Dancer Origin Stories #3 – Tava

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After Tava’s workshop in ME

Our next installment of Dancer Origin Stories features the glorious Tava. I have hosted Tava in the past for workshops at my studio in Portland, ME and I look forward to the next opportunity to learn from her.

Tava has been a professional belly dancer in New York City and the surrounding areas for over 15 years. She’s currently based in Norwalk, CT, where she brings her deep knowledge and caring attitude to her weekly classes, while continuing to perform regionally and teach workshops up and down the East coast.

Her style is classic, timeless, and she brings her entire self to each and every moment on stage.

Now… on to Tava’s Origin Story!

Q. What is your first memory of dance?

I grew up in San Francisco in the 70’s. My mother worked in a restaurant/dance club where I frequently spent time. At night, the DJ would play 70’s disco and funk and I danced with my mother and her friends. At home, the party continued. My mother and I played records and danced to Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, & many more. We didn’t have much back then, but I learned early on that when life gets tough, the more one dances, the better.

Q. Was social dance or music a part of your life growing up? If so, how?

tavaveil03-250pxwAbsolutely. Everyone danced. My family would have parties and people turned on music and went for it. My grandparents would clear the floor dancing wildly every chance they got. They were a sight to see. Dance was a huge part of my childhood.

Q. How did you first encounter belly dance?

I first encountered it in preschool when a bellydancer came to give us lessons. I talk about this in my book because it was a very funny moment. The instructor didn’t have enough coined scarves for everyone so I danced with tears in my eyes because I was so upset not to have the right “accessory.”

Q. What phase of life were you in when you took your very first dance class?

My first bellydance class was in January of 2000. Everybody was scared of the Y2K issue. We didn’t know if there would be some kind of technical crisis that would bring the world to a screeching halt.

Once that resolved itself I found myself determined not to put off learning bellydance. I immediately went to class. I should mention that I watched my teacher perform for years before I took her class. We performed in a Variety show together (me…wacky performance art. Her…elegant bellydance).

Q. Many dancers took classes when they were little, but then returned to dance as adults. In your case, what drew to you back to dance?

I stopped dancing in my teens because of body image and spiraling insecurities. I started again a few years later because I was becoming more confident and wanted the outlet for self expression that dance offered.

Q. What led to you becoming serious about your dance studies?

tavasword01-250pxwI always thought it would be a hobby, but my teacher regularly provided student troupe performance opportunities with live music. It was usually Raquy and her drumming students. I also went to see shows almost every night and it was intoxicating to see how the dancer interacted with the bands.

Little by little, I started to perform as a soloist and I was driven by a relentless desire to improve. Eventually, it just took on a life of its own. When I moved to CT, my teacher encouraged me to start offering classes and I discovered that teaching was another genuine passion of mine.

Q. What let you to become serious about belly dance?

The factors that contributed to the cultivation of my career in dance were…

1. Encouragement and mentoring from my teacher.

2. Being a true introvert and loving the release and collaboration that came with dance and

3. I tried to follow a different path (when I worked full-time in Higher Education) but the call of dance grew too strong and I gave up my career to shimmy full-time.

Q. How do other dance forms you have studied inform your primary style?

tavapose01-250pxwI did the usual ballet & jazz dance as a child but gave up ballet first because it was at odds with what gymnastics was doing to my body. Gymnastics training helped me develop strength, coordination and flexibility which I still draw upon in my career.

My jazz teacher really took a chance on shy little me and I was her student from 8 to 17 years old. I can still hear her voice in my head, telling me “chin up…don’t look down!” She was key is helping me learn to polish my movements and keep my fingers from looking sloppy.

Q. Tell me about one of your most influential teachers.

That would be Andrea (Anwar) Beeman in NYC. I still rely on her for advice and feedback. When I was preparing my show for Art of the Belly, I had a private lesson with her just to review my structured improvisation to be sure I was hitting all the marks I wanted to hit in terms of pacing, movement pathways and dynamics. I wound up doing something entirely different in the show (classic me) but I still find it helpful to call upon Andrea and get her honest feedback.

Q. Share the memory of learning a movement that came easily to you…

I honestly cannot recall any movements coming easily to me. My posture was a mess before bellydance. I had terrible swayback and even hip drops looked more like some sort of twerk hybrid.

I suppose, if I had to pick, I had an easy time with upper body isolations. I could move my rib cage all around a lot of thoracic spine mobility. I didn’t realize that was useful until I saw how hard it was for my classmates to move that way.

Q. And a movement that you had to work hard to master.

tavaveil01-250pxwJust one? (haha) I suppose that would be the shimmy. Gymnastics left my knees in less than awesome shape and the movement would leave my patella feeling wonky.

I realized that to protect my joints, I needed to keep the movements small but I was afraid of hurting myself and wound up just freezing. I had countless lessons with Andrea trying to unlock my shimmy but still keep the movement in my knee manageable.

Q. Tell me about one “ah hah” moment that you recall, whether technical, emotional, or conceptual.

Learning the 3/4 shimmy was a brain tease. I finally got it while pushing my shopping cart down the aisle at Food Emporium to the song “Low Rider.” My husband was with me and he saw my mastering the move I had struggled with for months. He was behind me shouting, “YES! YES! You GOT it!” It was awesome.

Q. What dance skills translate to your everyday life?

I stand while I work and do omis, shimmys or undulations while I type. If I sit too long, it starts to hurt. I also get teased for how “gracefully” I wipe down the table with a rag or constantly add little touches to things like getting the mail.

Q. What everyday skills translate to your dance life?

I am a counselor by training and I’ve returned to that field part time. I spent years in what I would call empathy training. I translate that into my performances in terms of an ability to create rapport with audiences using non-verbal methods. I always say that I “take the Psychological pulse” of the room before I dance.

 

About Tava

tavadrum01-250pxwTava Naiyin is a highly regarded professional bellydancer, instructor, choreographer and author of “Little Book of Big Advice: Enlightening Ideas for Bellydance Professionals.”

Tava performs regularly throughout NYC and the tri-state area, she is known for dynamic finger cymbal playing and musicality. Equally at home performing at galas, family occasions, cultural events, in theatrical productions or 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 and uses the dance as a tool for building self-esteem and healthy body image for women.

http://bellydancebytava.com/

 

Tava’s 4-Week Online Intensive: Fearless Finger Cymbals (Level 1)

If you love the idea of playing finger cymbals but get discouraged as soon as you try to dance and play at the same time, this intensive is for you.

Join Tava for some effective ear training and musicality enhancing exercises presented in in a light-hearted and fun approach. Over the course of 4 weeks, Tava will send 2 to 3 homework assignments per week with video tutorials & demonstrations. You will also receive articles and inspirational clips so you’ll complete the intensive with greater skill, knowledge, context, appreciation and motivation.

Please note: It is self-paced so don’t worry if you can’t complete everything in 4 weeks. You can view all videos for up to 6 months.

Sign up today! http://bellydancebytava.com/tavas-current-workshop-offerings/

Tava’s Book

tavabook-250pxwLittle 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.

Get the book here! http://bellydancebytava.com/shop/

Dancer Origin Stories #1 – Tamalyn Dallal

Dancer Origin Stories is my brand new blog series describing just that: the origins of dancers we love, in all different genres. This spring, the wildly skilled Anais Fatale and I were talking business late one night during her festival, River City Raqs, in Jacksonville FL, and we both thought this would be such a fun series to read. And so it has come to be!

Anais’s story will be featured in a later post. For our debut issue, I am thrilled share with you the origin story of one of the most soulful and moving dancers who I have ever encountered.

Tamalyn Dallal, currently of New Orleans, dances with the grace of someone who is grounded in who she is, and willing to share that with us. I had the pleasure of hosting Tamalyn for a workshop weekend at my studio in Portland, ME (USA), a few years ago. Her depth of experience and her joy in expression always leave me looking forward to the next time.

Dancer Origin Stories: Tamalyn Dallal

 

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Tamalyn Dallal at Rosa Noreen’s Springtime Spectacular in Portland, ME Photo: Jon Reece

Q. What is your first memory of dance? (Social, performance, class, etc.)

A. I was exposed to dances of the 1960’s, such as the Monkey, the Swim, etc., via my older sister. When I was in first grade, I loved to stand on chairs and do these dances in school.

Q. Was social dance or music a part of your life growing up? If so, how?

A. My father had been a swing musician. He played jazz at home, especially dixieland, and sometimes other family members joined in.

Q. How did you first encounter Mid Eastern dance?

A. I took a class because I liked the music, but had no idea what I was getting into. I was so impressed with the students who were in the performing group. Back then they did lots of zils and floor work, as well as extensive belly rolls and flutters. I had never seen anything like it.

Q. What phase of life were you in when you took your very first dance class?

A. After I started taking ballet at 15, I continued with other dance forms consistently: Modern, folk dances, Persian, Indian, Middle Eastern , Flamenco. So once I was drawn into dance, it kept growing to be more and more a part of my life.

Q. What led to you becoming serious about your dance studies? 

A. I was often called a “bellydancer” even though I’d only had a few classes, so I felt I had a name to live up to. But when I lived in New Orleans, in the 1970’s, I met Habiba, who was a household name. Her classes were expensive and I was a teenager. I couldn’t afford them, so she took me under her wing as her assistant.

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Tamalyn Dallal in Rosa Noreen’s Springtime Spectacular Portland, ME. Photo: Jon Reece

Q. What let you to become serious about Mid Eastern dance? 

A. I was a hobbyist for the first 6 years. One day I was decorating a costume at my desk at work, where I worked with refugees. An Opera singer was temping for the secretary. She said she sang her way around the world and knew a bellydancer who did the same- on ships, in clubs, etc. I wanted that life too.

Q. How do other dance styles you have studied inform your primary style? 

A. I learned to identify natural ways of movement in bleed and Oriental by learning other dances: I.E., The wrists in Persian dance are also used by some Egyptian dancers, especially from the 70’s to 90’s. And Ethiopian upper body movement comes from the earth. Ditto for baladi. I learned to express with the sternum through Japanese Noguchi Taiso.

Q: Tell me about some of your most influential teachers. 

  • Habiba (New Orleans) took me under her wing and helped me learn basic movements.
  • Mish Mish (Seattle) taught lots of ethnic dances
  • Laurel Victoria Gray (Formerly of Seattle) taught me stage makeup and that you can never wear too much jewelry.
  • Inzar (Seattle) was co director of the troupe Shahrazad with Laurel. She taught me how to play zils.
  • Evelyn Hamsey (Miami) invited us as her students to her home to eat home made Arabic food and watch videos of the famous Egyptian dancers in the early days of video.
  • Ramzi El Edlibi (NYC) taught me the way I teach oils today and how to do the 3/4 shimmy the way I teach now.
  • Morocco (NYC) has the best advice and insight in the world.

 

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Tamalyn Dallal at Rosa Noreen’s Springtime Spectacular in Portland, ME. Photo: Jon Reece

Q. Share the memory of learning a movement that came easily to you…

A. I did bellyrolls in the back seat of the car when I was little because my sister made me. Not as a part of any dance. So when I took up Middle Eastern dance, I already knew how to do bellyrolls.

Q. And a movement that you had to work hard to master…

A. The Nagwa Fouad shimmy. It took me 40 years, but I just nailed it.

Q. Tell me about one “ah hah” moment that you recall, whether technical, emotional, or conceptual.

A. When I was in Africa (Egypt, Zanzibar, Kenya) I danced more earthy than in the USA. When I went to China, suddenly my dance became very skyward. Then I understood that the land in Africa grounds you, and the emotions are expressed in Asia through the upper body: hands, arms, head.

Over time, I found that working with the earth and sky can help all dancers, so a six point system evolved that works like a charm. I discovered how to help people get grounded and how to be more expressive too.

Q. What dance skills translate to your everyday life?

A. Using the six points to improve posture, walk more comfortably.

Q. What everyday skills translate to your dance life?

A. Ethics, sewing and costume design, administrative skills.

Q. What else would you like to add?

A. The dance needs respect; for the dance, hundreds of years of history, the culture it came from, for ourselves, and for our students and audiences.

Q. What do you have coming up that you’d like to share?

“The Dallal Dance Experience” is a program of experiential dance… I will be teaching two-month series in New Orleans in 2017 where dancers learn technique, history, context, and come together to dance and cook together with other classes. It is about the joy and humanity of our dance, yet it also educates and polishes every dancers technique. “The Dallal Dance Experience” can also be done in workshops.

[Editor’s note: Check out Tamalyn’s website to get in touch re. hosting a workshop!]

About Tamalyn Dallal: 

Tamalyn Dallal’s 40 year Middle Eastern dance career has been eventful, to say the least. She has been a guest choreographer for the 1995 Superbowl Halftime Show in Miami, Fl., and has performed for stars such as Sean Connery, Michael Jackson and James Brown (to name a few), the president of El Salvador and the King of Jordan.

Directing the Mid Eastern Dance Exchange, a non profit organization, dance school and performing company in Miami Beach, she taught and mentored dancers such as Amar Gamal and Bozenka, Virginia and others. She organized the Orientalia dance festival for 17 years and produced numerous theatrical productions.

Crowned “Miss America of the Bellydance” in 1995, she has performed and/or taught in 41 countries. She was one of the original “Bellydance Superstars”, has written three books, produced two music CD’s of Africa’s oldest band, the “Ikhwan Safaa Musical Club of Zanzibar”, and currently films ethnological dance documentaries; “Zanzibar Dance, Trance and Devotion,” and “Ethiopia Dances for Joy”.

Website: http://www.tamalyndallal.com/

 

6 Tips for Fluid Arms and Hands

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Belly Dance U has published my new article on 6 Tips for Fluid Arms and Hands… Enjoy!

“Rosa Noreen has to-die-for arms and hands. They float through the space around her with heartbreaking grace and fluidity, adding an ethereal quality to her movement and helping her dance express everything from longing to playfulness.

“Luckily, Rosa’s  new DVD, “A Dancer’s Hands & Arms,” will help the rest of us achieve our dreams of grace and expression. She generously agreed to share these tips with Belly Dance U readers to help us improve our lines and fluidity as well.”

Read the full article here!

6 Tips for Fluid Arms and Hands from Rosa Noreen

 

 

 

Homemade Ballet Barre

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Homemade PVC pipe ballet barre

This summer, I made my very own kitchen-sized ballet barre out of PVC pipe from my local hardware store. It came up in conversation on Facebook recently, so I thought I would share this mini tutorial with all of you!

Here is how I made my barre. See the notes below for how you might modify it based on your height and other preferences.

Supplies:

  • PVC pipe primer and cement (two-can set)
  • 1.5″ PVC pipe
  • 4 ten-inch lengths for the legs
  • 2 thirty-seven-inch lengths for the uprights
  • 1 thirty-five-inch length for the horizontal piece
  • 6 elbows (4 for leg endcaps, 2 to connect the uprights to the horizontal piece)
  • 2 tees to connect the legs to the uprights

This resulted in a 41″ high barre. I’m 5’7″ and it’s a little on the high side for me, but I’m comfortable with it. If you are shorter, consider taking a couple of few inches off the 37″ uprights. However, don’t go too short or you’ll be slouching–and that’s not what you’re supposed to do at the barre! 😉

Stretching on my homemade ballet barre

Stretching on my homemade ballet barre

At this length, the barre is plenty sturdy for stretching, though I wouldn’t hang on it like monkey bars. The longer the horizontal tube, the less sturdy it will be.

The barre is stable since it has a nice wide base, but it is very light so it moves around on the floor a lot. I am thinking about filling the legs with sand and plugging the feet. You could also fill some pillowcases with sand (or cat litter) and put them on the feet to help keep it in place. Suggestions are welcome!

A two-tier barre is also possible. To do that, you would need t-connectors on the uprights to allow for a second horizontal tube a few inches below the top horizontal tube… Check YouTube for some tutorials if you can’t envision it yourself.

Even kitties love ballet barres!

Even kitties love ballet barres!

Chances are good that your local hardware store will cut the piece to order for you. Maine Hardware here in Portland was awesome!

Note that the PVC cement dries after a couple of seconds so definitely do a trial run of the assembly without glue to work out any kinks and ensure that joints are all going to be facing the right way! I recommend using the PVC cement over anything else since you don’t want this thing falling apart mid-use.

Also note: the cement is stinky! You’ll *definitely* need good ventilation… 😛 Outdoors or garage assembly is best.

Happy dancing!

Keeping Your Body Happy in Cool Weather

Autumn has arrived in Maine! After a few days of 50s and rainy, we’re getting a little reprieve, but we’re clearly on track for the change in seasons.

For dancers, the way cold weather affects our bodies can come as a rude surprise. Here are a few ways to minimize the potential negatives.

  • Winter photo shoot with Leigh Kelly

    Winter photo shoot with Leigh Kelly of Image Catcher

    Warm outdoor clothing: In nice weather, we often come and go from class in our practice clothes. When the weather cools, it’s important to wear warmer outdoor clothing, and change into–and out of–your practice wear *at the studio.* We usually sweat in class, and if you go outside into cold weather in your practice clothes, that dampness cools you down in an unpleasant way.

  • Layers in the studio: Be sure to wear layers during class–and put them back on when you stop moving! Close-fitting is best since they’ll keep the body heat right on you while allowing your teacher to still see your movements clearly. I’ll often wear a sports bra, tank top, waffle-knit shirt and sometimes a zip-up slim sweatshirt or fleece. Hips, legs, ankles and feet need layers, too! Leg warmers are your friend.
  • Warm up your body: Arrive at class 10 minutes earlier than you normally would and go through your typical warm-up routine before class begins! That way, your body will be more ready to move–and, if your teacher leads a warm-up as I hope they do, you’ll get two! Happy body, happy dancer.
  • Keep moving: If the pace of class slows or takes a break for corrections, lecture, etc., don’t just stand there–keep moving! Practice your shimmies, stretch out your muscles, practice your snake arms. Stop-and-go pacing is not great for the body as it causes you to cool down and then jump back into it essentially without warning. So don’t let the dead stops happen. You don’t have to do jumping jacks all class long… just keep moving in one way or another. Bonus–you will probably notice improvement in your technique, too!
  • Be mindful of your injuries or weak spots: If you have a prior injury like a pulled muscle, or spots in your body that just tend to get grumpy, take special care to keep those areas warm. Wear an extra layer on that body part. Spend some extra time getting that area moving.
  • Cozy socks in the studio

    Cozy socks in the studio

    Don’t stretch cold: Be sure that your body is warm before you work on your flexibility. Your muscles will thank you!

  • Keep breathing: The cold tends to make us all tense up. And when muscles are unconsciously tense, our technique suffers and we’re more prone to injury. Use your breath to help you relax and move. Consciously breathe through your warm-ups to get in the habit for class.
  • Drink water: No matter what the season, your body needs to stay hydrated to work at its best. I like to add a piece of star anise to my water bottle each day. It keeps the water lightly and naturally flavored but not sweet. Yum!

Take good care of your body and winter won’t be such an obstacle. Everything takes a little longer in the winter… bundling up, warming up, sweeping off your car or your sidewalk. Know this going into the season and things will be easier!

Looking back at 2011

2011 has been an incredible year, very gratifying and challenging in ways that have made me grow as a dancer!  A few highlights…

– January: Grand opening of Bright Star World Dance, my brand new dance studio partnership with fellow dancer and friend, Jan Hanseth.  Application to teach at the Las Vegas Belly Dance Intensive accepted!  Attended and excellent weeklong professional workshop with Aziza of Montreal in Florida for the second year running.

– April: Hosted a great edition of Raqs Borealis featuring Jeni, newly arrived in Maine from LA. Attended a fantastic day of workshops and had a private lesson with Leila Farid at Raq-On Studios in Lebanon, NH!

– June: Hosted Tamalyn Dallal at Bright Star for a weekend of sold out workshops and show, and a screening of her excellent film 40 Days & 1001 Nights.

– July: Had a great consultation with Julie Eason of the Belly Dance Business Academy, and made the decision to produce a DVD of the workshop I’d be teaching in Las Vegas, “Delicious Pauses: Negative Space in Movement.”

– August: Had a photo shoot with the incredible Michael Baxter of California in Boston, and captured the image for my DVD cover!

– September: Traveled to the Las Vegas Belly Dance Intensive, where I taught a workshop and gave very well-received performances in both the pro show and on the festival stage. I had the opportunity to connect with dancers from around the world as far away as New Zealand (hi Roslyn!), and to meet some of my favorites, like Princess Farhana and Ahava!  What an incredible varied, awesome and well-run event this was!

– October: Shot all of the footage for my DVD!  Developing new workshop topics for 2012.

– November: Hosted sold out workshops and show featuring Zafirah of Montreal in Portland.  Traveled to Baltimore to perform in the DVD shoot for the documentary, “A History of America’s Belly Dancers of Color” in Baltimore, Lotus Niraja’s latest project, where I shared the stage with dancers I’ve admired for a long time, and dancers new to me, who totally blew me away!

– December: Released my DVD, “Delicious Pauses: Negative Space in Movement,” with nearly 30 pre-orders going all over the USA–and one to the Netherlands!  Had a great photo shoot with Jon Reece.  Helped my students prepare for an excellent student recital in which they really shone!

… Whew!

Next year has lots of exciting things in store.  Now it’s time to take a few weeks to catch my breath and relax, before jumping feet first into 2012!

Thank you, thank you to everyone who has been a part of my life this year, particularly my ever-willing students; my dance teachers and my dance community; my business partner and friend, Jan Hanseth; Samira Tu’ala and her team at the Las Vegas Belly Dance Intensive; Julie Eason of the Belly Dance Business Academy; my fellow “Circle” members, my sister, Bragita; my awesome event volunteers… and last but not least, my boyfriend, Sam, for his constant support and encouragement.

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday season, with some rest and relaxation thrown in!  Cheers!Image