Podcast

Briana Stuart – Manifesting Her Vision, Goals And Dreams Through Creative Living – 013


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The interview:

Briana Stuart moved from the US to Brussels almost a year ago. She felt so much at home and connected when she visited the country while traveling across Europe and Asia months prior, she decided to move and live here. She established an arts consultancy organization called STU Arts, that provides broad high quality arts-related services and consultancy. STU Arts focuses on performance, teaching, choreography and arts administration for independent dance artists, dance companies, and cultural arts organizations.

She grew up in Detroit, Michigan and studied Dance and Sociology. After her studies, she didn’t feel like moving to New York like many dancers do, but rather try out opportunities in Washington DC. She worked as a performer and teacher at a dance company for two years.

However, she felt a calling to travel the world. As she explains, something told her: “Briana go travel”. She wanted to discover dance and arts in different places, discover God’s art abroad. She decided to finish her season with the dance company in Washington DC, and sell all her belongings, that included a car and small apartment. Everything moved very quickly from there. She bought a plane ticket and was on a her way to Ireland only weeks after. She traveled to 12 countries and 14 cities in Europe and Asia over a span of 6 months. In that period, she discovered Belgium as well.

When she returned to the US, she initially continued doing independent dance work, choreography, teaching and performing, but she missed traveling the world! She asked herself, “where was the one place you felt the happiest, and where did you find yourself the most connected?” Crazy enough, that was Belgium!

Why Belgium, I asked. She tells me that she met so many amazing people during her world trip and when she visited Brussels, she loved the energy of the city. From the melting pot of cultures and languages, to the eclectic cuisine and amazing arts scene. The people were so welcoming, open and interested.

She applied for a work visa called Professional Card in Belgium. It was granted because of her professionalism and artistic value. She was allowed to establish herself as a self-employed dance artist. In a short period, she developed a network, which is growing and growing.

Briana enjoys learning how different cultures have so many different ways to do things. Brussels has a productivity vibe, but is still very laid back. In Brussels, on a beautiful day, everyone is outside and enjoying themselves.  She also feels that in the states, you have a more ‘go go go’ mentality.

When she came to Brussels, she noticed that dancing here is more performative. More focused on what you want your audience to feel. In Brussels you never know what to expect when you go to a dance show. And she likes that element of surprise. In the states, there is more focus on technique and how far you can stretch your body, and you more or less know what you can expect.

She was trained in Ballet and Contemporary, and she added on Jazz and hiphop to her repertoire. Stepping Arts is her specialty, an African-American form of body percussion. Stepping is more strict. Contemporary modern is freer. She loves teaching both of them.

She creates opportunities for herself and she sees that options are endless. There is space to join other companies and contribute to other people’s work. And there is space to create her own. She participates in workshops, classes and festivals, across Europe, in various art forms.

One of her collaborations is with a children’s art company where she sings, dances and acts in Ghent, Belgium. She enjoys the combination. Singing reminds her of the years she sang with her father while growing up. She also likes that in this show, she can sing and perform in Hawaiian. She plans to join a project based company to do more contemporary modern performances.

One of her initiatives at STU arts, was starting her own dance classes and workshops in Brussels called Everyone Can Dance. It’s a combination of Stepping Workshops as well as general moving classes. She gives Social Dance Class on Wednesdays (people figuring out how to move their body at parties, specifically targeted at adult beginners) and on Fridays, she teaches a rotating themed class, such as ‘Everyone can dance like Beyonce or Bruno Mars, ‘It’s the sixties! Let’s dance’, etc.

Her goal is to make movement digestible. Create moving classes, curricula or activities that take the fear out of moving your body. We loose that sense of moving when we get older. She has a strong interest in continuously connecting with organizations and people that she meets and trying to give them options in how they can engage in movement: from team building for small businesses, Everyone Can Dance classes to kids classes, and much more! She likes sharing her art form with others. Teaching is her passion.

I think Briana encourages all of us with her view on Creative Living. A concept she learned from a book “The Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert.

The book talks about ways to make your life work. It taught her to stay focused on her goals and not be discouraged by fear and dissapointments. Every decision that you make involves creativity. You force yourself to think about who you are as a person, and what you are willing to do and compromise in order to make things work for you. When Briana returned to the US after her 6-months travel, she was determined to go back to Europe.  She had to become creative to safe money. And by living creatively, she discovered new pieces of herself. It made her realize what was really important to her. She now nourishes the different parts of herself. She stays active, she reads a lot, and she is always connected to someone. She makes her life continuously flow, always trying to find new ways to make things happen.

And that means overcoming challenges. The first stepping classes she organized in Brussels didn’t go so smoothly. Many people seemed interested. But on the evening of her first class nobody showed up. She could have easily thought ‘what did I do wrong?’. But instead she said to herself: “Briana you just arrived, and you are introducing a new art form. You have to continue to get it out there, and eventually it will come.” Timing was not right at that moment. And that’s totally OK. She took on other work and initiated other classes.

Another favorite book is The Alchemist by Paul Coelho. It’s relevant to one’s life all the time. She explains that while the main character was facing very difficult challenges, he never got discouraged. You either look at what’s happening as a negative occurrence or look at is as an adventure. She is very excited about her move to Brussels, but taking things as they come. She keeps close to her family and friends and enjoys meeting new people and learning new things.

I asked her if she thinks about writing down her story. She does plans to write a book, with a focus on her spiritual journey and how she changed internally. How some life decision changes link into the person she is today.

What would her advise be to someone who would like to change their situation, but doesn’t know how? “Just start!”, she says. “Even if you don’t know what to do, just start. Do the first thing that comes up into your head. The rest will become clearer. And find different ways to help you grow, through your network. Take a step can be anything, e.g. sending an email or talking to someone. And ask a lot of questions. You will get a whirlwind of information that builds upon each other. Don’t be discouraged when you get a no or feel like walking against a wall. There is always a possibility.”

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