We always have interesting and exciting customers at Cloud 9 Foot Spa, and our customer Natasha Mao is no exception! Natasha has been our customer for the past 6 months and we have been lucky enough to get to know her. Natasha has been been dancing salsa for the past 6 years and has been belly dancing for 10. Natasha has also done Flamenco and ballroom dancing in the past. When we asked what her favorite type of dance was, she said it was salsa “because of the fast speed of the dance and the freedom to express musicality, as well as the social component of the salsa community. You get to meet a lot of people as you dance with everybody; it is a dance to be practiced in the studio as well as in social occasions.”

In fact, Natasha just competed in the 2015 World Salsa Summit in Miami, FL this February and placed 5th! To get some perspective on what that means, Natasha had to make it to the third round (the highest level) in the pro-am salsa team category, which is the category that has the most couples. It truly is an unbelievable accomplishment, especially since this is only the second dance competition she has been in! Her first dance competition was the Cubby Bear Open in 2010. In this youtube clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQwHpJ2ASPs) from that competition, you can see what a great dancer she is. Natasha said, “although I compete, my real interests are in performing, teaching, and social dancing.”

We asked Natasha how she initially got into dancing and she said, “My mother brought me to my first dance lesson at age 3, which was a tap dancing lesson. I always loved music and grew up playing music, so dancing gradually took over as another way of expressing my musicality.” We asked who has inspired and motivated her in her dancing journey. Natasha said that there have been many dancers. “In the salsa scene, it is hard to judge who the best is, as there are many different styles and some more compatible with competition style and some not. My favorite female dancers are Myrto from Greece and Tamara from Chile. There are two types of dancers I admire: those I simply love to watch, and those I want to, and feel that one day I can, emulate. Both people inspired me to become a better dancer with my own style.”

Since dancing has been such an integral part of Natasha’s life, we asked her what she has learned through dance, about the sport and about herself. Natasha was thoughtful and insightful in her response: “I learned is how to take constructive criticism, how not to be defensive or take things personally, and most importantly, that competition is not about who the best is, but who can perform the best at one’s own level under stressful circumstances. Knowing that, it is important to know what is worthy of your energy and what should not stress you out. It also taught me that it isn’t constructive to constantly compare yourself to others. It is better to spend your energy improving at your own level than constantly noticing who is better or worse than you.”

Natasha explained that these lessons she has learned has been transferable to her career in academia. “I am a PhD candidate of Art History at Rice University, so the ability to handle stress and competition is crucial.” Natasha said, “I am currently in my 4th year, in the process of writing my dissertation in Italian Renaissance art. I will embark on my research trip to the UK and Italy for the next 7 months and will be back in Houston in the fall.”

Since Natasha is so active, we asked her how Cloud 9 Foot Spa helps her. Natasha said:

“I go to Cloud 9 every week or every two weeks as needed. I feel an immediate relief from both the reflexology and the full body massage. Sometimes, right after the massage, I take a long nap and after that the result is very noticeable. Because of dancing, I suffer sports injury in almost every part of my body, and my muscles and tendons are constantly in pain. [My massage therapist] Jack has been very helpful in helping me recovering from injuries, as he knows a lot about traditional Chinese massage techniques and knows when it is appropriate to be firm and when not to be. Jack also gave me tips for home remedies. [My other massage therapist] Eric’s technique for back massage is particularly impressive; there is instant improvement. I recommend many of my dancer friends to visit Cloud 9 spa.”

At Cloud 9 Foot Spa we really appreciate when people spread the word about our business and about how we can help people. So we asked Natasha what she tells others when recommending our spa. She said that she explains that the value, staff, and location are amazing. In her words, she said:

“The pricing is beyond reasonable for the quality of service and ambience provided. Cloud 9 Spa’s physical setting is extremely clean and comfortable. The heated bed is soothing and the music is relaxing as well. The staff is very helpful and knowledgeable and can cater to client’s needs very easily. The packages offered make the whole deal even sweeter! All the masseuses are very knowledgeable, well trained, very polite, and professional. The location is very convenient for my living and working circles. It is also close to major bus stops and has a good parking spot.”

We really thank you Natasha and are very proud to have you as our customer! Congratulations on your amazing dancing accomplishment and on your work towards your doctorate in Art History!