I'm excited to introduce a new series in the blog: interviews with other professional dancers! And starting off this new series is my interview with the beautiful and talented Nadira of Seattle!
Alessandra: What other dancers are currently inspiring you?
Nadira: In the belly dance realm, Hadia. But right now I’m very much into all kinds of dance. I’ve trained in other dance forms my entire life, so get lots of influence from everything out there. Currently I’ve started to get back into my jazz roots.
Alessandra: You have an impressive list of competition titles that you’ve won. What have you found to be the benefits of participating in competitions? Any negatives?
Nadira: Thank you! My reasons for each competition I’ve entered have been different. I originally entered for feedback to grow as a dancer, but also to push myself out of my comfort zone. It’s scary to put yourself out there to be judged in that type of setting. Pushing through the fear has always been important to my growth as an artist. The benefit I experienced was that getting ready for a competition forced me to set goals and kept me very focused. You can’t enter a competition with the goal of winning, that’s too much pressure and you have no control over the outcome. Setting goals more geared toward growth are an excellent way to grow in this dance. A negative is that competitions aren’t for everyone. When I have a student who wants to compete, we figure out their reason and focus on that.
Alessandra: Speaking of competitions, there’s currently a belly dancer on So You Think You Can Dance, and there’s been a wide range of thoughts on her, her dancing, and her participation in this prominent, national venue, as voiced by our own belly dance community. What’s your take?
Nadira: She’s on the SYTYCD because she has other dance backgrounds. You can see it in her movement; she’s had years of other dance. That show is rooted in strong dance training and there’s no way someone with solely one dance style could make it that far. I’m torn. I like that a belly dancer has made it to the show, but I see her style is not that of an experienced belly dancer. I hope her presence on SYTYCD brings positivity to belly dance.
Alessandra: For you, what has been the most rewarding part of being a belly dancer?
Nadira: Originally this dance was solely for physical therapy (I have a herniated disc in my lower back and migraines from an accident). What it has blossomed into is, I’ve gotten to know myself as a woman, an entertainer, and instructor. It’s very empowering. On the performer side, there is a unique opportunity for expression and give and take. You give the audience your energy, and they take it and give back. On the instructor side, I enjoy seeing my students grow and find their voice in this dance. I have several students who are embarking on their new dance career and I am excited to help them along their journey.
Alessandra: And what has been the most challenging?
Nadira: That’s a broad question and has many facets, but right now it’s about finding a balance between the dance and the home self. I’m getting married shortly and finding the balance between my new life with family and home, and my growth, training, instructing in dance. A good challenge to have though!
Alessandra: For a new student of belly dance looking to continue growing and progressing in her technique and knowledge, what advice would you give her?
Nadira: To figure out and set goals. Also to enjoy the journey. It’s about putting in the time to train and hone your technique, but also to have fun. Make mistakes, try new things, go see shows, and see how the pros perform. The only way to find your voice in this dance is to DANCE. It took me a few years to get my true voice in this dance, and it was one of the best journeys I’ve ever experienced!
Alessandra: And for either a student looking to turn pro, or a new professional, what advice would you give her?
Nadira: Find a mentor who can work with you and guide you to your goals. Rome was not built in a day, and neither are professional performers. At most established venues where professional dancers perform, you get one shot. That can be an intimidating thought, but there are ways to prepare. When you are first beginning to perform, it is best to work your way up to the established venues. This will allow you to get your performance/entertainment chops fine-tuned by dancing in smaller dancer friendly venues. Also, professionalism is not simply pretty costumes and technique. This is a business just like any other business and there’s etiquette and a professional standard to uphold.