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

New Bellydance Promo Video

My first attempt at using iMovie and, several hours later, I came up with this. I have already spotted a couple of things I may have done differently but in our business, we have to wear many hats! I have a lot to learn when it comes to video editing but I’m going to give myself a bit of credit for getting this together. I hope you like it! Big thanks to my dance partner and friend Sira (Bellydancer NYC) and the numerous musicians that have inspired me to dance in each of these clips: Scott Wilson, Maurice Sedacca, Mal Stein, Souren Baronian, Haig Manoukian, Carmine, Casey Bond, Eylem, Brad and the guys in U2 Nation!

Recent photoshoot for Tava and Sira – Freezing Bellydancers in NYC

_8227293c - Version 2Recent photoshoot for Tava and Sira - Freezing Bellydancers in NYC

photos by Joe Marquez (The Smoking Camera)
I don’t necessarily recommend wearing chiffon and a bra in 10 degree weather but if you’re going to do so, grab a talented photographer, a really close friend and a little bit of Armenian whiskey.

Website for CT Bellydancer Tava – www.BellydancebyTava.com

NYC Bellydancer Sira – www.BellydancerNYC.com

Tava on the Radio

I had a wonderful time on Kristen Rzasa’s radio show “A Matter of Balance” on FTNS radio.  The hour flew by and it gave me such joy to talk about all aspects of bellydance as it relates to health, confidence, body image and even my own personal journey.  I hope you enjoy it as well!

NY and CT Bellydance instructor, performer, choreographer – Tava

Photoshoot with Bill Winters

It starts several days before.  I make sure I am eating well, properly hydrated, and schedule extra time to sleep in the morning.  I lay out all of my costumes and accessories in separate garment bags, filling two suitcases worth of props, hair flowers, makeup, veils, etc.  The morning of the shoot, I am well rested and take the dog on a long walk to wake up and get the blood flowing.  Breakfast, which I am too excited to eat, becomes a bit forced but I do my best.  I listen to my favorite music on the car ride to Bill and Aleksandra’s house, and arrive in a delicious mood.

Bill and Aleksandra Winters are a couple with many talents.  He, a sought-after Cinematographer who circles the globe on a regular basis.  She, an amazing artist and art teacher (her paintings are currently on display at Zitoune Restaurant in Mamaroneck, NY).  When I arrive at their house, Bill has already packed the car with camera lenses, ladders, and more “tools” that I don’t understand…all designed to help me look good I assume.  Aleksandra has a bag full of additional props that I hadn’t thought to bring.  She has masks, fan veils, another sword, jewelry and more.  Furthermore, she has packed snacks and coconut water to keep us fueled.  I think to myself, how did I get so lucky?  Bill tells me he has mapped out the day and scouted the locations to determine how much time we have in each place.  Immediately, we get to work (after a few moments of adoring their beautiful cats).

Location 1: A beautiful park in Tarrytown.

The leaves are in full color and it’s remarkably warm for November (in the 60’s)!  Bill has decided that I should wear red to contrast the yellow in the leaves and Aleksandra convinces me to be more bold with my color choice for props.  I tell her purple, teal and gold fanveils won’t match my red costume.  She says in her adorable Polish accent, “Trust me.  Don’t worry about matching.”  Here is the result:

Copyright: William Winters

I am in awe of how the colors have come to life and blended with the beautiful Fall colors around us.  The light, the breeze, the shadows, everything just worked.  I decide that smiling is not the way I want to go with these shots.  I take on a different persona, inspired by the environment, and adjust the body lines/pose to reflect a quiet but empowered confidence.  Aleksandra is bouncing the light perfectly, and  Bill is hiking, contorting his body, crouching in bushes, anything and everything to get that perfect angle.

Location 2: Croton Reservoir

Here Bill has scouted 3 spots for their unique beauty and has decided I should wear the fuchsia/gold costume to pick up on the colors around us.  We first shoot in front of the dam, with it’s high white walls.  He uses a wide lens for a very cool effect and shoots on his stomach, (thank you for making me appear so tall).  I decide I want to pose with my Riq for it’s beautiful simplicity and round shape to contrast the heavy wall.  Here is a behind the scenes photo of Bill in action:

behind the scenes photo of Bill in action (taken with Aleksandra’s cell phone)

Next we walk down to the water which is so beautiful I can hardly concentrate.  By now, a small crowd has gathered on the bridge above to watch.  I am not dressed for hiking so Aleksandra loans me her boots and they both take great care in guiding me down a hill on slippery rocks to make sure I don’t fall.  I feel like I’m made of porcelain and they are made of steel.  Clearly, they do this sort of thing more than I do and I turn brave for the sake of getting the right shot.  It was quite a sight, a $1,000 costume with hiking boots and the skirt held up in my arms so I don’t trip.  Here, magic happens.  The wind seems to take us under its’ wings and say, “I see what you’re going for, let me help you.”  Here is the outcome:

Copyright: William Winters

Aleksandra is there to advise me on whether or not the hair has blown into my face, bounce the light accordingly, while Bill is balancing on equally slippery rocks to get these shots.  When we hike back up the hill, I am wishing my husband could have seen this.  He is used to me staying on the path and not taking such risks and I know he would have gotten a kick out of seeing us all by the waterfall.  I am getting tired, but smiling the whole way to the next location, beaming with gratitude for the day so far.

Location 3: The beach

Bill told me that the sunset would be perfect for my turquoise costume and he was (no surprise), 100% right.  I change in the car, under a fort of coats, and Aleksandra loans me a beautiful necklace and veil for these shots.    We are losing the light, but gaining something very special.  Silhouettes are happening and I am getting a 3rd wind just playing in the sand, enjoying the breeze, even though it’s freezing by now.  I decide what my “character” is for this location and somehow this one feels like I’m on the set of a movie.  The photos start out as playful and become more meditative as we lose more and more light.  Here is one of my favorites:

Copyright: William Winters

We have developed a tradition of Chinese food post photo-shoot and we were full of aches, fatigue, sand in our shoes, goose poop on clothes, but very happy with what we created.  Bill and Aleksandra are amazing people and I love us as a team.  Each brings a brand of artistry, and we eat our Chinese food mostly in silence …partly because we are starving and partly because we’ve said everything that there was to say to each other during our full day.  After we eat, we sip tea and pull up the shots on Bill’s computer.  There are so many, more than 1,000.  We pick our favorite 75 and call it a day.  I drive home, pet my animals, hug my sleeping husband, and drift off very satisfied.  I hope you enjoy these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.  My hope is that people will see bellydance in a beautiful environment and shed any negative stereotypes that linger about this dance.  It is empowering, beautiful, and ancient.  My colleagues continue to raise the bar with how they showcase this dance in photos and video clips, and I want to do my part as well.

Bill, you rock.  Aleksandra, thank you for all of your awesome help.  Thank you both for being such amazing friends.

Here are more from the shoot:

Copyright: William Winters

Copyright: William Winters

Tava is a professional bellydance performer, instructor and choreographer in NY and CT

Bellydancers and a Jazz Trio

Bellydancers and musicians are a very likely pairing, as evidenced by many of us earning our livings together.  Where would we be without the talents of our doumbek, oud, violin, riq, clarinet and qanun players?  Even as the homogenous sounds of pop music spread across the globe, we still have a need and a respect for the sound of actual instruments. . .hopefully.   Now let’s stretch that concept to include joining forces with a jazz trio who excels at playing rock/metal tunes in melodic jazzy arrangements that tickle the brain into thinking, “Where do I know that song?  Oh yeah…It’s Metallica!”  Well, let me offer you some context as to how this came to be.

A while back, my husband and I went to see my dance partner and friend, Kazja, perform at a local NY spot.  There was a group of us sitting together, including guitarist Alex Skolnick (primarily of Testament fame but with a lengthy resume of musical accomplishments).  Kazja, in her charming way, had everyone in our group up to dance with her during her set.  My husband handles this in one of two ways: sheer determination to stay in his seat, or with reckless abandon that showcases every bellydance skill he has managed to pick up in 12 years of watching me.  On this night, he chose the latter.  Alex respected the process of being “beckoned” to dance and contributed fairly, but it appeared that the experience got his mental wheels spinning.  A few months later, he hatched an idea to shoot a music video which involved three bellydancers and members of The Alex Skolnick Trio sharing a wall at a rehearsal space.  Furthermore, it  would pay  homage to the classic Run DMC/Aerosmoth video for “Walk This Way.”  For more on how the concept came to light, click here for the article in Guitar World which released the video earlier this month.

Adding further interest to the video, each dancer had what can only be described as a doppelganger musician.  The lovely Erica Joan shared the infamous grey streak with Alex, Kazja and Matt Zebroski are the Polish blondes, and Nathan Peck and I shared dark curly hair and glasses.  Ahh yes.  The glasses.  Fully willing to pour myself into the artistic needs of the video and don bifocals from Staples to clarify the point that Nathan was my match, the magnification was so strong that I could not see out of them.  It appeared that when I wore them, the floor was about 2 feet higher than normal.  My eyes looked googly and large so we compromised by having me wear them mostly on the top of my head, or looking down when they were on. I still have them as a proud souvenir.

Tava, Kazja and Erica receive direction from the crew

photo by Francine Grillo

The song for the video “Bollywood Jam” is an interesting blend of jazz, rock, and a hauntingly beautiful melody which has an Indian flavor.  It was an easy vehicle for showcasing the fluid and delicate movements of bellydance as well as the strong percussive accents.  The chemistry between the dancers was something I will always cherish.  No attitudes.  No drama.  It was a joy to be a part of a collaborative team of people who were all working for the best outcome.  The band members were respectful and easy to work with, Kevin Mackall provided guidance that was easy to follow for each scene, and the crew worked tirelessly to get the right camera angles, build and take down a set, etc.  I never grow tired of bearing witness to something that starts as an idea, and a million details, meetings, rehearsals, and edits later, it becomes a reality.

In the end, I feel that it’s a beautiful pairing of two brands of artistry.  The dancers and I would never have allowed ourselves to be video eye candy flipping our hair at the knees of our doppelgangers or locked in a cage like bellydancing prisoners.  It was clear that Alex, Matt and Nate were not going for that either.  The best part of my job is the variety it affords me and whether I’m bellydancing to spoken word poetry, shaking my hips for charity, recording finger cymbals to be used for a song, or dancing with a jazz trio, it keeps me grateful for my decision to pursue dance as a career.  I sometimes have my doubts, but it’s nice to have these moments where I know I am exactly where I need to be.  After years of being a career counselor at a music and art university, the decision to take my own advice was a big one.

Here’s the video folks. “Bollywood Jam” from the CD Veritas.  Enjoy!

For more on The Alex Skolnick Trio: http://www.alexskolnick.com/alex-skolnick-trio/

Tava is a professional bellydance performer, instructor and choreographer in CT and NY