Hello, I am Priya Oza, a professional Belly Dance Artist from Bangalore.
A very short formal introduction for the rest of the world who do not know much about me.
I grew up in Nagpur, Maharashtra where people were only considered successful in their lives if they were either an engineer or a doctor. I come from a middle-class family where my mother’s only dream was to make me independent. Fulfilling her dream meant that I had to choose between becoming an engineer and becoming a doctor. Everything was going smoothly; I was the class topper and school captain. I was a girl who spent all her time just studying and dancing. My parents did not give much thought to dancing. They were unaware of my passion towards it and so was I, until I came to Bangalore in search of an IT job. What does a normal fresher, who is just about to step into the corporate world, think of doing after she/he gets a job? Dream about a lot of shopping, maybe! Yet, there I was, unable to sleep at night because I was aching to do something with my dance skills.
I got my first job and thought of joining a dance class. But which form should I pick? I had already done Hip Hop, Robotics and Bollywood in my school and college days. However, Belly Dance was something I had never attempted. It was one of the toughest and at the same time one of the most beautiful dance forms I had ever heard of.
I thought of joining the best Belly Dance Academy in the city because I needed to learn this beautiful art form from the very best in the field. I was ready to compromise on my shopping for a few years. So, I enrolled for the classes as soon as I could. Having danced all my college life, I thought I would pick up the dance form quite easily, but I was proved wrong! I wasn’t even able to move my body in the correct manner! I came home totally demotivated, with cramped muscles and decided to stop pursuing this dance form. My friends, however, would not let me back down. They had complete faith in me, despite my initial poor performance. I would come home from classes, watch several videos, read lots of articles on Belly Dancing and try to understand exactly which of my muscles needed to loosen up. After managing long office hours and continuous dance practice simultaneously for 2 months, I was finally able to do one step perfectly. My joy knew no bounds! I still remember my teacher praising me and calling me a quick learner. And so, I continued to learn the dance form. Four months passed by, after which I faced few issues at work which led me to look for another position at a new company. Providing financial support to my family, coupled with quitting my job, meant that I could no longer afford to continue my classes.
I still remember how learning belly dancing, even for a short period of time, had changed me as a person. It had led to many positive changes in me, both physically as well as mentally. I was not able to come to terms with the fact that I had left my classes. That was the time that I realised that I could not and did not want to live without belly dancing.
Belly dance taught me to love myself more. It did not matter what type of skin I had, or what my skin colour was, or whether I was too thin or too fat. I had never developed such a positive body image in my entire life. Being raised in a typical North Indian family, I was always made to believe that only the fair-skinned are beautiful. People with a dusky complexion like mine, were deemed to be ugly. Belly dancing shattered this notion and made me believe that I could be beautiful too. It gave me immense confidence and motivation.
I used to work during the day and prepare for interviews all night because I desperately needed to find a job to sustain my living. After 3 months of hard work I finally got a job.
I immediately resumed my classes and promised myself never to leave it again. After that there was no turning back. I booked shows after shows, started taking belly dance workshops, and even started teaching recently.
I am still doing my 9-5 corporate job because I am not financially stable enough to move to dancing full time and I already have few commitments that I cannot give up on.
Being an artist comes with its own struggles.
It's been 4 years since I started belly dancing professionally and trust me, I went through a lot. I’ve had mental trauma, depression, and anxiety too at times, but in the end it's all worth it.
People would say that belly dancing is not for girls who come from a good background. Some people have gone as far as calling me names and throwing allegations on me just because I was not following the so-called rules of their society. Some of my relationships did not work out because the men thought I was way too extraordinary with a glamorous lifestyle which would not suit their family.
People fail to see that I am the same girl who has led a very simple life, who has never forgotten her roots, and who still believes in her morals and values that she lives by.
The best part is, despite all the negativity, I forget everything when I start dancing. It completes me. I feel content.
I must admit that I have two personalities - one is for when I’m on stage and the other one is for off-stage.
When I'm on stage, I am a fierce lady who sets the stage on fire. I’m bold enough to not care about anything or anyone. I’m this highly confident, boss lady. Most importantly, I’m an extrovert who can convey everything to her audience using just her expressions.
Although, when I'm off stage, I'm quite shy and a bit of an introvert, to be honest. I’m a calm and composed person who enjoys joking and goofing around the people she’s comfortable with. I think a lot about the people I care for. I’m very spiritual. I like to read books, meditate or just sit quietly.
No matter how far I go, I am always going to remember my roots which is going to help me to grow more 🙂
I hope you liked my story.