Why Afaf Belcaid gave up being an engineer to set up dance2happy

From Peugot-Citroen to Amazon, by way of MIT

dance2happy is ‘Zumba with a twist’ – the fun way to keep your body and mind fit, according to owner-founder Afaf Belcaid. Her philosophy is genuine because it is the path she has taken in her own life for her own wellbeing.

Afaf, who grew up in Morocco, graduated from engineering school in Paris and worked for six years with Peugot-Citroen for six years in logistics and manufacturing. It’s tough being a woman in that world. It comes as no surprise that a pretty 24 year old woman working with men in their fifties wasn’t always taken seriously, despite her qualifications.

She stuck it out but ultimately decided engineering was not for her; she would get a qualification in business and move into a more business oriented role in the corporate world. Not one to do things by halves, she applied to MIT in Boston and got in to their MBA course in Business Studies.

Her husband Christian sounds equally tenacious. She had met him on the engineering course in Paris and they had reconciled themselves to a long distance relationship for a bit, while they both studied MBAs.

“What were the chances of us both getting into the business school in Boston?” she laughs. They did and their relationship continued to flourish alongside their ambitions, which is not always an easy thing to manage.

She got a job with Amazon in London and had her son Ilian the same summer she moved here. (It’s ok, he’s kept pace. He also secured gainful employment in London). Starting in category management with footwear, she graduated to marketing, becoming head of marketing for books.

“It’s a great company” she says “but they give you so much responsibility. I was working 11- 12 hours a day.”

She found she got to the point where, giving her son a meal at the weekend, she realised she did not know any longer what he liked to eat. He was five when she had her second child Yaris and after five full-on years with Amazon she decided to pack it in and concentrate on the kids.

Image above: dance2happy

dance2happy Zumba classes

Two years of full-time parenting and she realised she was still stressed, not eating, and it was a psychologist to encouraged her to think about what gave her energy. Dance was the answer. She had always danced for fun, never thought of it as a job or a means to earn money. But she thought she would give it a try and dance2happy was born.

“The classes are not about perfection” she says, “they’re about enjoying moving your body and different bodies move in different ways. It’s not a judgemental class. People can release stagnant energies and get a boost. You feel good about yourself.”

What was it Victor Kiam said of Remington shavers? “I liked them so much I bought the company”.

This is not quite in the same league – not yet anyway – but the principle is the same. It’s worked for her. She sheds her stress through dance classes and, she says, it can work for you.

Her in-person Zumba classes are held at ArtsEd on bath Rd on Saturdays at 2.15. She runs online classes Tuesday – Thursday.

Image above: Stefania and Afaf

dance2happy for arthritis

dance2happy for Arthritis is a contemporary dance class designed to release stiffness located in the joints and to broaden your range of movement. The class has been designed for people with arthritis by professional dancer, Stefania, who has had arthritis for 11 years herself. Diagnosed at 19, she decided to make it her mission to keep as flexible as possible for as long as possible.

She went on to defy all the rules and expectations of what her body can or cannot do with arthritis and she is passionate about empowering people to discover that living with a condition like arthritis does not mean that you should stop dancing or that your body cannot become stronger and more flexible.

Cosmopolitan magazine have just ranked the class number one in their recommendations for inclusive fitness classes.

Club Card offer

dance2happy are members of The Chiswick Calendar’s Club Card scheme. Afaf offers Club Card holders a free session to try out a class. Click on this link to book: dance2happytrialclass using this code: 1STCLASS.

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