Violet Kind equates her new style of belly dancing to a language. As the owner of Satori Violet, she’s been teaching variations of belly dance in Mankato since 2011. In 2015 she trademarked her own belly dance style called Fly Fusion. It’s derived from previous styles formed since the 1960s in the United States. While belly dancing is often associated with the Middle East, she says the dance styles popularized in the United States are a combination of dances from Europe, Asia and Africa.
“You learn how to dance and communicate nonverbally,” explains Kind.
People learn different combinations and the cues and they all dance together. While it looks choreographed, it isn’t. This summer she was invited to teach Fly Fusion to students in Ireland and England, the first time the style has been exposed to an international audience.
Kind was introduced to belly dancing by a friend when she was a teenager. She found she loved to move to the music using muscles she didn’t even know she had.
“I loved the challenge of the isolations because you’re forced to go internal and think about where is this crazy stomach isolation coming from or where does this movement originate,” Kind said. “How can I make it bigger so that that my hips are moving as big as they can but there’s no movement happening in my chest? All those challenges are really cool to me.”
She continued on as a student for several years before teaching a couple classes at Mankato West High School. While working as a barista at the Coffee Hag in 2011, her boss introduced her to a couple who were planning to open a wellness facility called Natural Pathways. They asked her to teach belly dance there. But Natural Pathways had to start out at a different location before the studio was ready in North Mankato.
“We ended up teaching in a real estate office in a tiny carpeted room with tiny little mirrors and my tiny little sound system,” Kind said. “We crammed eight people in there.”
When they relocated, the owners of Natural Pathways said Kind could continue to get paid by the hour as their employee, or establish her own Limited Liability Corporation, renting space from them and charging what she wanted.
“I decided to go the entrepreneurial route and see where it would take me and see if I could push it further.”
In the beginning she taught four classes a week and stayed with Natural Pathways for a year. In a search for her own space, she teamed up with Riverfront Performing Arts. They share a large building with multiple studios on Chestnut Street.
The transition to working as a belly dance teacher full-time happened really fast. She now offers 17 classes with seven instructors. They average around 150 registrations each season.
“Word of mouth is our best advertising for sure,” Kind said. “Everybody in Mankato seems to know at least somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody.”
Kind says that teaching belly dance has its own challenges compared to other dance formats.
“One of the things that we have to pass on to people immediately is that you have to be patient with yourself,” says Kind. “You’re going to have to experiment a lot and you have to be in some sense your own teacher. We’re going to tell you what it looks like — what muscles you’re using. We always preach that frustration means you’re growing.”
Despite its complexities, Kind says that most of her students stick with it. She points to Mankato being a large enough city where people are willing to try alternative forms of dance, and yet small enough to gain strong local support.
“Mankato is an awesome place to have a small business. It’s been ranked on Forbes on different lists as a really good place to start a business,” Kind said. “Just being in Mankato is the biggest component to how this has grown as fast as it has and how it’s become a full-time job for me.”
One of her favorite aspects of Satori Violet are that the students have the opportunity to perform in front of an audience every year at the Satori Student Showcase. This year’s event will take place on Nov. 11 at Mankato East High School.
“The biggest thing that our studio is about is creating community,” Kind said. “It’s so awesome to see these friendships forming and see people coming out to different events and hanging out with each other.”