Dance Students: Results-Driven vs. Just Here for an Hour of Fun

As a dance teacher, nothing thrills me more than a motivated student. I’m not just talking about motivation to learn a particular movement, but a general desire to learn and see progress/expansion of knowledge. With “bellydance,” this can take one of many forms: cultural/historical research, hunger for context, deliberate home practice, devoted to attending multiple classes per week, supporting fellow dancers, attending performances, performing at haflas/showcases, etc. But, sometimes people are not interested in measured progress. Sometimes, people want to escape the clutter of their lives for one hour a week and dance without pressure. Who am I to judge?

lucy-ballet1Sometimes I fantasize about tailoring my approach and expectations by forming separate classes for each category. You see, these various mindsets exist at every level. There’s a hungry beginner who takes 3 classes a week and studies the legends on YouTube in his/her spare time. There are also advanced dancers who only attend rehearsals or classes that lead to performance opportunities, but never demonstrate a curiosity to expand their knowledge. It would be nice to have the results-driven at every level and the “eh, I just want to sway to this beautiful song” types in separate classes. But, of course, it doesn’t work that way.

Tava's bellydance class at Work It Dance & Fitness

Tava’s bellydance class at Work It Dance & Fitness

In a perfect world, a dancer’s ability would be directly related to their hunger for progress and learning. When there is a disconnect, we have a dilemma. Dance teachers, of course it isn’t fair to impose an expectation on a student, and some of us rely on income from our students, but how to we rectify these discrepancies? To some extent, it is a service industry. On the other hand, we have to make difficult choices such as opting not to advance a student when all of her friends have moved up a level. I’ve had to call students and have heart to heart conversations about their motivation and commitment. I’ve had to protect my reputation and my standards by uninviting men/women from my classes. I don’t enjoy this but the greater good won’t let me compromise.

I crave learning. I videotape my practicing and critique myself. I seek private lessons, take workshops, read books, research, watch other dancers for inspiration. When I see these qualities in a student, it thrills me to no end. There is always more to learn. Isn’t that the beauty of cultural dance? And yet, I put myself in the position of a student who recently had a baby and wants to do something for herself, or a working professional who faces unbelievable demands at work. Giving them a safe space to explore serpentine and percussive movements for an hour is a beautiful thing. I know there are instances when someone may be resistant to hearing my corrections because they just want to feel good for the duration of the class.

I have learned that I am not the kind of instructor that can go without correcting technique. I am tactful, use humor, focus on anatomical explanations but — even still — some people are there to get lost in the music and move. . .for years! Part of my role is to make people comfortable and sense when they are committed enough to respond well to challenges, feedback and opportunities that require a dedicated presence. For a student, I suppose it’s important to remain cognizant of your goals and expectations. Approach your dance training from a realistic standpoint. Communicate with your instructor so we can work together on meeting your goals (or no goals).

For people who like prizes, medals, the promise of a lucrative career in bellydance. . .well. . .this is not impossible. You can enter competitions, get some expensive costumes, build a website and hope for the best. But this, I can tell you, often leads to burnout. Dedication to a rich dance for the sake of learning and personal growth leads to a lifelong relationship. A love that keeps feeding you. And if you just want to have fun for an hour in class, well, that’s ok too. I just can’t promise I won’t push you a bit. It’s all part of my job.

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Tava is a professional bellydancer, instructor and author in NYC and CT.  She performs regularly for all family friendly events, galas, weddings and corporate events. Tava also performs in creative/theatrical endeavors and enjoys her balance of commercial and artistic fulfillment.  To learn more about classes in Fairfield County, CT or to inquire about hosting Tava for a workshop, please visit: BellydancebyTava.com

Tava’s Book: “Little Book of Big Advice: Enlightening Ideas for Bellydance Professionals”

Tava’s new book “Little Book of Big Advice: Enlightening Ideas for Bellydance Professionals” is available on Amazon.com.

Little Book of Big Advice: Enlightening Ideas for Bellydance Professionals

Little Book of Big Advice: Enlightening Ideas for Bellydance Professionals

Little Book of Big Advice: Enlightening Ideas for Bellydance Professionals is an essential read for dancers who may be considering a transformation from hobbyist to professional. Tava Naiyin, author and highly-accomplished bellydancer in NYC and CT, writes candidly about her experiences as an artist who has relied exclusively on dance-generated income for 10+ years. After receiving countless questions from budding dance professionals across the U.S., she compiled her answers and wrote this book to address what she perceived as possible gaps in training. This book cannot take the place of a mentor, however, it aims to promote industry standards and help bellydance artists determine if they have the right skills and circumstances to turn their passion into a career.

Readers can expect information about costume purchasing and care, performance etiquette, general do’s and don’ts, how to get the most out of practice, staying inspired, juggling art vs. commerce and more. Ms. Naiyin’s bellydance colleagues and mentors weigh in to share their thoughts and resources on topics ranging from: how to find your own dance voice, keeping the dance flame lit and effective marketing strategies. Readers can expect inspiring and practical tidbits from top bellydancers Andrea (NY), Angelica Jordan (Quebec), Maria (CA), Riskallah Riyad (CT), Sira (NY) and Zaina (Globetrotter). Anyone who is considering a career in dance or the performing arts will come away with useful information to help them make informed choices and avoid costly mistakes. To learn more about Tava, visit BellydancebyTava.com

What people are saying about Tava’s book:

Whether you have a burgeoning curiosity about belly dance as an art form, or are already a seasoned student ready to take the next step, this book is a must! Tava’s advice and insights come only from years of studying, training, performing and evolving as a dancer and as an artist in general.

Tava does not preach from a pen and ink pulpit; She is with you through this book, sharing her own experiences, “aha! moments”, mistakes, stumbles and triumphs as a dancer, artist, teacher and mentor. Her writing style is inviting and smooth, and this book is hard to put down once you start reading! She includes anecdotes and input from her mentors, peers, and students. Her love for this dance and her unyielding devotion to keeping this dance elevated and held to high standards is readily evident. Once you finish reading, you will understand what a gift this is to the world of belly dance!- Christine R.

An insightful book from the artist’s perspective. This book is not just about dance. It’s about passion, perception and practicality. Valuable advice in this age of “do what you love.” Anyone considering doing so would gain important insight into balancing one’s art and inspiration with the realities of life.

The interviews convey the deep respect these women share for the culture and dance they represent and the accompanying photos are beautiful. Bellydance is lucky to have such passionate and articulate advocates. – Mary

The Thing About Feeback. . .

Lately, my mind keeps returning to a shortage of honest feedback in dance. I’ve thought a lot about when it is, or isn’t, appropriate to offer. I’ve thought about some of the things I’ve been told throughout my career that were, initially, tough to hear but made a huge impact on both my dancing and professionalism. I’m actually quite grateful to these people because I know, with total certainty, that these women had my best interest in mind. That is the key to delivering feedback. In order for it to be heard, one has to deliver it in a way that emphasizes the good intention behind it.

I often hesitate to offer feedback because I don’t want to offend anyone or imply that I’ve somehow mastered everything — believe me, I haven’t. No matter how gently it’s presented, not everyone is so open to hearing how often their underwear is showing or that their wrists are over-circling. There is something to be said for minding our own business and staying out of conversations where we don’t belong.

I asked Rosa Noreen for feedback after this show at Art of the Belly. The power went out briefly and I was worried that the

I asked Rosa Noreen for feedback after this show at Art of the Belly. The power went out briefly and I was worried that the “hiccup” may have overshadowed my performance.

Whenever I watch a dancer that I care about, (a friend or mentor), I watch with love. I am in the mode of watching to give support to someone without bringing my critical eye. Of course they may do something that particularly stands out or impresses me and I’ll share that in a post-show compliment. There are people in my life that can do no wrong in my eyes because I’ve had years of watching them and I love where their dance takes me. Even then, if one of them should say, “Tava, please be honest. I’m trying something new tonight and I could really use your feedback.” I will oblige. It is helpful to be asked before the performance so I can get in the right mindset and take off my “beaming support for friends” glasses.

A costume I wore back in 2008 that didn't fit me properly (pointed out to me by a pro dancer I respected). It has a new home now :)

A costume I wore back in 2008 that didn’t fit me properly (pointed out to me by a pro dancer I respected). It has a new home now :)

In my “day life” I am paid to give feedback and I have learned to be as tactful as possible with full honesty because I want my clients to succeed or break dysfunctional patterns. Why would it be so easy and natural to do in this context? For starters, they are coming to me because they are trying to reach a goal that has been challenging for them and they are paying me for my time and expertise. So, I think the same should apply in the dance world.
It’s my opinion that dancers should ask for it – regularly. We should identify the dancers who inspire us and see if they are open to critiquing or offering feedback.  If we rely on post-show compliments as our only cue about our ability, we aren’t getting the real picture. Furthermore, feedback from one person is not always the right way to go. Someone who is so familiar with our style might develop dance blind spots or focus on a particular aspect while unknowingly ignoring others. Below is my approach to seeking and accepting feedback that works for me and, who knows, maybe it could work for you :)

Video feedback: I have sent practice videos to my mentors over the years and paid them to review it and give me feedback.

A screen shot of some of the feedback I requested from my mentor after showing her a practice video.

A screen shot of some of the feedback I requested from my mentor after showing her a practice video.

Private lessons: I’ve paid for private lessons with dancers I admire so they could watch me closely and critique as I go. This just cannot happen in a group class situation.

The 24-48 hour rule: I get what I can only describe as “post-show rawness.” Devoting countless hours of practice for a major show and hearing an honest critique immediately after the fact is not a good thing. I am too raw and vulnerable after nearly every performance to want to hear something critical. It’s better for me to ask a day or two later when I’ve got my “tough skin” back on. Someone once said to me in the car as we were leaving a venue, “Well, not bad, but not your best.” It surprised me because I hadn’t asked and I had a different feeling in my head of what happened on the stage that night. I won’t ask for anyone’s opinion right away; especially if I’m riding a post-show high.

Supply prompts: Every so often I have a list of things I’m working on: dynamics, expressive hands, incorporating emotion or numerous other concepts. I might ask a friend, “Can you pay attention to my hands tonight? Specifically, how do they hold up when I’m doing fast hip work?” This gives people an idea of what to focus on and can lead to better results than, “So, how was I?”

Learn to separate opinion from feedback: This is huge. There are lots of areas of disagreement in our dance world and sometimes people can disguise their opinions as feedback.Personally, I don’t like the look of visible dance shorts in costumes but that’s pure opinion and I would never say “Your shorts are showing under your costume so you might want to visit a seamstress to fix that.”  Um, no. Totally inappropriate.

Sometimes I do have to bite my tongue as the amount of visible crotch with certain floorwork transitions gets to me after a day of videos rolls through my newsfeed. Or I see someone making the same early mistakes that I made and I want to offer an opinion. It’s a case by case basis and, sometimes, the risk is worth it. It’s always great to seek it. Ask for it and be willing to accept whatever it is, so long as you trust the source.

Happy Dancing!

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Tava is a professional bellydancer in NYC and CT.  She performs regularly for all family friendly events, galas, weddings and corporate events.  Tava also performs in creative/theatrical endeavors and enjoys her balance of commercial and artistic fulfillment.  To learn more about classes in Fairfield County, CT or to inquire about hosting Tava for a workshop, please visit: BellydancebyTava.com

Self-Inflicted Pressure Makes Creativity Run for the HIlls

I feel comfortable saying that I’ve been doing this a long time. I’ve certainly devoted countless hours to practicing, learning, teaching, researching, critiquing, writing, choreographing, improvising, etc. One would think I’d have learned the fundamental truth that self-inflicted pressure to come up with a “perfect” performance does not work. What in the world have I been doing to myself lately? Logical Tava is slapping her own wrist saying “You know you’d rather watch an honest performance than a so-called ‘perfect’ performance. Snap out of it!” Artistic and sensitive Tava is saying, “I have an opportunity to share my passion with a new audience in a show featuring some amazing talent. I HAVE to be my absolute best. Do NOT ‘wing it’ this time!”

Last night while lying on the studio floor in a pool of exhaustion and, I’ll be honest, some tears, I was feeling some self-doubt. I put unbelievable amounts pressure on myself to create new veil shapes, incredible transitions and gravity defying lines. I wanted a piece full of material that was inspired — but I could literally feel my inspiration running for the hills. I wound up tangled in my favorite prop and muttering obscenities while my joints began to throb. I took a look at my reflection and thought, “What happened? This isn’t me at all.”

I woke up this morning and decided to forgive myself. I heard advise from friends and took it to heart. The Tava who dances from the heart does not beat herself up with impossible expectations. She “allows” the movements to happen and doesn’t force them. As a dancer, I respond to self nourishment better than self-inflicted pressure. That’s not to say I won’t ask for honest feedback or a critique from someone I trust, but forcing the best show ever is a great way to wind up exhausted and depleted. I always work hard and try to improve but, let’s face it, I don’t need to invent some sort of new veil language to deliver a worthy show. What I need is to revise my process so I can avoid these nasty fits of self-doubt. Ironically, I have done this for other dancers but sometimes our own advice is the hardest to take.

So, I give up. I surrender.

I’m going to “wing it” after all. But I’m armed with 15 years of dedication and a sincere love of music which has gotten me this far.  All I can do is be me. _DSC0391-3127889052-W

Drawing Inspiration from Other Artists – My Brunch with AnnaLisa Ewald

Nine years ago, I made a huge life change and left my home in NYC. It was a huge risk and I wondered if “the burbs” could satisfy my need for an artistic life.  I wasn’t sure if I would stick out like a sore thumb or settle into a community. My husband and I bit the bullet and moved into a building that had enough character to make the transition easier. The brick walls and loft space reminded us of Brooklyn and we occasionally heard a neighbor playing guitar, drumming, or blasting decent music (ahh such comforts)!

AnnaLisa Ewald

AnnaLisa Ewald

One such neighbor was classical guitar guru AnnaLisa Ewald. We would wave and exchange knowing nods at each other in the parking lot heading to gigs – she carrying a guitar case and looking very elegant – me with heavier makeup and lots of glitter.  Over time, our conversations became deeper, we attended each others performances, and a mutual respect was born. Today’s brunch, much like our last brunch, included a lot of heavy nodding and phrases like “Yes, I deal with that too!” Two artists who deal with issues of art vs. commerce, who have to figure out the extent to which we’re willing to compromise, and have an inherent need to stay inspired…at all costs. It is always validating and the exchange of ideas lights up my brain. It is very satisfying to pick my head up out of the bellydance world where I live 99.9% of the time and look at things from a broader perspective. I cannot do this on my own because I rely on this immersion into my dance world.

AnnaLisa is the real deal. She is one of those genuine artists who has the ideal balance of knowledge, integrity, and skill. Listening to her talk about ancient music and the maple neck of her new guitar; it is clear she is not going to be content playing pop songs. Like me, she drives far and wide to perform at weddings and prestigious shows – but she will drive even farther to collaborate and learn from the artists she admires.

Tava performing a baladi at Drom (NYC)

Tava performing a baladi at Drom (NYC)

Sometimes it is hard to introduce an art form that has deep cultural roots and loads of history to a population that isn’t familiar with it. Cultivating opportunities to share an artistic passion in this area is a way of planting seeds and growing a student base, nurturing a love of art and enriching the community – but it takes persistent hard work. And sometimes, the hard work seems extra hard. Seeking the company of other artists is always worth it and I think it’s just as important as physical cross training. These brunches feed me in more ways than one and I’m grateful for them. To learn more about AnnaLisa, visit her website: http://annalisaewald.com/ *******************************************************

Tava is a professional bellydancer in NYC and CT.  She performs regularly for all family friendly events, galas, weddings and corporate events.  Tava also performs in creative/theatrical endeavors and enjoys her balance of commercial and artistic fulfillment.  To learn more about classes in Fairfield County, CT or to inquire about hosting Tava for a workshop, please visit: BellydancebyTava.com

More Dancing and Less Tearing Each Other Down

This post is a reaction to conversations I hear almost every day, to comments I’ve read on YouTube links and posts on Facebook.  Somewhere a woman is tearing apart another woman for reasons related to appearance. Oftentimes the women are strangers with nothing but visual presentation to go on– so they pick each other apart for their weight, their hair, their “enhancements,” or their supposed need for enhancements. Several years ago, I had to remove a photo I had posted of a guest dancer from one of my events because a total stranger called her a “skinny bitch.”   All this woman saw was a reminder of her own insecurity about her weight because – let’s face it – nobody who feels healthy and balanced criticizes a stranger for looking incredible in two-piece bedlah. This is the sort of thing that reminds me how lucky I am to have a community of students that value a supportive environment. It reminds me of the intrinsic value of dancing with a non-competitive group.

195bmfvu242scjpgRecently, a student approached me to say, “Thank you for giving all of us a place to feel safe and to celebrate each other’s accomplishments.”  It was incredibly sweet but it also got me thinking about how hard we are on our fellow women and how fundamentally unnecessary that is.  Just this morning I listened to Senator Barbara Boxer’s speech on DHS funding and I was shocked to see the amount of comments about her hair.  This woman just delivered a kick-ass speech with conviction and resolve, but, many people saw value in discussing her appearance. *facepalm*

To be honest, I am pretty fed up with this. I understand that groups of women find comfort and a certain degree of bonding while engaging in a bit of gossip but when it reaches levels of hostility, we have to really think about what good this does.  I realize it is impractical and impossible to be friends with everybody. I am not keen on that enormous purple dinosaur who suggested that we’re all a great big family, but, I do think we could all ease up on the cutting words we have for people we don’t even know.  Perhaps there will always be jealousy, insecurity, fear and far too much value placed on impossible standards of beauty. What’s a gal to do? Well, the only answer I have is this: dance!

Dancing won’t solve the world’s problems but it will put you in touch with a group of women and suddenly you’ll find yourself cheering for someone when they’ve mastered a movement.  You will be surrounded with hugs if you return to class after missing a few weeks.  You will probably leave a studio feeling better about yourself than you did when you arrived.  It takes time and it takes a willingness to get out of your comfort zone and commit to something larger than yourself.  No, dance cannot prevent hatred but if it lifts a group of women to feel camaraderie, in spite of their differences, that is a giant step in the right direction.  10613030_295965897256468_4089405148976983521_nBefore anyone jumps in to say I’m being overly harsh or decides to educate me on where the blame truly lies, just remember this is a blog post of my thoughts. I’m not conducting a research study ( I have spent many years devoted to research studies in the past so I know how labor-intensive they are ).  Of course, I cannot speak for every dance form or every dance class. I’m really just asking if we can stop being so hard on each other?

PS: Don’t just take my word for it:

Arts & Health, Vol. 2, No. 2, September 2010, 149–163.

Shall we dance? An exploration of the perceived benefits of dancing on well-being

Am J Public Health. 2010 February; 100(2): 254–263.

The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of the Current Literature

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Tava is a professional bellydancer in NYC and CT.  She performs regularly for all family friendly events, galas, weddings and corporate events.  Tava also performs in creative/theatrical endeavors and enjoys her balance of commercial and artistic fulfillment.  To learn more about classes in Fairfield County, CT or to inquire about hosting Tava for a workshop, please visit: BellydancebyTava.com

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Photo of Tava by Adrian Buckmaster    (Do not copy without permission)

Those Unavoidable Curveballs. . .

One thing we can always count on is that life has an endless supply of curve balls to toss our way whenever it sees fit.  I’m not talking about huge life-altering curve balls that require major changes, hours of meditation and psychological adjustments — just the garden variety “Oh man…I did not see that coming.”  The very nature of our work involves dancing through unknown variables and making the best of it.  Maybe there are balloon ribbons getting stuck in your lipstick because they’re dangling too low from the ceiling (true story), or you fashion a skirt out of a tablecloth because you left your real skirt at home.  One consolation prize is that these curve balls generally make for good stories down the road.  But, sometimes, they just make for good ol’ life lessons.

Tava bellydancer performing at a birthday party

That party with balloon strings in my mouth.

1. Shoveling Blues.

When Yowalka and Alanah invited me to be a part of their event at JeBon, I was thrilled that they asked me to perform with my fan.  I even treated myself to a new one that was lace-trimmed. I decided to incorporate some of Dalia Carella‘s fan technique so I hopped into NYC and had a brilliant private lesson with her.  I settled on Scheherezade L’Andalous as my song and I was feeling the love — ready to dance.  But then, it snowed.  And it snowed some more.  I had to shovel in order to free my poor little car from the snow/ice cocoon that the plowing had caused.  I shoveled a pathway for my little dog to walk.  The next day, there was excruciating pain in my wrist.  After a trip to the orthopedist, it was determined that I had a pretty bad sprain.  He gave me some mega meds and told me I could get through the show to but keep my brace on and be very careful.

Sprained wrist - next the bandage will at least be dipped in glitter ;)

If there is a next time, the bandage will at least be dipped in glitter ;)

As the sweet taqsim ended and the song picked up intensity, I snapped the fan open and  did a little twirl to test the waters.  I think my whimper was in the same key as the violin so I’m assuming nobody heard.  I couldn’t twirl very well and I even put the fan down half-way through the song.  But I decided to give extra love to the movements I could do and I enjoyed spinning, making shapes/lines and breathing through the pauses.  Hey, I did my best and I made some decent lemonade out of those wrist-pain lemons.

2. Get a Grip!

I recently choreographed a slinky sword duet for my student and I that we would perform at my friend Joy’s event.  I was excited to dance at this venue and although I should have known better, I forgot to inquire about the surface we would be dancing on.  My husband is a production manager whose job it is to leave no stone unturned and he would shake his head in his hands at my oversight. A minute into our performance, the carpet was gripping me like it was madly in love with my pants. Where things were meant to be slinky, they were…uh…rug burn-y.  But, of course, we hoped the audience was none the wiser.

When you feel a show going south, it’s important to remember that the audience has a totally different expectation.  They cannot be disappointed that your choreography isn’t quite working because they never saw what it should be.  Don’t let your face show defeat.  I’m an improv gal so it’s rare that I perform choreography and this is part of the reason why. I don’t want to be thrown when I’m rolling with the punches.  But it was a good exercise in not losing our cool.  Kia, my student who performed with me, did a great job and was thoroughly “christened” by her first dance curve ball.

In the spirit of total transparency, here is video of both performance.  Please be kind – now that you know the back story :)

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Tava is a professional bellydancer, choreographer, lecturer and performer based in NYC and CT.  She teaches weekly classes, specialty workshops and offers elegant, family friendly performances throughout the tri-state area.  To learn more about Tava, visit www.BellydancebyTava.com

Part II of Unraveling the Journey of a Bellydancer (featuring Tava)

I’m delighted to be featured in Part II of Tunnel Vision Company‘s Project “Unraveling the Journey of a Bellydancer.”  I’m glad to have been given a platform to express my goals – both as a teacher and performer.  In the U.S., we tend to hear about all of the violence and political upheaval in the regions where our dance has its’ roots and it benefits all of us to develop an appreciation for the music and the movements that bring it to life.

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It is my pleasure to share this dance in Connecticut (and NY) and I am hopeful that our community will continue to shed stereotypes and find more venues that support our art.  It’s too beautiful to be dismissed.  Bellydance is clearly here to stay.  Please enjoy and share your thoughts!

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To learn more about Tava and bellydance classes in CT, visit www.BellydancebyTava.com

No More Meals at the Kitchen Counter – Adopting Mindfulness

Tava's mindfulness blog

One of the things I intend to work on this year is practicing more mindfulness.  I have had my fair share of phases with meditation but, sooner or later, a busy streak would rush through and *poof* there went my good habits until I gathered them all up again from scratch.  I would catch myself thinking, “I’d like to be more mindful but I’m so busy.” Ha!  I know how insane that sounds but, hey, I’m being honest here.  I know that true mindfulness has that quality of stretching time instead of taking more of it.

So, I vowed to stop the cycle of working all day, teaching private lessons, rushing off to teach a group class, and eating dinner at 10PM while standing at the counter.  On week-ends I would teach group classes, followed by private lessons, get ready, head to gigs and grab a slice of pizza to eat in the car on the way home.  I realized it wasn’t about wanting more time off, it was about making better choices with my “time on.”  I actually believe I can do all of these things and be kinder to myself in the process.

If mindfulness is an awareness of the present moment, no wonder I love to dance.  Being a dancer comes with a serene awareness of everything that is happening without judgement.  One minute I’m lost in the beauty of hand ripples to a delicious taqsim and the next I’m breathing into my low belly with a wave of undulations.  You see,  I have no trouble with mindfulness when I’m dancing.  It is my meditation.  But in my adult non-dancing life, it mostly comes in spurts.

Tava with veil, photo by TeresaEarly Mindfulness

When I was a little girl, I had a secluded place in the overgrown outdoors behind my house in Northern California.  I called it “Tava Land.”  I went there every chance I could and made myself so still that the animals didn’t notice me (even the feral cats would nap around me). I was very good at just slowing down until I felt like part of it.  Occasionally, if I deemed someone worthy enough to visit “Tava Land,” I would invite them to my little nook in the outdoors and just sit with them.  They must have found It odd because wasn’t a place for speaking.  It was a place for being.  After leaving California, I looked for a replacement “Tava Land” in NY but, soon enough I had other things on my mind — teenage things.

Goals for Myself

I may never find another “Tava Land” so I’ll have to create a worthy substitute.  I enjoy my life – my husband, friends, family, students and my community.  Every day, for the most part, I have something to look forward to.  But I can do a better job at managing the pace.  Here’s what I’ve started doing for myself:

1. Breakfast at the table: No more scarfing down an apple and a scoop of almond butter over the counter. At least sit for 5 minutes and use a plate.

2. Fur love: My animals are little furry beacons of peace. When I pet them, I feel my heart rate lowering.  The simple act of consciously petting them – easy road to mindfulness.

3. Resume meditation 3 to 5 times per week (to start).

4. Say No. I’ve had to turn down offers and politely decline invitations that I might have otherwise said yes to.  I take my job seriously and I know it takes hard work to remain fulfilled and at the top of my game.  I need to continue training/learning as well as teach and perform.  I can also check in with myself and say, “How does this serve me?”

5. A wink and a smile. Make eye contact with someone every day and smile at them.  I am sticking with people I know for this one – lest I might be deemed insane or give someone the wrong idea.  Plus I’m an introvert so, I’ll stick with familiar faces for the time being ;) please-do-not-smile-at-strangers-400x301*********************************************************************************************

Tava is a professional bellydancer in NYC and CT.  She performs regularly for all family friendly events, galas, weddings and corporate events.  Tava also performs in creative/theatrical endeavors and enjoys her balance of commercial and artistic fulfillment.  To learn more about classes in Fairfield County, CT or to inquire about hosting Tava for a workshop, please visit: BellydancebyTava.com

Producing Events for the Bellydance Community & Beyond

On the heels of an event I hosted at The Factory Underground in Norwalk, CT, I recently finished all of the postmortem analysis and learned that I broke even.  This is a typical outcome.  Sometimes I profit, most of the time I break even, and once in a great while, I take a loss. With 17 bi-annual events under my belt, I have done my best to learn from my mistakes but I also know that I will make new ones from time to time.  I’m writing to share some of the arrangements I’ve had over the years in the spirit of total transparency.  Keep in mind, I fall in the category of doing this because I love it and it fosters student retention.  Also, I live in an area that is not known for its thriving arts scene.  There are very few options in terms of affordable space (and that number continues to shrink).

1. Profit Share – This is a great way to do it, provided the venue is willing.  It is the least likely to require digging into your own pocket and the venue is taking some degree of risk with you.  I did this for many years at a hotel ballroom.  They got full bar and about 70% of door fee.  This left me with enough to pay the band, travel costs for visiting dancers and have a little something in my pocket in most cases.  As my events became more successful, the venue wanted a larger piece but that’s not really what ended this arrangement.  The venue owner pat me on the head and said “Don’t worry sweetie, I’ll talk business with your husband.”  Oh, a piece of my mind was given…loudly.what-the-what2. True Promoter – This is another way to go when it comes to sponsoring events.  I assumed the traditional role of promoter for a beautiful (now closed) bar/lounge.  The venue got full bar and I got full door so long as I hit a guaranteed number of people which, thankfully, I did.  If the venue hadn’t closed, I think we would still be there today.  The drawback of this arrangement was no space for a band and I prefer to have live music at my events.

3. Tack on Extra at the Restaurant – This was my least favorite option.  Having an event at a restaurant, I had some flexibility in terms of accommodating last minute requests and not having to bring in any food/drinks.  It is nice to offer hot food and have a staff to help.  What could go wrong?  It’s expensive!  The best deal I could find came to $22 a person and I know that charging more than $25 leads to lower ticket sales so that left me $3/head to pay for band and PA.  Ouch!  I took a bath.

3. Self-Finance – This is the highest risk option but also has the greatest potential for earning money if you’re smart, organized and established.  I rented a hall.  Bear in mind, renting a hall means also renting a PA, paying for event insurance, supplying all alcohol because it is illegal to sell it and has to be worked into the price, paying for set-up/break-down, supplying all food and adequate space/tables for vendors.  I did this for a few parties and I think my hair went gray until I broke even on ticket sales.  I would sweat bullets laying out big $$$ so I was actually surprised when I yielded the highest profit with this arrangement.  The drawback of the venue was having to bring everything in myself.  It’s a huge investment of time and money but good to know I have it in pinch.

photo of Tava (Bellydancer in NY & CT) by Adam Jason photography

photo of Tava (Bellydancer in NY & CT) by Adam Jason photography

4. Self-Finance #2 – Currently, I rent from another venue that has a bar area, tables, stage and its own PA system (that is a big cost-saver and back-saver if you have to rely on your husband to carry it and set it up).  I got a little older and wiser and decided to make it BYOB to save myself the hassle of guesstimating wine/beer needs, buying it all, having it delivered and returning whatever was unopened.  So, this is where we are now.

All things considered, the events are the highlight of my year.  It is a very special feeling to see your students shine on stage and to watch their friends/families shower them with love.  I also feel fortunate to have musicians that work with me on these nights.  Carmine, Brad, Casey, Eylem, Rob, Pete have all been true professionals and have helped my students to fall in love with live music.  My husband is a sound engineer and production manager for famous artists so his help and guidance is beyond valuable.  My students assume extra costs by bringing food or drink, helping to keep me calm when I’m muttering nonsense to myself walking in circles and for promoting the event to their friends/families.

So, I hope to see you on May 3rd at the Factory Underground.  We’re going to do it all over again.  Here’s a bit of what you can expect:

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Tava is a professional bellydancer in NYC and CT.  She performs regularly for all family friendly events, galas, weddings and corporate events.  Tava also performs in creative/theatrical endeavors and enjoys her balance of commercial and artistic fulfillment.  To learn more about classes in Fairfield County, CT or to inquire about hosting Tava for a workshop, please visit: BellydancebyTava.com