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

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.


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!


To learn more about Tava and bellydance classes in CT, visit

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:

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:


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:

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

A Bellydancer’s New Year’s Eve

Tava bellydancing at a restaurant in NY on New Year's Eve

Tava bellydancing at a restaurant in NY on New Year’s Eve

New Year’s Eve is one of the most exciting nights for bellydancers.  I have had years when I’ve packed in 7 shows and other years when I’ve accepted only a few local jobs. On a handful of occasions, I’ve taken the night off to be with my husband.  Typically, I fit in as many shows as my schedule (and stamina) will allow.  There is no adrenaline high quite like being a bellydancer on New Year’s Eve.  The planning starts months in advance and it goes something like this:

– The inquiries come in and you say yes to the jobs that confirm.

– More inquiries come in and some work better for your schedule so you have to make choices while honoring your commitments to the people who specifically want you.  (These are special clients so we are always good to them).

– The day before NYE, there are always last minute changes and additions so you call your network of dancers and offer some work, accept some work or just plan strategy with each other because sometimes you’re performing duets.

The day arrives and you let yourself sleep as long as your body will allow.  You have a huge breakfast because it might be your last big meal for a while.  Then, it’s time to pack the bag.  Here’s what I like to pack for a long night:

– Snacks and coconut water (I also take a B vitamin as I hop in the car).

– All props and back-up props.  I pack a separate (lightweight) costume in case there is any damage to the one I’m wearing and I have no time to repair it.  I also bring extra shoes.

– Warm cover-up or caftan.  In many cases, it’s running from venue to venue so you need something warm that is easy to get on/off.  I have a floor-length sweater that I use on these occasions.

– Advil and Tiger Balm (or something like it).  There is no time to feel the pain of something pulled so it’s best to take precautions.

– Extra lash glue.  Lashes were just not meant to stand up to the rigors of 7:30PM to 2AM sweating.  Around midnight, I find it’s time to re-touch.

Tava (filling in for the lovely Sira), Layla Isis and Mariyah dancing at a restaurant on New Year's Eve.

Tava (filling in for the lovely Sira), Layla Isis and Mariyah dancing at a restaurant on New Year’s Eve.

– A gig roadie.  This is key if you’re going to be driving all over the place!  If you can find someone to help you park, check traffic/find alternate routes, help sort your money to be sure it all comes with you, hand out business cards while you’re performing, etc.  It’s hard to find someone who is willing to give up a New Year’s Eve full of fun but they a friend, husband or loved one (who is reliable) just might enjoy being with you.  I have paid people in the past – mainly students who wanted to know what the night was like.

When it’s all over, you are beyond hungry and it’s time to make a choice.  Hit the diner and feast at 3AM or have a light snack and get to bed.  Personally, I say go for the 3AM diner experience.  Enjoy a celebratory cocktail while you’re at it.  I may have indulged in a mini bottle of Fireball last year. It’s hard to calm down after all of that adrenaline surging through you so you may as well enjoy yourself.  Take a satisfying shower, and hit the pillow.  In the morning, some gentle Yoga always helps me and then I treat myself to reflexology.  Congratulate yourself on a job well done!  Be safe, have fun and spread some shimmy!

Tava and Layla Isis in Times Square for New Year's Eve

Tava and Layla Isis after performing in Times Square for New Year’s Eve

Tava is a professional bellydancer based in NY and CT.  She is available for bachelorette parties, weddings, corporate events, galas or any family-friendly occasion (no all-male events).  Solo, duet and group performances available. To learn more, visit:

I Love When Bellydancers are Smart Cookies – Bellydance by Jennifer Interviews Moi!

Recently, Jennifer (Bellydancer in Orlando) contacted me about doing an interview for an extensive research project she was about to begin.  One thing I love to do is to geek out and talk all things bellydance with fellow dancers so, of course I agreed.  Jennifer asked me to give some thought to the issue of standard movement vocabulary as well as other business issues that career bellydancers face.  When the day came, we set up our laptops and connected via Skype.  There was giggling, there was some repositioning in order to demonstrate movements, and there was a lot of honesty.

When bellydancers are smart cookies, it helps our community overall.  Jennifer is one of those gals who combats lingering stereotypes by showing off her business acumen and hunger for knowledge.  I was honored to help her kick off a series of interviews so check out:

Bellydance Terminology & Business Series: Interview 1- Tava!

Like it, pin it, share it.  Stay tuned to Jennifer’s blog to learn more.

Jennifer (Bellydancer in Orlando)

Jennifer (Bellydancer in Orlando)

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

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

8 Realizations You will Likely Have as a Professional Bellydancer

1. You’re Never “Good Enough” – At least, according to yourself.  Chances are you will watch your videos and be blinded by that thing you wish you did differently, by your pacing (or lack thereof), by that moment your arms lost their integrity of movement because you opted for a bit of complicated hip work.  I have these conversations with newbie students and my friends who are 20+ year veterans, it’s just the way it is for most of us. 2. You Will Get Hurt – Even if it’s a relatively mild injury, there is no way to be a professional dancer and not experience repetitive strain or fatigue-related injuries of some sort.  Learn what your body can handle, seek out the best ways for your body and your budget to experience self-care. Maybe it’s a $20 pedicure….or a 90 minute deep tissue massage.  When your body is your main source of income, it’s sometime unavoidable to overdo it. images-1 3. You’ll Wonder About Certain Costume Trends – I started in the era of “there’s no such thing as too much fringe.”  Then the look became a little softer and more refined.  Then it became acceptable to have visible “boy shorts” in our costumes and even short skirts.  Some trends you will love and some will baffle you. PS – The same may go for prop trends! 4. Your “Ah Ha Moments” Keep Coming – Recently, during a private lesson with Tamalyn Dallal, I had an “ah ha moment” about something so basic!  I have them all the time when I study with my mentors or even when I hear myself describing something in class.  Yes, sometimes you have to dig for them, but they are always lurking — if you’re humble enough to notice 😉 5. Your Place in the Community is Earned …Continuously – If you should happen to be that dancer (even student dancer) who shows up only when asked to perform but never attend a performance as an audience member, the invitations will stop.  It’s just bad etiquette.  We can’t do everything, and we must say no to far more events we say yes to.  But even the events I cannot attend, I’ll share on my student page or offer a note of support. 6. Your Wallet is a Revolving Door – To do this right…to carve out the appropriate balance of money in vs. money out, it is extremely difficult to earn a living this way.  You will spend money on workshops/training, costuming, books, music, transportation and (possibly) a website, promotional materials, SEO, photo shoots.  Dancers notice the ones who do not – and they are often the ones who resort to undercutting to give themselves an advantage. 7. You Won’t Be Liked by Everybody – Whether it’s the picky club owner, a fellow dancer who feels competitive towards you, a YouTube troll who fancies him/herself an expert, the bottom line is – some people just won’t like you.  My skin is still not as thick as it should be and I’ve worked hard not to make waves but even still…I find myself dealing with the occasional dirty looks or hearing that I’ve been the subject of a conversation what was not kind.  Thankfully, this is very rare but it still happens.  You are also likely to meet some of your best friends this way.

Erica Joan, Tava, Sira and Yasmine

Erica Joan, Tava, Sira and Yasmine

8. You Will Have an Inordinate Amount of Friends With Names that end in “A” – Funny, but true 🙂 ************************************************************************************************ Tava is a professional bellydancer, instructor, and choreographer based in NY & CT.  She is available for family-friendly and corporate events (solo or group), as well as workshops on a variety of topics.  To learn more, visit

How to Get the Most Out of Workshops

If you’re anything like me, you plunk down a ton of money every year to learn from a variety of instructors that roll through town offering concentrated information about a particular topic. Workshops are where we peel off the layers and get to the core. We explore deeper nuance and expand our knowledge. I like to think about it in the following terms: Classes + workshops + reading + DVD’s or online tutorials + watching performances + self-critique + private lessons = a well balanced diet of the serious student. But, let me ask you this….have you ever left a workshop full of inspiration and by the time you arrive at home you’ve forgotten a significant portion of what you learned? I have. This is particularly true when it comes to choreography workshops. I learn a routine. I forget a routine. I have developed a few strategies for maximizing what I’ll get from a workshop and, who knows, maybe they’ll help you too.

Sira's workshop "Up in Arms" (sponsored by Tava)

Sira’s workshop “Up in Arms” (sponsored by Tava)

1. Sit down!
I injured myself 30 minutes into a workshop with Madame Raqia Hassan and I got more out of that experience that I would have if I danced the entire time. It was a great reminder to absorb what I could with my eyes and ears without the pressure of having to keep up. I suggest watching at least once or twice and take a few notes about something that strikes you. A pause, an angle of the head, which aspects of the routine you can see yourself adapting and which are just not for you. Sit and watch – but watch actively.

2. Get the Music!
The workshops are not cheap! Spending money on the CD or digital file might seem like an unnecessary expense but, trust me on this one, it’s worth the cost. Even something as simple as playing the music in your car on the way home (or iPod on the subway) will help to reinforce what you’ve learned.

3. Record Yourself.
Whether it’s technique-based, choreography or musicality, record your practice with it while it’s fresh. Even if you record the instructor doing the movements, it’s not the same thing as recording your take on it.  You can also compare it to the instructor’s version.

4. Talk About It.
Grab a coffee or a tea with a friend as close to the workshop as possible and have a critical discussion about it. Discuss what you learned, insights, what you would have liked more of, etc… Getting another perspective will reinforce the topic and may even fill in some of the gaps that you missed during a water break.  Sometimes I pile in as many students as my car will fit and we chat about it the whole way home. These are the best discussions!


One of my most favorite recent workshops – Iraqi dance with Assala Ibrahim (hosted by Uza of NYC).

5. Be Selective.
Just because an instructor is from Egypt doesn’t mean you HAVE to go. Just because an instructor is someone you really enjoy watching doesn’t mean you can’t miss it. Read the workshop description and watch some performance clips. Talk to some friends who may have studied with that person. Just the other day I wrote to my friend Angelica and I said, “Help! I am over-committed to workshops and learning opportunities but this other one just came up and I need to know if it’s worth it.” Over time, you will learn whose style of teaching is a good match to your style of learning.  Of course, there can be surprises.  Maybe you develop a new favorite that you never would have imagined so an open mind is also a good thing.

Bollywood Fusion with Adrea (sponsored by Tava)

Bollywood Fusion with Adrea (sponsored by Tava)

6. Modify Your Learning Format.
Sometimes when an instructor is visiting they have time to do private lessons. I have done this with several dancers lately because it is worth everything to me to have their undivided attention so I can get the most out of my time with them. In my one hour with Luna (of Cairo) or Tamalyn Dallal, I got more amazing feedback that I ever would have in a large crowded room.

Tava's veil workshop at The Dragon's Egg, sponsored by NBDA

Tava’s veil workshop at The Dragon’s Egg, sponsored by NBDA

Investing in your dance training is part of the job. It fuels your love and deepens your understanding. But I think everyone needs to learn how to make it work for them.

….and speaking of workshops
Big thanks to Nahara and Josie’s International School of Dance for having me teach “A Taste of Turkish” on Monday. I had a fantastic time with all of the women.

Saturday December 13th, stay tuned for details about Rosa Noreen (of Maine) who will come to CT to teach a workshop.