Keika is another faculty member who has been a part of the Saffron community from the very start. She is the very definition of optimism and kindness, and her unique capatcity for patience and understanding makes her a particularly adept teacher of beginner students. We can't imagine life here at the studio without her!
When did you first start belly dancing? What were your initial thoughts?
In October 2001, I ran the Marine Corps Marathon through the Whitman-Walker Clinic's AIDS Marathon training program. I spent about half a year training for it, for hours and hours, multiple days a week, and then - suddenly - I had all this free time. I had been hearing about a new thing called "belly dance" and decided to give it a try.
I fell in love immediately. I had always wanted to be a dancer, but when I tried out jazz and modern, I couldn't keep up with the people who had been doing it since they were kids. Belly dance, however, felt natural. And welcoming to everyone.
Why have you stuck with belly dance for so long? What keeps you coming back?
The experience has grown me as a person in so many ways. It has toned my body, improved my muscle control and strength. It has grown my confidence because I put myself in so many uncomfortable situations - and have had no choice but to overcome my fears. I have learned to hone my creativity and develop choreography. All of these skills carried over to my personal and professional life. And even thought it's been 15 years, I'm still learning. That's why I keep coming back for more!
How has teaching changed your relationship to the dance?
I have such an appreciation for the Saffron Dance curriculum and methodology. Teaching makes me so much more aware of the importance of technique. I also believe that it's made me a better student!
When did you know you wanted to teach belly dance? Was the transition from student to teacher difficult?
Saphira always shepherded me along my journey - pushing me to do things before I felt I was ready. She was right, of course; a person is never is truly ready. You just have to jump. Yes, it was difficult, and I was so nervous before every class I had to teach! But I did it, and the students seemed to like me and the way I delivered the content. Much like performing, there's a "high" that I get from teaching; it's a great feeling to see your students smiling and enjoying themselves. I feel so rewarded when I help a student understand (and eventually master!) a specific movement.
Who are your biggest artistic inspirations?
So many of my instructors have been a source of inspiration - Saphira, Ebony, Ashara, Bozenka, Faten.
Aside from belly dance, what do you do to stay active?
I chase after my toddler.
Do you have a significant other? How do they feel about your level of involvement in belly dance?
My husband Fernando is the biggest supporter of my dance. He loves attending Saffron shows and I'm always eager to hear his feedback of our performances. He stays informed about workshops and often asks me if I'm going to go to specific ones before I've even heard about them! He knows how to shimmy and probably can correctly name tens of moves.
What's your day job? Do your coworkers know you teach and perform belly dance?
I am the Director of Online Marketing for a large international conservation organization. Several of my coworkers have come to see me perform in restaurants and Saffron productions - and a few have even taken classes at the studio!
What is one of your most embarrassing performance experiences?
One time - I think for Casbah - during the final (filmed) dress rehearsal, I was in charge of leading Maqsoum onto the stage for a piece we performed with another troupe. There were a lot of dancers on the stage. Unfortunately, I started eight counts too early, before our actual cue to come out. Like good dancers, my troupemates followed me out (a troupe always stays together, no matter what!). After about 24 counts or so I realized my mistake. But somehow we worked it out and then found our way back to the right choreography in the right place!
Aside from dance what other hobbies keep you busy?
I enjoy hiking. I find photography great fun, and just learned to shoot in manual mode when I visited the Galapagos earlier this year. I love to cook. I consider myself a foodie, so I always jump at the chance to try top-rated restaurants with my husband.
Just for fun: what TV shows are currently top of your list?
I don't have time for anything deep, since I have a toddler who doesn't sleep. So I can't watch anything that requires much brain power - therefore, I usually just watch reality TV series like Fixer Upper and Face Off.
Lastly, tell us one fun fact about you that people may not know :-p
I once posed nude on the cover of a Russian magazine... ...when I was six weeks old.