Adriana Echeverri is the owner of a boutique dance studio in the Coconut Grove section of Miami. To an outsider, her business, known as Belly2Abs, might seem like just another fitness-oriented small business trying to make money by helping women lose weight. While dropping 10 lbs and toning up are certainly possible at Belly2Abs, which specializes in belly dancing, pole dancing and chair dancing, it became clear to me within the first few minutes of speaking with Adriana that her studio offered women much more.
Her slogan, "empowering women through dance" states her mission in a matter-of-fact way, but I think even this only scratches the surface of the service that Adriana provides. Her clients are a reflection of herself and her own personal growth. The women who enter her studio for the first time are in emotional pain, with low self esteem and no confidence. Many are victims of domestic abuse or are survivors of serious disease such as breast cancer. Over time these women learn to heal as they are guided by Ms. Echeverri using dance as a medium to conjure their inner strength and confidence.
What connects Adriana to these women is that she herself was a victim of childhood sexual abuse , a topic she writes about openly in her book "I Choose to be Happy". The title of deeply personal book says a lot about Echeverri, who originated from Medellin, Colombia before her mother fled with her to the United States to escape the drug cartel-fueled violence in the 1980s. Despite the emotional trauma she suffered as a girl, dancing provided an outlet that allowed her to get in touch with her thoughts and feelings, and to gain a sense of personal affirmation that she was OK. By making the conscious choice to think positively and take actions that would lead to the outcomes she envisioned for herself, Adriana prevailed over her past. Not content with this, she came to the realization that by sharing her own experience and talents with other women, that she could help nurture and empower them through dance as well.
It is for this reason that these 3 words - Nurture, Empower, Dance - are etched on the glass front window of Belly2Abs studio and greets the women who enter. It struck me as I looked at these words from inside the studio that they appeared backwards; that is until I realized that reflected in the full wall mirror of the dance studio, these words appeared to frame the commitment Echeverri has made to these women who are beginning to recognize their true selves emerging in their reflections in the mirror.