Is Social Media Making You Feel Digitally Dirty?

If you’re like me and you started your dance career before the days of “photo or it never happened,” this shift towards documenting your pre, during and post dance happenings can feel a little, “Ew.” Is social media obscurity really a career killer? How can we make peace with trying to capture the attention of the interwebs without compromising ourselves in the process? As dancers, our careers evolve and we make choices about what we’re cool with adopting or dig our heels in resistance and let the chips fall where they may.

Even beyond the world of bellydance we hear about the importance of building a personal brand. In my day life as a career counselor and resume writer, I help clients tap into their value propositions or, the stuff that makes them tick and the outcomes they have celebrated when their stuff is ticking. A lot of people (okay, mostly women) are initially uncomfortable with this concept. We’re taught that knowing your unique value is bragging or impolite to discuss. Their feelings tend to change when I explain that knowing it, owning it and being able to tactfully speak about it reduces the need for external validation that it really exists. We all know those people who need constant attention and approval from others because they don’t know (or believe) that they really do rock at this or that. Knowing your worth is a quiet confidence that people can sniff out and we tend to relax in its presence.

But social media is different because there’s a relentless quality about it. I’ve found myself thinking, “Oh no! I don’t have anyone with me to take video at this really important gig!” or “Damn, I forgot to get a selfie with the band.” These are not real problems. The belief that I have to document every move sometimes seduces my brain like bad TV. But I am lucky that I have a good relationship with my ego, my grounding friends, my practical and dry-witted husband and enough regular meditation to let that sh#t go. But I’m human and sometimes I compare myself to the sparkly posts of my busy dancer friends and think, “I won’t matter as much if I don’t share an equally impressive clip.” In those weaker moments, instead of feeling inspired by what I see and enjoying the talents of my peers, I sometimes feel a bit of shame or regret that I haven’t met my imagined posting quota. Or worse, what if their clips come during a slow gig week? Sacre bleu!!

Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 5.33.08 PM

I’ve come up with a few strategies that help me preserve some peace of mind and leave me feeling more thoughtful and less “pining for time with strangers’ eyeballs.”

Sharing is Caring

When I see a dance friend (or, for that matter, a dance stranger who I dig) I share it! Having an active social media presence doesn’t mean it has to all be about me. I have some talented peers and when they do something that moves me, I want to support them and put it on my wall so more people can see it. Will I really lose a gig because a potential client sees them instead of me? Doubtful. And if it did happen, eh…I wouldn’t know about it anyway.

Sincerity with a Side of Feeling

Most of the posts that resonate with me are sincere enough to cut through the noise of social media. I sense the authenticity and it immediately grabs me. When I post about how happy I am after a particularly enjoyable hour with my students, I’m not bragging about the fact that I have a loyal group of ladies who study with me. I am genuinely moved by spending time with some kick-ass women who dig the dance that I love the most. It doesn’t ever feel “dirty” to talk about that.

Captions with a kick.

Sometimes to lower they “Hey look at me” factor of a post, I’ll pair it with a clever caption that helps the viewer understand I’m having fun and not taking myself too seriously. It’s a compromise. Case and point, yesterday’s instagram post about dancing with my own private nebula. I often feel that whirling with colorful wings has an ethereal, galactic quality and I’m kind of obsessed with nebulas…nebulae?? I shared a party photo that could have been captioned with a “I recently performed at a Gala in Westchester. It was my 3rd gig of the night but the crowd gave me all the energy I needed.” That’s not bad at all, and sometimes my captions are like that, but I like to shake it up and change the focus. Bonus points if I make someone laugh or Google image “nebulae.”Screen Shot 2018-01-25 at 5.54.40 PM.png

Celebrate the Accomplishments

When I have a career moment I’m proud of, I’m not afraid to say so. Making the front page of my local paper was an honor because it was an event supporting two causes I really care about. If there’s a photo that I enjoy because it showcases my art, skill or emotion, that’s ok to feel proud of it. Humility is great but not at the expense of diluting something I feel is a high point. If your social media presence also shows your integrity, people will be happy to celebrate your victories alongside you.

Don’t Play the Numbers Game

I have budding dancers and new professionals in my mentorship program and sometimes they lament about a lack of followers on this or that platform. I myself have blocked easily 200 people on Instagram. I occasionally make my account private if there’s a rash of shirtless selfie dudes holding stacks of cash that all start liking my photos. I’m not here for them. They have every right to like what they want to like but there’s no shortage of people for them to follow. Attract the right people more than the amount of people. Also, it’s easy to get yourself a bunch of fake followers. They’re easy to spot. When a YouTube video has a million views for something very average with loads of generic comments, that’s one way to go. It’s hard to generate “buzz” without being “buzz-worthy.” Keeping up engagement with people who are likely to be in a position to hire you or attend your classes is worth far more than hashtags like, “sexybrunette” but that’s just my opinion.

Also, many of my favorite performance videos are the ones with the least views because I value my unique artistry over my commercial side. Sure, I have a commercial side because I still rely on money from my gigs. I appreciate my skill to earn income with performances that people enjoy. But I also appreciate my skill to perform something without any regard for how clients will perceive it. There’s a time and a place for both.

Spend Time In Reality

Social media can be an addictive, isolating tool for social comparison. There are times when my fingers know to slowly close the screen and go outside for a walk. If you start to notice that posting or reading posts leaves you with a feeling that is worse than you how you felt before you logged on, take note. Do something that feels real.

Yes, an online presence is important as a small business owner. That’s what we are when we’re working dancers –whether or not we run a studio. Yes, we have to have a steady presence. No, that doesn’t mean we have to overly compromise ourselves in the process. If you’re starting to feel “digitally dirty” change up your strategy or just take a break. Promote yourself in the way that feels the most comfortable for YOU. And, by all means, don’t take the comments sections to heart. I’ve seen people write incredibly cruel things about this one’s weight or that one’s cheap-looking costumes or even questioning which body parts were surgically enhanced. Yuck. Stay away from the comments.

Use this as a tool to raise your platform but have the awareness to know when it’s too much. Sometimes real life, without a filter or floating dog ears, deserves our focus.

See you on the interwebs.


Tava is a highly regarded professional bellydancer, instructor and choreographer. She performs regularly throughout Connecticut and the NYC Metro Area. Equally at home performing at galas, family occasions, cultural events, theaters or in music videos, she prides herself on having a career with as much variety as possible.

In addition to the “sparkly bits” of her life, Tava has a Masters in Counseling from Fordham University and uses the dance as a tool for building self-esteem and healthy body image for women.

Why I Bellydance – The Jennifer and Susan Edition

I asked my students a series of questions hoping to get some insight about why people come to bellydance class vs. why they stay in class. I have noticed that when people commit to pushing through the initial hurdle of understanding the basic moves, they become hungry for more. Others say it’s “too hard” and don’t go beyond a class or two. The idea of committing to an art form or a hobby for several years seems to be increasingly rare. It requires an intrinsic motivation, humility (to accept that there is always more to learn) and, in today’s world, there are a lot of demands on our time. While many may be drawn to the latest fitness craze or need the thrill of variety, I’m thankful there are some who understand that “bellydance” has enough challenges to keep us all eternal students.

Jennifer has been my port in the storm during my biannual events. Her project management and stage manager experience have been exceptionally valuable. She’s even volunteered to be a gig roadie on a few occasions (including a marathon gig night in NYC for New Year’s Eve…whew)!


Jennifer performing with The Manipura Dance Collective at JeBon, NYC


Susan on her way to perform Assaya dance at the NICE festival in Norwalk, CT

Susan brings her artistic mind to the dance and she is a very dedicated learner. She is often in class 3x per week and the first to request private lessons to work on specific concepts or combos. In addition, she designed the layout and cover for my book, for which I am eternally grateful.

How long have you taken bellydance classes?

Jennifer: I started in 2000 with another teacher in Fairfeld, but took time off for a few years before finding Tava.

Susan: Almost 6 years with Tava.

Why were you first inclined to take a bellydance class?

Jennifer: I took my first bellydance class through continuing ed as a way to meet others in a new town. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for that.

Susan: It was a complete whim, but I was def attracted to the Workit studio look, and I was feeling starved for something exotic, something way out of my comfort range. I also missed dancing like I did when I was a small child. I did it in defiance of my age in other words.

How long did it take for you to feel like you grasped the basic movements?

Jennifer: I don’t recall exactly how long it took to feel like I had a clue about this new-to-me form of dance. Truthfully, there are still times I question my abilities! Strong supportive teaching, provided by both my primary teachers, helped my confidence to keep going. 

Susan: 3 years of weekly instruction but my body felt marvelous all over, and my mind started to feel more confident.

If you stopped attending classes at any point, what did you (or what would you) miss about it the most? What keeps you coming back now that you’re past the initial hurdles?

Jennifer: I have taken breaks of various amounts of time (from a few months to a few years) over the course of my study and I always miss the fluidity in my joints that comes from practicing bellydance on a regular basis. I also tend to feel less sure of myself and body image when not dancing regularly. Since finding Tava’s classes, I find I miss the camaraderie of the other students and Tava when I’ve taken time off. The support of smart, funny women is inherent in this community that I don’t find elsewhere. 

Susan: I would miss two things, the people and the fact that I feel I have made some progress. I keep coming back because I’m curious how far I can go.  

What particular benefits does this dance, or dance class(es) offer you that you cannot get from other exercise, community events or dance form?

Jennifer: As I mentioned earlier, the support of smart, funny and caring women does not translate into other aspects of society as much as it does in Tava’s bellydance classes. I love the music and watching the wide variety of dance genres that fall under the umbrella of bellydance. It’s wonderful and inspiring to watch women from all backgrounds, faiths, educational levels and countries perform, and that includes the seasoned pros and the novices! I think that because bellydance is difficult to “master,” the feeling of accomplishment after a performance is palpable.

Susan: An all in one body-mind-spirit integration and super fun. Yoga has mindbodyspirit but is not fun for me like this dance is

What would you say to someone who is curious to try bellydance but is hesitant?

Jennifer: Just try it. Bring a friend or don’t; purchase some bling or use scarves you have; maybe visit a few teachers to find one who makes you feel comfortable and JUMP IN. As someone who could never figure out an aerobics class and feels out of place lifting weights in a gym, I love the exercise and confidence this dance brings me. It’s fun to have that little shimmy secret your co-workers or friends don’t know!

Susan: You will grow in ways that you cannot possibly imagine until you try it for at least a year. Plus, you’ll get some non-judgmental buddies you can’t get anywhere else!


Susan and Jennifer joined by their sisters in dance performing a Turkish piece at a Dance Conference in Ossining, NY


For Tava’s class schedule, please visit:

Why Do I Bellydance? The Mary Edition (aka Tava’s Mom)

I asked my students a series of questions hoping to get some insight about why people come to bellydance class vs. why they stay in class. I have noticed that when people commit to pushing through the initial hurdle of understanding the basic moves, they become hungry for more. Others say it’s “too hard” and don’t go beyond a class or two. The truth is, it’s difficult. And it’s not the sort of difficult that immediately impresses an audience because it looks so easy. Therein lies the frustration for new students. Trained dancers merely become “in on the secret” that moving your body in serpentine waves or percussive isolations takes a great deal of coordination.
Mary, my mother, dances almost every day. She practices with her DVD’s, takes a weekly class at Work It Dance & Fitness and commits to such practice goals as “100 omis a day.”
Q: Why were you first inclined to take a bellydance class?
A: Because of you
For context, when I first left New York City, I started teaching as a way to meet people and bring a bit of the culture I felt was missing from my new life in CT. Mom took my class purely to support my endeavors but, 10 years later, here she is — a loyal student of bellydance.
Q: How long did it take for you to feel like you grasped the basic movements?
A: At least a year. At most…I’m still having issues.  When I realized how difficult it was, I also realized how much my body needed this type of movement.
Q: If you stopped attending classes at any point, what did you (or what would you) miss about it the most? What keeps you coming back now that you’re past the initial hurdles?
A: I would miss two things.  One, the specific kind of movement which comes from the core and moves outward to other areas of the body in waves. (and because I’m learning about science – all energy moves in waves so what better way for the body to move). Two, you are an excellent teacher so I feel like I’m in good hands taking risks with movement.  I won’t get hurt in class. (Aw, thanks Mom).
Q: What particular benefits does this dance, or dance class(es) offer you that you cannot get from other exercise, community events or dance forms?
A: To me this dance is organic.  It seems to come from a natural expression of the body.  It improves strength and fluidity.  I wish I were young enough to improve but just holding a level of ability is good for me.   I think the movements are especially good for older bodies which become stiff and more difficult to insert grace.
Q: What would you say to someone who is curious to try bellydance but is hesitant?
A: Since most of my friends are my age, I say what I just said in the last question.  I’m amazed that more of them won’t try.  It always strikes me as odd that people want to go places to explore but they don’t always think to explore within.
Why do YOU bellydance?

Coming Full Circle and the Art of Non-Compromise

Back in 2006, I walked into my supervisor’s office at a major NYC University and I gave a generous 4 weeks’ notice. I had just been offered my 2nd promotion (and a raise), had a retirement plan, a decent salary, plenty of paid vacation and had earned the respect of my colleagues. I had a comfortable job. I worked hard. As a trained counselor with strong admin skills, disability services was a rewarding path for me. What happened? Two things:

  1. I was bitten by the professional dancer bug.
  2. They restructured our department and moved us out of our offices and into cubicles. Yeah….CUBICLES! My colleague and I referred to it as the “glass case of emotion” — (cool points if you get the reference).


No way was I going to do a soul-crushing commute to sit in a cubicle and dream about being a full-time dancer. I was a diligent student who did whatever gigs came my way but I wanted more and I was ready to follow my passion without regret. Suddenly I had photoshoots, a web site, business cards and a cell phone that was always within reach. I had an agency pumping more gigs my way than I knew what to do with and I secured some regular restaurant jobs. I was busy and it was exciting.

As years went by, I found myself wanting to be more creative than the typical gig called for. I joined dance companies, choreographed some pieces for theatrical shows and scratched the itch as I went along. Now, my need for creativity and non-sparkly dance outlets has only grown stronger. I still enjoy the typical “gig” but only because I do about 1/4 to 1/2 of what I used to do.

Returning to a day job on a part-time basis has given me the freedom to cherry pick the dance jobs that I accept. Since dance is no longer my sole source of income, I can spend more time feeling like an artist or diving into my love of folklore. It’s afforded me the ability to be non-compromising. If a client doesn’t appear to respect what I do, or if the job seems like more hassle than it’s worth, I don’t take it. So now the jobs I do are, for the most part, really fulfilling.

I realize my future will see even more “day job” work and fewer gigs, but I suspect this will be a very rich time in my dance life. The irony isn’t lost on me. I left a full-time job to earn my living as a dancer. After a while, the full-time dance life left very little time to actually enjoy dance. And now, what sustains me is the fact that I am able to choose dance. We’re best friends, but no longer co-dependent. I’m more in love with every movement as a result. I show up to my gigs excited to be there. My relationship with dance is on my terms now and I had to come full circle to reach this place.


Shimmyathon, 2016, Peter Paradise Photography

If you’re considering a drastic life change to allow more space for dance, just go into it with eyes wide open. It’s a great thing to experience and teaches you a lot of about running a small business, managing client expectations, pushing through physical limits, dealing with the ebb and flow of fluctuating finances and a heck of a lot more. If you want more time to dance for YOU, out of pure love for the culture and the music, you just might want to remain a hobbyist.

The dance hobbyist has the best of both worlds. You can have all the sparkly and adventure…with a 401K on the side.


Tava is a highly regarded professional bellydancer, instructor, choreographer and author of the best-selling book, “Little Book of Big Advice: Enlightening Ideas for Bellydance Professionals.” She performs regularly throughout the NYC Metro Area and the tri-state area. Equally at home performing at galas, family occasions, cultural events, theaters or in music videos, she prides herself on having a career with as much variety as possible.

In addition to the “sparkly bits” of her life, Tava has a Masters in Counseling from Fordham University and uses the dance as a tool for building self-esteem and healthy body image for women.

An Artist’s Legacy

With the recent passing of two musical icons who really nailed it in the legacy department, social media is flooded with their previously unknown exhales of art that will be around for at least another generation or more. Whether it be vaults of unreleased music, inspiring stories of artistic integrity or heartfelt letters from people across the globe confessing how Prince or Bowie’s music got them through the roughest of times, it’s all got me thinking. Those of us who will never reach such levels of fame or notoriety, are we hoping to leave a lasting mark on our art? Am I?

The truth is, I don’t think so. The longer I dance the less I care about receiving recognition for it. My dance goals are in the here and now. I seek ways to grow and challenge myself and, while I am tremendously grateful that I get to inspire my students and maybe some audiences, my dance is not so innovative. I am one part of a long lineage that connects an ancient dance to the present. Sure, I use movement to transcend problems, to express what words can’t, to tap into something far more special than taxes or weekly trips to Stop & Shop, but I don’t feel disappointed to think my story ends with me. prince

I’m deeply moved by the body of work these two musicians created. They are examples of people who became famous in spite of themselves, on their own terms, who maintained control of their artistry throughout their careers. I’ve been moved to tears listening to Prince’s latest album and re-discovering Bowie’s  Lady Grinning Soul; dancing to both with a newfound appreciation. I can imagine how satisfying it is to know that your art lives on without you and I would be honored to learn this were possible for me but… it isn’t. And that’s ok. bowie-1152551

Prince and Bowie’s passing has renewed and strengthened my desire to have integrity in my work. Heck, did you see the letter Prince wrote to Suzanne Vega? It’s beautiful both in its words and penmanship/design. Thriving creativity doesn’t take a nap when it’s time to write letters. Artists who don’t phone it in, can inspire in so many ways beyond the talents they’re celebrated for. (Note to self: Write more sincere letters that people feel compelled to keep for years to come).

Both Prince and Bowie harnessed their creativity and paired it with a diligent work ethic. Learning about how they lived and made music has been like a little slap on my wrist reminding me that life is short and it’s time to dance all the dance I can. I heard a story on NPR about a jazz musician (sorry I forgot his name) who got a visit from a friend’s little girl near the end of his life. The little girl asked if he was dying and he said, “Yeah, but it’s been a great gig.” That’s what I want to feel at the end of the line…more than anything.


Photo by Ale Vega (Oriental Dance Pictures)


Tava is a professional bellydancer, instructor, choreographer and author based in NYC and CT. She is available to perform at family occasions, cultural events, theatrical performances, galas or media appearances. Tava’s weekly bellydance classes are in Fairfield County, CT with a range of workshop topics offered in various locations in the U.S. To learn more, visit:

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.


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:

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

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

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

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: *******************************************************

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:

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 🙂


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

On the Topic of Gratitude

There’s something about Thanksgiving that begs us to pause and reflect.  I have so much to be thankful for.  I suspect many of us have more to appreciate than we have time to ponder, but the focus always returns to the people who enrich our lives and the experiences we’ve had that have changed us for the better.

funny-kid-boy-beach-water-arms-out-bring-it-life-picsThis Thanksgiving, I’m recovering from some sort of virus that has me too weak to join in festivities.  I’m on the mend but I am alone.  I woke up feeling pangs of sadness. . .alone on Thanksgiving without my husband for the first time in at least 10 years.  I felt sorry for myself for a good 30 minutes.  Then the calls and texts started pouring in.  I was thought of by people in Cleveland, NY, CT, Montreal, Portland (a la Maine), Kansas City and Sacramento.  I took my dog on a peaceful quiet walk amidst snow flurries with hardly another person in sight.  I got some work done, cleaned up as much as my energy would allow, and began to feel nurtured, loved, and grateful.

So, while I’m thankful for a closet full of Bellas, a collection of chocolate and spices (things I swoon for), technological gadgets, a steam cleaner (which I’m surprisingly excited to own), that stuff is just… stuff. I’ve been reflecting a lot on my relationship with dance and the amazing people & experiences it offers me regularly.  From my first recital dancing as a Christmas present with legs to dancing solo in theater shows, paring movements to music has been my security blanket, my social life, my passion and my motivation.

I know the day will come when I have a different relationship with dance and that it might even take a back seat to my life.  The end of 2014 represents my 15 year mark with bellydance.  I’m excited to see what the future brings.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Copyright: William Winters

Copyright: William Winters