What interested you about bellydance?
“Actually, I was going through a rough time in my personal life and wanted to do something “different”. Bellydance was a lot less permanent than a tattoo. I had no idea I’d be hooked after the first six-week session.”
How long have you been dancing?
” Almost six years”
Where was your first performance and how did you feel?
“FezFest in March of 2006. We did a group choreography and I was really nervous. I was even more nervous when the two other dancers I was performing with still hadn’t learned the routine five minutes before we went on stage and one of them ended up right in my face, facing the wrong direction, in the middle of the dance. My first time in a big show was BOD the first year. Because of balance issues I have, the portable stage was really freaking me out because it kept shifting under my feet. I just recently saw a review of that performance and the comment that I looked like I just wanted to be off the stage was dead on. “
Why do you dance?
“Why do any of us dance? At the time I started dancing I was at a point in my life when I felt like I was “just a mom” and I wanted to do something that was for ME and not for anyone else. It’s become a creative outlet, as well as a way to keep my brain and body active and healthy.”
What has been the most difficult aspect of bellydance for you?
“I have Meniere’s Disease, which is a degenerative inner ear disorder. I was diagnosed about six months after I started dancing. The resulting lack of balance and the unexpected bouts of vertigo (especially the day of a performance) make things a challenge sometimes, especially if turns and spins are involved. I got hit with a huge bout of vertigo the first day of this year’s Black Orchid Dance festival and was supposed to be on stage that evening. Luckily, adrenaline got me through all those spins and turns I’d put into the routine. We’ve had to modify group choreography at times to anticipate the “what if” factor that I might not be able to perform the choreography as written when we get it to the stage. The hardest part has been to accept my limitations and not be so stubborn when I physically can’t do it because of the balance issues.”
What has been the easiest?
“The easiest aspect of bellydance? I tend to learn choreography, for the most part, very quickly. I’ve also got a degree in music, so I tend to pick up on rhythms, etc. fairly quickly.”
What is your favorite style of dance?
“I like the sassy stuff like Saidi, and more folkloric styles.”
You often perform and teach at senior citizen centers in Atlanta. How did you begin teaching seniors?
“My “day job” is managing a senior center. I’d set up performances by Daughters of the Nile periodically, and some of the seniors wanted to learn, so we scheduled a weekly class. Unfortunately, I was the only staff member there, so sometimes I got pulled away and class didn’t happen. Now that my troupe mate and friend, Cheryl Newell, is working with me as my program assistant, she has taken over the bulk of teaching class, but I jump in when I can. I still teach evening classes for adults at one of the local community centers.”
What do you want your students to take away from your instruction?
“Mostly I want them to have fun. I drill technique, but I also recognize that a lot of my students (I teach beginners) are only in my class to burn calories, so I don’t get really picky with them unless they indicate that they want to focus on technique. I want them to go home with the basics, but I also want them to meet their own personal goals and not my goals for them.”
How did you get involved with Daughters of the Nile?
“Cheryl Jamison (Chandani) was teaching at a community school in Gwinnett County where I started taking classes. I went to a workshop in Miami several years ago and realized that I needed to be somewhere else other than constantly taking her beginner classes over and over again, so when Cheryl started her intermediate/advanced classes I transitioned to the classes she teaches in Buckhead at the Imperial Fez.”
Have you ever thought of starting your own troupe?
“It’s a fleeting thought. I’ve had groups of my students perform, but the disadvantage to where I teach is that I don’t have a consistent group of students all the time. I get one or two who stick around for a year or so, but mostly I have a whole batch of new students every six weeks. It’s not really conducive to forming a troupe. Besides that, I am a single mom with a special needs child, plus I have a full-time job, so I can’t see adding anything else to my plate anytime in the near future. I think my own troupe would require a whole lot more time than I have right now.”
How do you think the Atlanta Bellydance Community can improve?
“Just in the last few years I have seen an increase in the number of workshops sponsored in the area. I was going to out of town once a year, just because there was very little offered here at the time. Since the first BOD workshop, it seems like there is a workshop going on in Atlanta almost every weekend now. It does, however, seem to be that not every studio in the area participates. I see the same people over and over again at workshops, which is a good thing, but at the same time, it seems like certain groups don’t attend and don’t really “mingle” with the rest of us. Do you see yourself contributing to this change? In my own little way. I’m introducing bellydance to new students all the time, and hopefully one or two (or more) of them will catch the same spark I did and run with it.”
You can find out more about Tamar of Daughters of the Nile on her Facebook page.