Katie Holland is the creator of Awakened Bellydance™.This gift is the intuitive synthesis and integration of her life’s studies and experiences to date. Middle Eastern dances in particular have given Katie insights into her bodies inner wisdom and she made a conscious commitment many years ago to dance her way to self-remembering. This decision led her to journey and enquire into the innermost workings of herself; recognising as she transformed her own shadow she was truly able to shine – literally transforming her dance from the inside out.
Dancing from the age of three, Katie has studied a multitude of dance modalities from ballet to Sufi Whirling. She began her Arabic dance training in 1994, performing with masters of Middle Eastern and Indian dance and music. Based in India and Asia with her two children and husband since 2006, Katie has strutted her stuff for the cream of society including Bollywood celebrities, royalty, socialites and multi-national corporates.
A renowned and highly sought after professional dance teacher, performer and choreographer acround the world. Her passionate pursuit in dance for healing and spiritual development combines perfectly with her extensive experience as an Inner Dance and Access Bars facilitator/trainer, Reiki M/T, Yoga teacher and energy worker. Training directly with Pi Villaraza – creator of Inner Dance, Katie has been extremely active in sharing this powerful modality and is the only F/T in the UK. Her naturally intuitive ability to hold space is testament to her commitment and a wealth of experience facilitating dance and energy based workshops globally.
Existing by her soul calling to embody, create and share sacred dance healing processes, Awakened Bellydance has developed through love with the purest intentions of encouraging You to celebrate You! Katie’s pioneering methods of teaching and performing have evolved to fuse many different forms of movement and energy work.
Hey Katie, can you introduce yourself to us?
Hi, thank you for inviting me to share on #BEYOUROWN! Originally from England, I have followed an innate fascination for dance and the profound healing it can bring from a young age. Studying a variety of dances over the past thirty-six years, as I’m now thirty-nine. I have twenty years international teaching, performing and therapy experience. I use sacred dance to support women to remember who they are.
I am the creator of Awakened Bellydance, founder of Shakti Pants clothing and Kashtat Bedu Sacred Dance and Yoga Retreats. I offer extraordinary cultural and ecological experiences combined with unique dance adventures not usually found on the tourist trail. I am married to gorgeous Majdi from Saudi Arabia and mum to two even more gorgeous teenagers; Xavier and Tai.
I am passionate about the pursuit of truth and collective liberation. My aim? To enthuse, empower, cultivate and share the inspirational, magical energy of dance to all I meet.
Having lived and worked in India for 9 years and in Bali for 2 years, you are now based in Bulgaria. Can you take us through your journey as to how you arrived at where you are now?
For India I answered a tiny advert in a health food shop asking for teachers/therapists to work for the season at a holistic centre in Goa. My children were three and six. A few weeks in I was dancing on the beach with some local musicians to promote my classes. An entertainment manager from Mumbai was in a restaurant, he saw me dancing and invited me to perform at a wedding on his boat the next night.
I performed and another agent saw me. He invited me to perform at his show the next week and so it went on. The shows skyrocketed and suddenly three months became nine years along with me becoming the most known and sort after foreign dancer in the country. We were living in Delhi when I started to get a very strong pull to move to Bali, although I had never been there. This went on for around two years until eventually, I said ‘that’s it, we are going to Bali!
I don’t know why, but we have to go!’ Just as I had walked away from a successful dance and on-site massage business in England for India, I walked away from India literally overnight and an extremely successful performing career. Once we reached Bali I realised the universe was giving me space and time I needed to finally bring AwBd to fruition. I had had to make a huge choice quite early on in India as to whether I would pursue performing or energy work as I didn’t feel I could sustain both. Thankfully I continued my sacred dance studies as they helped me keep some level of sanity in the world I was then thrust into.
Life gave me some very difficult experiences which led me to teachers where I learned the secrets within myself and certain sacred dances. As I amalgamated my learnings I had a profound understanding of how my body could shift energy through dance. I knew that one day this was going to be something big. I also realised along the way that this couldn’t be rushed and it was a big lesson in patience for me!
At shows, I always struggled to act the superstar diva that they wanted me to be. I had to dress for effect even just to arrive at a gig to keep up this appearance. I was advised not to get too tanned, post photos online without make-up or with my children as I would lose work. I was very aware that it would be very easy to get drawn into this superficial world and that I to keep a check on myself as of course, it was a dream come true in many ways. It was a very interesting learning to be the yin whilst being in the yang. I had to learn to be the diva in order to stand in my power when it was needed. I also used that to stand firm in my authenticity.
In those two years of hearing ‘go to Bali’ whispered in my ear, I had to make another decision. I had two career options which I didn’t feel could work together. This time it was to leave the glamorous performance life for a while, (it was also my main source of income) and immerse myself in the final stages of creating and launching AwBd. This was really hard as I was leaving behind a persona who performed almost every night and traveled all over India to perform at glitzy shows in palaces and 5* hotels. My image was so strongly ‘Katie the Performer’.
My social media was full of men; Indian managers, artists, people I had connected with at events during my India time. I knew if I started promoting AwBd and my energy therapies that this was not going to be of interest for the people who would see it. So I gave myself two years to transform my audience and marry the two parts of me. I guess what you would call a re-branding of my re-brand!
At belly dance events European audiences had begun to notice a change in my performance which they couldn’t quite grasp. Many asked me what had changed. I was confused, then I realised that the only thing that had changed was me. I was now dancing from the inside out. AwBd was weaving and shining her way into my commercial dance career whether I liked it or not!
I began systematically deleting people in my social media accounts and building a network of inspiring women. These were the kind of women who were doing things I was interested in, women I wanted to be friends with and who might be interested in what I was about to unleash on the world. I began posting photos of my family, me without make-up, inspirational ponderings, and testimonials about AwBd. People were confused at first as many had never known that this was also a part of me. I had to explain many times that yes, the dancer is me and the energy worker is also me. I set up a Facebook group called ‘What Moves You? By The Political Bellydancer’ to share information and further connect with like-minds who were interested in alternative worldviews.
Of course I had many fears. My costumes were all packed away, I missed the showbiz glitziness and the ritual of getting ready to perform. However, I didn’t miss the lack of sleep, the adrenalin depleting drives averaging 15 hours, or having to deal with billionaires and government ministers attempting to romance me. I was terrified as I began to step forward in total vulnerability to be seen and stand in my truth. So I told myself ‘jump and laugh!’ Then I had the belly dance world to contend with. Many were supportive and interested in a different method of experiencing belly dance. Others turned their noses up as they seemed to think I was committing some form of heresy. At the end of the two years, it was July 2016. Taking time out from the limelight had made me ready. After twelve long years of patience, I was finally ready to launch the facilitator training. I didn’t need to choose between two lives or two ‘Me’s’ anymore because they were both fully part of me. There was no separation.
From Bali to Bulgaria. Almost as soon as we moved to Bali I started to dream of a lake between tree covered mountains. The vision came to me endlessly for one and a half years. One day I read an article about the top ten energy hotspots of the Earth. The first place listed was the Rila Mountains in Bulgaria and the photo used was… you guessed it; my vision! Weirdly I had already planned to hold the AwBd facilitator training in Bulgaria with plans to go there for just three weeks. I researched the lake picture more and found that what I thought were white stones in a circle, were actually people at a festival performing a meditative dance called Paneurhythmy created by Peter Deunov; a spiritual mystic around the turn of the last century. I said ‘OK, we have to go and live in Bulgaria!’ Within two months we were resident in a little village learning the local folk dances and Cyrillic alphabet.
India gave me an international name, an appreciation for life, patience and a very steep learning curve on all levels. Bali gave me the gift of non-distraction, space and a cementing of my shift in direction. Bulgaria is connecting me to the Shamankas of Eastern Europe whilst giving me the opportunity to realise my dreams of being.
What are a typical 24 hours like for you?
Well, there is never a typical day for me. I have a dislike for routine. I am however extremely motivated and self-disciplined. I mostly work a year ahead with my bookings. I work naked or in my underwear. I listen to my body for when/what to eat/sleep/ wake/exercise. I follow my moon cycle and vary my work accordingly through the month so it works for me. When your body is your product you have to take a lot of care for it.
I’m vegan and regularly see an osteopath, acupuncturist, masseur, and homeopath. On a day like today when I have a deadline for this interview, I’ve spent the last three days writing. If I’m traveling or teaching, it’s completely different again. Other days when I’m working from home, I like to wake up naturally. This varies, mostly it’s at 8.42am. I am not a bounce out of bed person. I love to ease myself out over a couple of hours if I can and work in bed. I drink a liter of water while I watch an inspirational video to start my day. I answer emails or messages. Often the AwBd facilitators connect at this time and we are able to share what’s happened in recent sessions, they might ask me questions and we support one another in our individual personal life events.
I then go through a self-meditation of grounding and psychic protection, followed by a Monroe Gateway brain activation exercise, access consciousness clearings, shower, followed by a self-womb and breast massage. I’m not usually hungry early morning so I make a vegan superfood smoothie when my belly rumbles and I graze throughout the day. I try to do mental activities in the morning while my sympathetic (fight or flight) system is dominant. This means I can think quickly, make decisions and act upon them. I design newsletters, update my website, emails, book travel tickets, plan upcoming workshops etc. I find getting the admin out of the way empties my brain to be physically active and creative.
In the afternoon rest and digest kick in with the parasympathetic nervous system activated. I have a break, then I research a subject that I feel will enhance my work. Recently this has been natural building, sacred geometry, epigenetics and Nikola Tesla. I post on various media forums when it feels like the right time. I always follow my feeling. If the feeling isn’t there I don’t post. Mid to late afternoon I’m ready to dance. I might work on a new performance piece, workshop material or film a teaching video, do yoga and body strengthening exercises. Following a home cooked dinner, we might watch a film and there’s usually more emails to answer. Sometimes I get a whoosh of creative flow around 10pm and continue working on a choreography. Put my chia seeds to soak and then to bed anytime between 11pm and 1am where I read for a while or do a guided visualisation.
After traveling the world teaching, performing and studying sacred cultural dances, you are now the founder of the dance therapy programme Awakened Belly Dance. How did you get started?
I always knew there was something deeply hidden within the belly dance movements. As a child, I was fascinated by Egyptian hieroglyphs and wondered what the body and hand positions meant. Once I started learning the dance nobody could tell me why we held our arms in certain positions other than to frame the movements. I had so many ‘ah ha’ moments that got me thinking. One was in a tai chi class where I made the connection between a kidney boosting exercise and a belly dance move. In my weekly classes I noticed that the women came for much more than just to dance, a tangible connection would develop within those groups which saw them through life’s obstacles. Another time was in a class with a master percussionist speaking about the feminine energy of dancers from the golden era of Egypt. Then I met my Gurdjieff sacred movements teacher who told me ‘yes, they mean something and you are going to discover that for yourself!’ Perturbed that she wasn’t going to tell me I resolved to indeed find out for myself. Dance was already my life. This put the life into dance! I experimented for eight years. First on myself, then with groups. Suddenly I had created something new!
Did you train or take any courses? If so what, and where did you study?
I have trained and studied in a multitude of disciplines from the age of three. The studies were in England, India, Nepal, Morocco, Malaysia, Thailand, Bali.
Qualifications: Inner dance facilitator and trainer, Tera-Mai Seichem Reiki Master, a practitioner of Access Bars, Access Energetic Facelift, Egyptian Cartouche, various massage styles, Munay-Ki, Light Energy Weave, Yoga teacher, Laughter Yoga facilitator. I also teach Access Bars. I have taken courses in NLP/hypnotherapy, Transactional Analysis, and Crystal healing. I also completed an internship in eco-village design and permaculture.
Dance: Ballet, tap, modern aged 3 – 13 years. Arabic dance since 1994, followed by Bollywood, Bharatnatyam, Afro-samba, Gurdjieff Sacred Movements, Osho dynamic meditation, Sufi Whirling, Nepalese Tantric dance, Balinese dance, Shamanic dance, Shamanism since 1996. If possible I like to study in the place the dance originates from – sometimes this is the village it originated from, or to learn from a person from that country. I always look for the root or the teachers’ teacher.
You were also the only western woman in the country to be self-employed as a solo artist in the entertainment industry, did you have to deal with any negative backlash?
I was the performer, manager, negotiator and money collector for myself in a world dominated by men. Applying for my visa one year at the Indian embassy in England the man looked at my well organised and correct paperwork, then he looked at me for a while before he said ‘this is you, Madam? You did this?’ Then he shook his head and laughed. I think that says it all!
You plan to open an energy mystery school combined with an ecological retreat centre in Bulgaria, can you tell us more about this venture?
It has always been a dream of mine to have my own place. I had two dance – holistic studios when I lived in Goa, India which was great, but they didn’t have accommodation or land which meant I couldn’t develop them as I wished. Running them gave me a whole host of experience from how to organise tailor-made retreats, advertising, to working with guest teachers and teaching multi-nationalities in one class.
Although I absolutely love to travel and I still plan to. I have been feeling for a while that I want a natural space for my energy and work to root. The mystery school would become an eco-village epicenter where people can learn, share, build community and act as a sacred refuge. I would also like to offer courses to schools for groups of students to learn eco-skills, conscious communication, yoga and supportive energy therapies like access bars and inner dance. I feel this is imperative for the younger generations in order to make the sustainable changes we need to put into action now.
I believe that energy retreat centres are being created around the planet to act as anchors and support systems for the shift in consciousness which has been occurring for some time. The word that keeps coming to me is ‘refuge’. People are going to need like-minded places to go to. Life isn’t quite fitting as it did. We are changing and we don’t, or can’t continue in society as it is. These places of connection in the wilds are fast becoming a necessity to our human ongoing spiritual development and safety. I wish to offer this. We are currently speaking to investors and open to discussing with any readers who are also interested.
Who does the team involve at Awakened Belly Dance?
Many women sadly never know true sisterhood ~ in AwBd we are truly sisters through and through. Within the facilitators we have had a spontaneous happening where people have fallen into the natural roles that they have the expertise, are interested in, or know about because they have experienced it themselves; everyone has their strengths. We plan AwBd sessions with our individual groups and on skype so we are dancing around the world simultaneously. This has a strong impact on all of us as we are so interconnected. Our support network is just wow! We share knowledge which will enhance life for the others, we pick each other up and offer unconditional support. Recent issues we have worked on successfully together have included researching the new GDPR rules, relationship breakdown, gynecological issues. technical issues with music and dream interpretation.
What does your company structure look like?
Right now I am a solo Katie. I guess you could describe the company as organically fluid. I manage all aspects of the company, outsourcing if I need logo designs etc.
As you continue to grow, what important factors did you consider when looking at the scalability of your business model?
None. I just did it. Many things have happened by ‘accident’ or as I like to call it ‘synchroblissity’. For instance, when people in Europe saw that I was performing at Indian shows for the rich and famous my work automatically grew there. Then vice versa, the agents in India saw me working in Europe and I got more bookings there!
When I taught in Europe the dancers liked the jewelry and clothing I wore from India and Nepal, so I designed my own lines and started Shakti Pants. People began contacting me for tailor-made dance trips at my India studio, so I started organising group retreats and so on.
I have very much learned as I have danced along these last twenty years. I see an opportunity and I go for it. I am very much a spontaneous feel it and do it, person. I have never had any kind of business or computer training. I wait for the insight and I follow it moment to moment. I stopped trying to control outcomes. If I have to think about it that’s when I know it’s not the right choice for me at that time. This applies to every aspect of my life. It is another reason why I am so self-disciplined in continuous personal work, studying and why I feel radical self-honesty is so important. As you release, expand, flow and change, you grow. In my experience, your company has no option but to follow suit and will also grow naturally.
Where can you see yourself within the next 3-5 years?
Dancing a lot, traveling and writing – probably on a beach. Creating and running the mystery school.
How are you planning to expand Awakened Belly Dance?
I have been invited to hold facilitator training in different countries and I would like to share AwBd with as many people as possible so they can gain the benefits of this magic and to develop a larger sister network around the globe. I plan to create a team who can offer AwBd to teens in schools. We already have facilitators offering sessions for post-natal depression and addiction support within the NHS, again I would like to develop this further. I have been invited to share AwBd at the refugee camp in Calais, an NGO for female Syrian refugees in Turkey and I would like to extend this much-needed work. I am developing online courses, my Shakti Pants clothing business with my daughter and an AwBd stage performance. A book has been in the offing for some time now, I think I can’t get away without writing it for much longer!
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally as a dancer?
I think dancers wouldn’t struggle as much if they didn’t have the media conditioning the world into what a woman and especially a dancing woman should look like. I think I’ve heard it all now, from ageism, to fat-ism, to racism, to boobs are too big/small-ism, to your not from my culture-ism, to why aren’t you blonde-ism!
Have you ever had a mentor? If so, how has this benefitted you to grow?
Many. At different times throughout my life I have found the right person has always been there. I have always liked talking to older people and learning from them. I am a deep-thinking questioner and run my own surveys and investigations into things through observation and conversation. Right now I resonate to seek guidance from six – three male, three females in different fields ranging from Arabic music percussion to occult and mysticism. They all started as my teachers who then became friends, mentors and some are now collaborators in projects with me. I can speak to them whenever I require clarification in a particular field, some might be regularly, or for an intense period. Others it’s occasional. It’s not a set mentoring session usually, more through conversation. I have had a tarot reading every few months for the past fifteen years with my Reiki or Shamanic teachers which has been invaluable.
What outlets do use to market Awakened Belly Dance?
Word of mouth is huge for me. Women tell their friends how their lives have transformed exponentially; their friends then contact me wanting to join. AwBd facilitators have their own groups and we have a main public group page on Fb. Our groups are linked to create an online network and we share one another’s posts to generate more interest as a whole. It is a collective effort as a sisterhood that we are working from, rather than solo based. I have an e-mail newsletter, Facebook pages, Instagram, Twitter and a YouTube channel. I collect testimonials wherever possible and use them to illustrate photos in my posts.
Which methods are you using to build your own network?
I listen, observe and learn from everyone and everything. I often collaborate with gorgeous women who offer complimentary modalities to AwBd. A recent workshop was in conjunction with a Holistic Pelvic Care expert. This way we can learn from one another, we each benefit from being advertised to the others clients and our reach goes further afield. I offer discounts on further workshops and trainings to AwBd facilitators. If someone shares my post, I comment with a thank you to acknowledge their contribution. I always say ‘happy birthday’.
What do you believe are the common misconceptions of the entertainment industry?
To be blunt, that all belly dancers are prostitutes and we are lacking in intelligence. Many think if you are young, slim with big boobs and an expensive costume it means you are an amazing dancer. There are also many misconceptions about learning to belly dance. People think it’s easy and they don’t value it for the beautiful art form that it is. It takes years of training to dance professionally and you have to become a mistress of many talents; such as sewing to fix your costumes or editing music. What many don’t realise is belly dancers get better and better with age! A dancer can convey through her body all of her life experiences. The more she eases into herself, the more an authentic depth of emotion can be conveyed through the dance.
Top 3 rules of life?
1.To always use my own name.
2.To never enter a belly dance competition
3.To ground my energies and create psychic protection daily.
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
Reality is fluid.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
This is probably the most difficult part that I have struggled to balance over the years, especially when my children were small. I’ve got better at it as time has gone on and I have definitely learnt the hard way about not taking enough time out for me! I think it can be very tricky when you are the work.
There’s always something to do and ‘work’ doesn’t seem like work because it’s always so exciting! When you are literally living your passion there is no separation because it is your life. The format I have found in recent years is to work two to four months absolutely full on jumping from place to place. Then have a month or two where I will still work online and I go into a kind of solitude. This allows me to relax, process, replenish, have time out and plan the next intensive set of work. I find it harder to concentrate sporadically. I’m very much all or nothing as I get completely drawn into my work and students, then I love to be alone, or with family, travel, study and ideally lie on a beach for a while.
The highlight of your career so far?
Wow, this is difficult to choose! I had surpassed all of my younger ambitions by the age of twenty-seven. My dance career had gone beyond what I could ever have imagined and I was riding the wave. Suddenly I had nothing to aspire to and this was the moment I had a spontaneous Kundalini awakening. This awakening ripped my body and life to shreds from the inside out. During months of debilitation wondering will I ever walk again, let alone dance. I received astral teachings, visions and had many out of body experiences. There was a clear message being given. I had a job to do and that job was to create a new therapy using belly dance.
This fierce time has to be my ultimate highlight because it was the turning point that brought me to where I am now. I have had two more spontaneous Kundalini risings since. Each as powerful as the first which have directed, integrated and streamlined my work.
There are too many on an aesthetic level! Performance wise; any time I’ve had the opportunity to perform with Arab musicians to live music. Performing for and with Bollywood celebrities; in particular, the singers Shaan and Sukhbir. Meeting the Dalai Lama twice was also a pretty cool!
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
When I see people thrive as they overcome the places of disconnect within themselves. When I see the joy and wonder as they tell me about the latest insight they have had into themselves and how their life is transforming into something they never imagined. All the times a woman has let go in her vulnerability and opened to me in trust. That’s when I know I’m doing what I came here to do.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
Regardless of the genre I admire anyone who has followed their heart and are just doing their thing.I like quirkiness. Someone I watched grow with intrigue years ago was the singer Pitbull. I noticed he found success by collaborating with other known artists. He used this ladder strategy to work his way up and then fly. I observe and learn from absolutely everyone.
How would you say you are intending to use your voice to educate others in the entertainment industry?
I want to be interviewed by Oprah after she’s experienced Awakened Bellydance.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
The last book I read was the The Twelfth Planet by Zachariah Sitchin. I’m now reading Osho’s Kundalini Yoga – in Search of the Miraculous. After that will be DMT – the Spirit Molecule by Rick Strassman.
What does your Podcast playlist look like?
I’m a Youtube girl. Some channels I’m subscribed to include Osho, Gurdjieff. Inner Dance. Steve Nobel, Access Consciousness, Terence Mckenna, New Paradigm Astrology, Spirit Science.
How do you measure your terms of success?
It’s not really something I think about. I’m not sure I measure success because what I perceive as success in this moment may be completely different five minutes later! I acknowledge my journey; it’s not been an easy one that’s for sure. I honour myself as being on a very adventurous, sometimes lonely path, juggling kids, husband, multiple careers and not totally freaking out along the way. Yes, not freaking out and not giving up amidst an emotional rollercoaster, that’s quite a level of success I think.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
At this moment it means remember who you are, stand in your own power and follow your heart centred mission.
Lastly what is next for you and Awakened Belly Dance?
I have just completed writing a chapter collaborating with other entrepreneurial women for a book about our perceptions of Abundance. This is due for release on Amazon later this year.
I have a busy teaching tour in the UK for September and October. While I’m there I will be recording a promotional video and planning an online course for the winter and, as I’ve announced it here I suppose I really should get on with that book too!