Monique Manning: Celebrated Bellydancer, Yoga Instructor, and Mother
Monique Manning is a woman who embodies Beauty and has transformed her body and spirit through yoga, dance, and most recently, birth. Unlocking ancient wisdom and flow of the feminine, Monique is overjoyed by the possibility of empowering women at all stages of life with her uniquely created Ashland class, Yoga & Bellydance Fusion. I sat down with her recently to talk about her process and why she can help other women feel amazing in their body, mind and spirit.
Ella: Monique, you are one of the most beautiful women I’ve ever seen and I was shocked to see you weeks after birthing your daughter and finding you to be just as sculpted and toned as ever! I have trouble enough keeping a tight tummy, how did you manage to sustain one right after having a baby?
Monique: Thank you for your sweet words! It’s funny you ask that because I think I get that question more than anything else. I was just as surprised by how my body responded to pregnancy. I was bellydancing all throughout the 9 1/2 months which enabled me to maintain muscle tone and strength while my belly grew. As a result of my practice, after I had my daughter my belly went back to normal almost instantly. And as I continue to dance and practice yoga, I feel a profound deepening of my connection to my body and my role as Mother. It makes me realize how crucial it is to really harness the power that lies in the innate wisdom of the body, during the years of Motherhood and beyond.
Ella: How long have you been dancing and what styles have you studied?
Monique Well, I think we are all dancing from the time we are in the womb, but as far as technical instruction goes, I began in a Duncan-esque ballet class when I was 3. Dance in its various forms has pretty much always been a huge part of my life, it’s such a part of my path and my being I sometimes have a hard time defining it. I started out intensively studying and performing mostly ballet, jazz, lyrical, and tap in my childhood, and then branched out into modern and world dances in college. I have a degree in Theatre and Dance from LMU in Los Angeles, and I’m also a certified hatha yoga instructor via Yoga Works in Santa Monica, CA. As of the past 5 or so years I have been focusing on honing my own style of dance, which is always changing and expanding, but would fall into the general category of Tribal Fusion Bellydance.
Ella: So, Los Angeles to Ashland, that’s quite a change. What brought you to Ashland?
Monique It seems many Ashlandians have an interesting story as to how and why they were drawn here. For us, a somewhat spontaneous and convoluted turn of events brought my husband and I here about a year and a half ago. The first year we were living in the mountains outside of town where we were homesteading and birthing our daughter. I had a natural homebirth with a few of our amazing local midwives, and was so grateful to have had that time to bring our daughter into the world in such a quiet and peaceful setting. I was also simultaneously confronted with a significant health scare, so needless to say it was a very powerful, challenging, and transformational time. We are now living in town and are enjoying getting to know the wonderful community here.
Ella: How has being a Mother affected your dance?
Monique Being a mother has changed me on every possible level, and so of course my dance- which is a direct reflection of my self- has evolved. I had some difficult moments after childbirth (as many women do) coming to terms with my own process of rebirth- the death of the Maiden that I was, and the birth of the Mother. I actually went through a pretty dark time of questioning and doubt, trying to find myself again… getting to know this new person, and the new body in my skin. Bellydance was the one thing I had through that time that was wholly mine. It was what kept me grounded and feeling powerful and capable. I used it, and still am for that matter, as a tool to discover myself, both physically and spiritually. I think mothers can sometimes have a hard time connecting with the other parts of themselves outside of their role as mother. It’s an amazing, beautiful role, but it’s just one part of us and without working to integrate it with the rest of ourselves, aspects of our spirit can be forgotten. All it takes sometimes is having a couple hours a week to be fully present and attentive to yourself, to explore your sensual side, your playfulness, your warrior goddess, your sisterhood. And on top of all of that, bellydance is what got my body into better shape than it was before my pregnancy!
Ella: How are you able to balance time for yourself and being a mother to your little one?
Monique: It can definitely feel hard sometimes to balance it all. Dance has always been what I live for and who I am. But now, I live for my family as well. When I first had my daughter, it was really challenging to honor that I needed time for me and to express myself as a dancer. I’d say that most of the professional dancers in the arena of Tribal Fusion Bellydance do not have children and have dedicated themselves entirely to their career. Seeing that, I can sometimes feel at a disadvantage for having other parts of my life that require my time and energy. But what I’m realizing is that what I saw as a disadvantage is actually a strength and a blessing. I am a mother AND an artist. It’s an amazing aspect of myself not to be ignored but to be utilized and integrated into my dance. Authenticity and integration, those seem to be my words as of late. And hey, of all the things to integrate Motherhood with, I think bellydance is almost laughably applicable… It does in fact have its origins in birthing ritual and the celebration of the sacred feminine…
Ella: Where can people find you if they want to take your class?
Monique I am currently teaching one class a week, and through the summer am offering the first class free for new students as a chance to try something new. It’s a Yoga and Bellydance fusion class at the Dancing People Company’s 310 Studio, located at 310 Oak Street right next to the new café, CultureWorks. Mondays from 6:00-7:30 pm- open to all levels including pregnant women, new moms, and even men. I am also available as a solo performer for various types of community events and shows.
Ella: If you could tell me three benefits of coming to your class, what would they be?
Monique: One, you’ll experience a release of stress, tension and anxiety and you’ll get shimmy it all out. Two, you’ll connect with other mothers and amazing women (and men) in the community. Three, you’ll love your body and how it feels. And actually, there’s one more thing I’d like to share, by creating time for just for yourself you’re able to show up more powerfully for your loved ones and in the rest of your life. I think this class can be a really special experience to give yourself, it’s my time for me and your time for you away from the hustle and bustle of our busy lives.
Ella: Can’t wait to take your class, thank you for creating the space for women to deeply connect to themselves in what sounds like a really fun time.
Where can we get more information on classes and contact info?
Monique: Can’t wait to have you! More information is on my website, www.gaiamanning.com