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Dancer with a cause

Updated: 2013-04-15 16:57
By Rebecca Lo ( China Daily)

Dancer with a cause

Ackermann's (front left) passion for animals has led her to create "doga" classes where owners bond with their dogs through practicing yoga with them. [Photo/China Daily]

Durban native Suzette Ackermann is a fitness and dance instructor who moonlights as an activist working to alleviate the plight of dolphins being captured in Taiji, Japan. She chats with Rebecca Lo in between belly dance performances about the animals closest to her heart.

Suzette Ackermann is a born ham. She loved being in the limelight as a child growing up in Durban and her first time on stage was at the age of 5 in a talent competition for children.

"The other kids were crying but I loved it," Ackermann recalls. "They couldn't pry me off the stage. I loved the energy from the audience."

Ackermann comes from an artistic family: Her pHaternal grandmother operated a theater company and her mother was a dancer. She began taking ballet and contemporary dance when she was 3 years old and tagged along with her mother when she worked out.

She naturally gravitated toward a career in the performing arts but soon realized that it would be a tough uphill battle.

"My mom talked me out of pursuing professional dance as a career," she says. "For a ballet dancer, the amount of time you have is limited. You risk injuries that can affect your entire career. I wanted to make a business out of my love for performing."

After living in Tokyo from 1998 to 2003 teaching dance, drama and English to children along the occasional performance, she relocated to Hong Kong and gave fitness classes. She also studied belly dance privately with local instructor Kitty Lam.

"Belly dance is a very mature art form, very feminine and sensual," says Ackermann. "I liked the costumes. The isolation of muscles can be difficult to master though. After I got the hang of it, I began to teach a belly dance fusion course at California Fitness. It was an instant hit. It's a great way for women to feel good about themselves and it creates a friendly community. Historically, it's a dance by women for women, in their living rooms. It's like dress up for grown ups."

"I don't like it when it becomes competitive. It should be fun for every woman, no matter what her skin color or age. But in the commercial world, it can be very competitive. Arabic clients prefer dancers to be more voluptuous. I have to gain weight for Arabs and lose weight for locals, who all want their belly dancers to look like skinny models."

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