No Practice Gear Required: Tahja Has Belly Dance Covered
Tahja was born for the stage. Whether she was in front of the spotlight performing puppet and magic shows (not at the same time, unfortunately), or behind the stage showcasing the talents of her sisters, her commitment was evident at an early age.
"When my 2nd grade teacher asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, I told her I wanted to be an international entertainer," Tahja said. "I think I was born a show girl!"
Luckily, belly dancing and Tahja were about to meet and make her dream come true. At the beginning of Tahja's teenage years, her mother introduced her to belly dance as a part of a mother-daughter outing. Besides being a bonding experience, belly dance would prove to be a life-changer for Tahja.
"I lost 35 pounds without trying the first year of dance," Tahja said. "Before that, I couldn't even touch my toes!"
Today, Tahja owns and serves as the artistic director of International Productions, a dance and music production company based out of Sarasota, Florida. According to her website, Tahja continues to teach and perform as well, and not just belly dance! As a talented musician, Tahja is the director of her own musical ensemble, YaSalaam.
As someone who breaks the boundaries of what one dancer can do, being simultaneously the musician, artist and producer of her own performances, Tahja often takes issue with singular explanations for belly dance's origins.
"It is very one sided to say this dance had it's roots in any one type of event, such as a birthing ritual, because it isolates the dance as something just for women," said Tahja.
She argues that men have an equally strong role in the development of Middle Eastern dance, something that is often overlooked and misunderstood. Whereas a female dancer can reveal her femininity through belly dance, so can a man display his masculinity through the folkloric styles of Middle Eastern dance.
But display isn't everything. While hip scarves and zills used to be a permanent fixture in Tahja's purse, she now prefers to practice whenever in whatever she happens to be wearing. She keeps her costumes separate and for special occasions.
"I reserve my costumes only for performance and consider them sacred," said Tahja. "When I teach, I wear costumes just for teaching, which are different from my performance costumes."
The desire to drop everything and dance is one most belly dancers can identify with. By keeping her practice bag simply empty, Tahja is able to do just that. After all, with a full docket of activities, in order to have everything, one must be prepared to break a few rules. And that is passion anyone can admire.