by Yasmine of Sirens In Sanity
posted August 27, 2009
It has been a year since we have made our big move—Sirens In Sanity has changed from being a one-beautiful-studio-in-Benicia, California, to a multi-location studio. Here is a little about our journey:
In 2006, my family and I decided we wanted to move out of the Greater San Francisco Bay Area. Almost our whole lives we had lived there and most of our residency was in Benicia. We had always enjoyed our summer vacations in peaceful mountains of Montana, but did not want to move that far from friends and family. My parents had moved up north to Magalia, California, a few years back, and we had started visiting them. It had everything that we were looking for and we fell in love with the area. After many long conversations (and lots of pre-planning) we decided to put our thoughts into action.
I quickly introduced my idea to my business partner, Saiedeh,and although it was a little jab in the tummy, she loved it. She knew how we longed for something different and for the mountain life. She was just as nervous as I about implementing change and expressed a million questions that flooded her brain over following weeks. We spent almost two years talking possibilities, plans, changes, exciting endeavors we would encounter, etc.
Our first order of business was our studio—our baby—our precious dance home. We brainstormed on all that we wanted to see continue in the Benicia studio and what we wanted to change. We knew that Saiedeh would continue the primary classes and that we would build on our classes by guest instructors. We also had many “SISters” (Sirens In Sanity Dance Company members) who were interested learning to teach. We instituted a teacher apprentice program and at the same time, Zyphire, one of our long time dancers, started a secondary SIS troupe and was directing that. It was a natural fit and Sister Sirens became an award-winning troupe very quickly, and sure enough, Zyphire became our third belly dance instructor and director. Several SISters stepped up and offered to help co-teach when needed. Saiedeh and I made up the new class schedules and started notifying our students, our local business contacts, and building the business plan for our second location of Sirens In Sanity.
In July of 2008, we made our move. It was nerve-wracking, making the transition and traveling back forth, moving business office, all of my personal Bellydance stuff—as well as my whole household! By the end of July, we had moved completely. The first couple months were filled with phone calls, text messages, and tons of e-mails between Saiedeh and myself and our students.
Everyone needed to be reassured that the Saiedeh and Yasmine partnership was not breaking up and that SIS was doing fine. After 13 years of dancing and teaching side-by-side, Saiedeh and I had to firmly reassure our students that this new configuration was a natural progression and relationships would not change completely.
We are thriving and enriched by this widening of our lives. Every month, I travel 2.5 hours to the Benicia studio for classes, to teach private lessons and go over any business aspects we cannot handle by telecommuting. We also include, as well, some good old-fashion sisterly bonding and giggle-fests.
Sirens In Sanity is a “production style” dance company. Each production has several elements, each delegated to we three teachers (Zyphire, Saiedeh and me). Saiedeh is the main director of the whole dance company, and she choreographs the group routines where all the dancers are on stage at one time. The co-directors (Zyphire and myself) choreograph one piece each with the dancers they choose or whom we choose for that piece or in particular location.
Teacher’s names here:Top row…Zyphire, Saiedeh, Yasmine, Simone
When traveling to the Benicia studio, my job is to learn the choreography for the assigned routines and then review via Youtube.com clips that Saiedeh & Zyphire post weekly for me. This is a different way of learning for me, but it is best served if I learn the choreography from Saiedeh first-hand and then use the YouTube clips to review or clarify. I have found definitely that learning routines in person is the best way for me and for most of our students, also. Learning on-line or on the television looses some of the nuances involved in our art.
We now have 18 dancers in the Sirens In Sanity Dance Company, 6 of us in the Magalia/Paradise studio and 12 in the Benicia studio. We coordinate mandatory rehearsals throughout the year in which all 18 dancers come together to finalize the production. All 18 of us communicate a great deal on e-mails, Facebook, Myspace, and the phone to keep our camaraderie high and stay in touch with each other’s lives.
Actually, I have found, we keep more contact now, than formerly. It’s funny, how that works!
Travel is another keen part of our success; I travel to Benicia frequently, Zyphire travels to Magalia almost every other month and all three of us travel to various events. Just this past year alone, Sirens In Sanity traveled to Belly Dance U.S.A. in Canyonville, Oregon, Tribal Fest in Sebastopol, California, Redwood Coast Belly Dance Festival in Arcata, California, and are heading to Jewels of the Sierra in Lake Tahoe, California, in September as well as many San Francisco Bay Area private and public performances.
We have instituted a program that we call “Lessons From Afar” for students who want to train with me more than one time a month but do not live in my area. This has become great success! I instruct via e-mail, video clips, and over the phone, and then our students send me their finished assignments weekly via e-mail or video clips. The assignments are followed up during performances we have together.
The communication through technology has been a platform to our success.
The whole dance company (as well as other performing SIS students) performs year round. Primarily, our bookings come through the Magalia home office, and then we book them via e-mails depending on who is available to perform that day. I travel to the Bay Area for some of events or they event, all together. This is another convenient way keep in touch see how everyone growing by leaps bounds.
We stand on our own, and we stand together, just the same as always!
Another important aspect of this development is the complete, open communication about our students and our performances. Saiedeh, Zyphire, and I update each other constantly on our classes, private lessons, and performances. We fill in each other on everything; this helps keep continuity between the classes and gives SIS cohesiveness. Each student receives the benefit of having three instructors focused upon her, even though she may only meet face-to-face with one. Our Benicia studio has approximately 20 students, plus its dance company members; the Magalia and Paradise classes have approximately 12 students; and the connection between all of us instructors has proven to be very beneficial.
We have continued our Sirens In Sanity creative nature, our passion for the dance, and our absolute adoration for our student dancers and our commitment to our partnerships. Circumstances have come up, that we did not anticipate and have pushed us to new levels in our business and dance. We are celebrating all that has come our way and all that will come in the future.
We are proud to say that we have lived through the phrase: "You can take the dance with you!" If you want it bad enough, if you have an awesome team and sisterhood of dancers around you, anything seems possible. We are very thankful to all our SISters and the Bellydance community in Northern California for understanding, supporting and helping us grow.
Back row: Leili, Carrisa, Saiedeh, Zyphire, Amber, Mutha, Estarte
Middle row: Nadima, Salima, Yasmine, Chenoa, Simone
Bottom row: Minnet, Rae’eesah
Ready for more?
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