After years of trying to find her calling, the owner of Sultans Choice Belly Dance Studio, Crystal Weran, took a few turns to get to where she is today. While also designing houses on the side, she lives for her unconventional career choice.

My first job was in a shopping mall, working in a retail store called Fairweather. I was a cashier… I mean, a “service associate.” They always gave you fancy titles to feel important in your minimum wage job.

I remember completing my first year of pre-dentistry at the University of Regina. It was around that time I realized I would not be satisfied in that career choice. Turns out I excel in math and science, but they don’t make my heart sing.

Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you have to make a living at it.

I was looking for something artsy, applied for a graphic arts program [and] was put on a wait list. When I saw the outline for the architectural technology program at SAIT [Southern Alberta Institute for Technology], I was curious. Turns out I can draw a pretty nice picture by hand, and was accepted.

Over the next 14 years, I developed a couple of physical issues caused by sitting at a desk for long. Carpal tunnel [syndrome] is mild, but present, the saddle joint in my thumb is screwed from converting to a rollerball mouse, and my legs have developed severe circulation problems.

I started belly dancing in January 2005. By September 2006 I was dancing in the local Greek restaurant and just starting down the rabbit hole of a new art form. It wasn’t until my first big festival in Vegas 2010, when I really became enamoured.

Back in 2013, our local dance studio closed. I’m a “go big or go home” type of gal and am fortunate enough to have a partner who has a really good paying job. I opened my own dance studio, started some fitness training and after a couple years of intensive training, teacher certifications and a lot of blood, sweat and tears, I have an “almost” successful dance studio.

I’m a “lead by example” sort of person. So in February 2013 I quit smoking. I started drinking more water. I still have a Coke slurpee a couple times a week, but all in all, I’m teaching 12 hours per week, plus my own training program which includes yoga, pilates and major dance layering.

I get a lot of stares, laughs and comments of “I couldn’t do that.” The correct terminology is “wouldn’t.” Technically, everyone can do it… unless they have hips that are fused together or have some other physical ailment.

All art evolves. Inspiration comes from everywhere. I fuse belly dance, ballet, jazz, modern, even a little Bollywood.

I pretty much teach for free to pay rent on the studio. I still design and draft, working out of my home. [It] helps pay the bills and keeps my heart singing in my Diva Den, aka Sultan’s Choice Belly Dance Studio.

As told to Alexandra Nicholson. This interview has been edited and condensed.

anicholson@cjournal.ca

Editor: Ashley King | aking@cjournal.ca