Menna Hesham is a 30-year-old ballerina, salsa dancer, and entrepreneur. After graduating from the faculty of Pharmacy from Cairo University and working for Nestle for 7 years, Menna decided to take the leap and pursue dancing (her life-long passion) full-time, opening up her dream studio “Brass Monkeys” along the way. We sat down with her to know all about her exciting journey.
Dancing has been Menna’s passion since she could understand the meaning of the word!
“As a baby, the only thing that kept me from crying was Nelly and Sherihan’s fawazeer.”
When she was 7 years old, her mother enrolled her in ballet school and she hasn’t stopped dancing since. “I always knew dancing was more than just a hobby. I never missed a dance class or rehearsal. Dancing was a parallel universe to me, it’s when I enjoyed myself and didn’t have a care in the world,” she said.
“Whenever I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always “a dancer,” she said.
Menna started performing with her ballet team at a very young age. Ballet was the perfect start for her as it prepared her for every other style of dance she came to learn.
“Ballet is a very strong and technical dance style. It’s the base for most other dance genres. I always call it my first love,” she said
Along with Ballet, Menna Hesham also does Egyptian Folklore dancing.
“I traveled a lot with my ballet team to International Folk festivals. We used to represent Egypt. After that, folklore got more serious when I joined the AUC alumni folklore group created by Pinky Selim, and we started doing regular shows,” she said.
Menna got introduced to Salsa in high school, and, it is this style of dance that she says has changed her life. She’s been salsa-dancing for 10 years now.
“Its music is so rich, it gives me goosebumps every time. The dance itself is full of energy, passion, joy, culture, sexiness, strength, techniques, everything!”
“It’s not just an activity that I do, it’s my whole life! I travel to meet salsa dancers and learn from them. I met my husband in a salsa class, 50% of my time is spent teaching and the rest rehearsing with my team and I listen to Latin music in my car. Every penny I earn is spent on dance shoes, classes, or tickets to salsa festivals. Many of my friends are salsa dancers.” she explained passionately.
When asked about how her friends and family perceive her work, she responded
“I’m lucky to be surrounded by supportive people. They admire that I knew what my passion was at a very young age,” she said.
When she first started to bring up the idea of quitting her job to focus on the studio, her family was worried. However, they were soon reassured when they saw that things were picking up.
“They started to see that success can be achieved outside the corporate world.”
Dancing in Egypt isn’t really a popular profession. We asked Menna about her experience as an Egyptian dancer.
“It is very challenging. However, I believe we’re on the right track,” she said.
10 years ago, when Menna Hesham started working at Nestle, her close friends told her not to mention her dancing to her co-workers. Now, she believes people are more open-minded about dancing.
“People connect with our passions, be it dancing or any other art. It challenges what’s considered appropriate and what’s not. It’s okay to be a dancer and still be decent. It’s okay not to have a 9-5 job.”
“If you’re an artist, you’re not jobless. I think all this is sinking in but it’ll take its time,” she said.
In 2018, Menna co-founded Brass Monkeys dance studio with pole-dancer Yasmine El-Rashidy and dance and fitness guru Amr Taher.
“Brass monkeys is one of the most important milestones of my life. My partners are more than family to me. We were all 3 passionate artists/athletes before becoming business owners. I think that’s what makes Brass Monkeys so special; it’s run by people who really care about non-commercializing whatever we offer,” she said.
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Brass Monkeys is named after a popular pole move. The studio is known for its diversity, it has pole, dance, and fitness. Each pillar of those has its specific trainers, system, schedules, and packages.
“People may initially visit us for a weight-loss program and end up being salsa or afro-dance addicts! Each month, we get more than 800 students, with 100 monkeys daily juggling around at the studio. It’s crazy! But, we love it,” she said.
When Menna Hesham was asked what advice she would give to people hesitant to pursue dancing. This was her response…
“I often hear people say “dancing is not my thing” or “I’m too stiff”, but dancing is everyone’s thing!
“Dancing is a universal language. It can be appreciated and understood by people of all ages. You just need to connect to a good piece of music, let go, and give your body some freedom to flow with it”
“So, what I would say is: It’s worth the try,” she concluded.