I’m a bellydance teacher, mentor, choreographer, and performer. I also direct and produce – both student and professional dance productions.
I’ve been bellydancing since 1981, although I took a break for about 15 years when I was running a communications company with my husband. I came back to belly dance in 2001, at the age of 43.
- Who did you want to be when you were a kid?
All I wanted was to be was a dancer. I never really had an idol or someone I wanted to be, but I was ballet-mad and wanted to be a ballet dancer more than anything in the world. Unfortunately, when adolescence came along and my hips started growing it was clear that dream was over!
- What was your ‘punch in the stomach’ or when did you first realise that this is going to become your career?
I’ll never forget the first moment I saw a bellydancer. It was in a nightclub in central London in 1980. I then thought to myself – this is my dance. This dance is made for women with hips!
- What were the 3 biggest obstacles in pursuit of your career?
When I first decided I wanted to be a bellydancer there were virtually no classes in Bellydance. I managed to find one person teaching at Pineapple Dance Studios but she wasn’t there for long. And in those days there were no DVD’s, no internet, and certainly no YouTube! So I mostly learned from watching the dancers in the clubs.
When I met my husband I was teaching (dance and stretch classes) most evenings, and performing on Saturday nights. He was working 9 to 5 and wasn’t happy with me being out every evening and at weekends. It wasn’t that he was controlling – just that he couldn’t really see the point of being with someone who was never there. He didn’t want to spend all his Saturday nights for the rest of his life alone. So I effectively had to choose between my husband or my dance career. I chose him.
Since I turned 50 my biggest obstacle has been injury. I’ve struggled with knee pain for years, had several operations on both of my knees, and finally, last year had them replaced. I’m now working on getting my fitness back and getting back to gentle performance.
- Where do you find inspiration?
I find my inspiration through music. I do watch other dancers to pick up ideas, but for me, the beginning is always the music.
- What challenges do you face in this industry as a ‘50+ artist’?
Bellydance is very forgiving for older dancers – many of us continue dancing well into our fifties and beyond (although mainly at community events for bellydance enthusiasts). It’s very different in the professional gigging world. Restaurant owners, in particular, are looking for young, slender girls, which makes it hard to get work beyond the age of 40.
Even as a teacher it can be harder as you get older as students look to other young, athletic dancers for inspiration. The world of YouTube and Instagram definitely favours the young, beautiful and athletic!
- What advice would you give someone who is about to start their career but is being told that it’s ‘too late’?
It depends of course on how old someone is. Dance is tough on an older body, and there are certain things that become close to impossible as you get older and the joints start to complain. However, I started my second career at the age of 43 and I’ve had a successful, high profile career in the 20 years since.
I’d say be realistic about what you can achieve, don’t try to dance as if you’re an ingenue, and be proud of your maturity, draw on your life experience and wisdom. And most of all, keep learning!
- Do you have any idols and if so, who and why?
I don’t really go in for idols, to be honest.
- What’s your life motto?
Feel the fear and do it anyway – the title of the most inspirational book I’ve ever read (by Susan Jeffers). It literally changed my life and has been a constant support to me.
- You’re a new addition to the crayon box. What colour would you be and why?
I’d be maverick mauve because I believe in making my own rules, not doing the obvious and never following the crowd.
Nowadays Charlotte focuses the majority of her time on helping the next generation of bellydancers and runs a game-changing mentoring programme to help dancers become the very best they can be. Check her website for more information.