To friends and family, she is Jennifer Kornowske of Denmark. But once she steps on stage to perform, she is Navah, a skilled belly dancer.
Kornowske is the owner of Navah Mirage (www.navahmirage.com), an artistic business that goes beyond performance to include mentoring, classes, private performances and community events.
“In 2004, I started training and exploring the art of belly dance and fell in love with it," Kornowske said. "After three years of study, I thought I would try teaching, and during that time, I met other women who had the same passion for it, and I started to grow a team.”
That team wanted to dance year-round; not only when classes were in session.
“When we finished the season and dance was done for the year, we couldn’t handle it,” she said. “We decided to form the troupe and keep dance going. I am a take action kind of gal, and it only took me a week to create the name and team.”
That was 2007, and the business grew from the original goal of performance. Over the years, Kornowske added private and group classes and community events. Troupe members were available to dance as the featured entertainment at private gatherings. The troupe, now about 10 members, offered ideas and helped determine the future path.
“I meet with my team before setting goals, and ask them to state their personal dance goals and goals for the Mirage,” she said. “Then, we edit the goals and standard operating procedure form and make adjustments each year. Throughout the year, I will edit them and make further adjustments as needed.”
A major goal is, and has been, the promotion of belly dancing and its benefits. She says her classes, held in Appleton and De Pere, offer some of the best instruction anywhere. Instructors hold certifications in dance and fitness programs to support students in wellness and long-term health through their self-discovery in movement.
“What makes this dance so hypnotic and exciting to me is the expressiveness, with a powerful focus on isolating different parts of the body," Kornowske said. "The dance is known to be rich in improvisation leaving it unpredictable, fun and surprising.”
While there are many types of belly dance depending on the culture of origination, Kornowske describes her style as belly dance fusion — a combination of Middle Eastern and local culture. The movements involve constant creation, she says, and there are multiple variations of hip circles, “snake arms” and rib movements.
The costumes are designed to allow for free movement. She stresses that belly dancing is an art form and it is not meant to be sensual.
“My business is teaching people through movement how to fall in love with who they are and what they do. I am in the people business," she said. "I teach people how to dance and offer the opportunity to enjoy performances.”
Kornowske says she wants to give her students courage, the same courage she has had in starting multiple businesses. Those include a painting business that she and her husband have owned for 27 years, a yoga studio and Artisan Distributor, an olive oil distribution company. Each business has involved hours of research, writing business plans, setting goals and marketing.
“I ran the painting business for about nine years on my own and then I said to my husband, ‘Baby, you’re going to have to help me or I’m done,’” she said.
Now, all these years later, they have gained a solid reputation as painters, and together, they paint homes, inside and out, and create murals. Although dance is her greatest passion, painting has been their “bread and butter,” especially during the pandemic.
“The pandemic was not a happy note for Navah Mirage," she said. "The studios all shut down so there was no place to train, no place to go to get training. I had to figure out how to take my dancing and training online, and if there is any silver lining, it is that I can now offer online and in-person training.”
With classes back in the studios and bookings picking up, one of her greatest challenges is balancing her time and doing justice to all of her businesses. There is extensive marketing involved in promoting classes, and much of her day is spent painting and training.
“It is tricky to balance the schedules,” she said. “We have to schedule absolutely everything — I have deadlines to meet to make sure I am accomplishing everything that needs to happen.”
But that doesn’t deter Kornowske from adding to that schedule. She hopes to continue to grow Navah Mirage and do new, exciting things. One of those is a major production. Stephany Israeli of Madison, a troupe member, has written a four-act play — a two-hour production called “Dreamscapes.”
“This project will be our next major focus,” Kornowske said. “We are planning on doing 17 performances with the shows planned for next year. Stephany loves to write and create story lines, and I feel really strongly that when a team member has a dream, we should run with it if we can. It builds leadership and gives us a fresh look.”
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Goal setting keeps belly dance business Navah Mirage fresh, growing