mira Betz, Bozenka, Jill Parker, Tito, Fifi Abdou, Ava Fleming, Lisa Zahiya, Donna Mejia, Zoe Jakes
Number of years you’ve been a belly dancer: 11
What inspires your dancing?
First and foremost I’m inspired by other dancers and performers–not just belly dancers, and not just professionals. I watch other dance forms and pick out interesting lines, poses and transitions I can use to make my belly dance performances a little strange and unfamiliar. I also love to integrate theatrical elements into my performances, so I always enjoy watching drag and burlesque for ideas. Of course, I never steal anyone else’s ideas outright–I always try to combine them with enough of my own voice that it becomes unique and personal to me.
Music is also a crucial ingredient in my creative process. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve listened to evocative music and directed elaborate stage performances in my head. And, of course, I love looking at Pinterest for costuming and makeup inspiration. The designers of Pinterest deserve a gold medal in the Internet Olympics, in my opinion.
What qualities do you admire most in other dancers?
I love seeing when other dancers really bare their soul onstage. In other words, I love it when dancers let down their guards and allow me to connect with them on an emotional level. It doesn’t need to be raw or theatrical–just a genuine smile is more than enough. Of course I also care about things like musicality, precision, fluidity and movement choice, but I’ve found that without some emotional connection, I won’t care about what I’m seeing, and I won’t remember it later.
Aside from that, I also love to watch dancers who really know their music and have a broad knowledge base. Whether they specialize in folkloric Egyptian or Tribal Fusion, I believe dancers with a wide range of dance skills tend to be much more interesting to watch.
What is your biggest challenge as it relates belly dance?
My biggest challenge is coping with my chronic pain and fatigue. I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia when I was thirteen, and I have chronic back, neck and shoulder pain due to scoliosis.
This is actually much less of a problem for me as a performer than it is for me as a teacher. I struggle with what we call “brain fog”, which is a loss of cognitive function due to fatigue. Sometimes it’s quite difficult for me to string words together in class. If I have to drill a single move for any length of time it makes my body really angry, so beginner classes are tough on me. I also have a rough time with travel, so that limits my long-term career options, unfortunately. I’m trying to figure out ways to work around that limitation using the magic of the Internet.
What frustrates you the most about the belly dance community?
First of all, I love our local community. I think, for the very most part, everyone is incredibly supportive and amazing. However, I think our local performance economy has flat lined. It’s apparently so difficult for us to make money off of our shows that we need to charge professional dancers to perform.
This simply doesn’t happen outside the belly dance world. Whenever I perform at a mixed variety show or a burlesque show, I get a cut of the door, plus tips from the audience. If it’s a benefit show, I might perform for free. I would never be charged to perform.
I sincerely believe that if we demand more out of our productions we’ll attract bigger audiences–audiences who don’t consist entirely of our family members and close friends!–and we’ll be able to pay our performers. One of my main goals over the next five years is to start a quarterly, professional quality stage show and make it profitable enough that everyone who performs takes home a nice honorarium.
If you were told you could never belly dance (or dance at all) again, what outlet would pick to unleash your creativity?
I’d just bite the bullet and become a female drag queen. Seriously. I often feel like that’s what I’m already doing, in a sense, since I am not a particularly feminine or glamorous woman in my everyday life.
If I could never perform again at all, I would try to content myself with writing. I actually started writing on a regular basis during a low point in my dance career back in 2010. Nothing was going right, I had too much time on my hands, and I felt like a total failure. Writing my first book, Redlisted, kept me from having a mental breakdown. Now it’s available on Amazon, and I’m working on getting the sequel ready for prime time.
What do you like most about your appearance?
I am incredibly vain, and I had the gland in my brain that produces feelings of shame surgically removed. So I would say I love just about everything about my appearance, aside from my incredibly thick and luxurious natural goatee, and I can rip that out if and when I remember to.
In all honesty, I choose to love how I look. I try to limit my intake of misogynistic images so that I can keep myself sane, and I try to be an example of self-love to others. I hope that my creative work might help other women understand that you don’t have to be skinny to be glamorous.
Sara Beaman is based in Raleigh, NC. To find out more about her, visit sarabeaman.com.