Princess of Fun: An Interview with Taj, Ambassador, Dancer and Author + Contest
Known as the “princess of fun,” Taj is a dancer, educator, world traveler and Vega ambassador with a passion for beauty and human movement. Her performances and workshops take her around the world, introducing her to new cultures and experiences that inspire action. Through her travels, Taj felt a calling to write a book on what inspires her most: dance. But overtime, her vision evolved. The result is her first published work, Final Feliz, a photographic documentary on human movement.
|What was your inspiration for Final Feliz?
When I first began this journey, all I knew was that I wanted to create a work about “dance.” Little did I know that my definition of the word would forever expand. I started to collect an encyclopedia of images beyond dance stylings and became fascinated with the art of human gesture and the unlimited ways in which we express ourselves in everyday life. My global travels provided valuable research and as the project continued to take shape I grew to understand the deeper meaning of the word “commitment.”
Why did you decide to write a book?
I wrote because if I continued to ignore the inner voice, if I choose to allow fear to consume me, I would never have fulfilled part of my life’s purpose. What may sound an esoteric and grandiose notion is actually a humbling experience that I had throughout the process of watching the pieces slowly come together. I see myself as a messenger for the work itself. It is the work that is the true light. Final Feliz is about encouraging you to “remember who you are.”
What does the title mean?
Final Feliz, means “happy ending” and is a dialogue sharing of silent fear that coexists with our optimism for life to bring us the next “Happy Ending,” thus this is a cycle of life. This humanities study uses sensory emersion to challenge and inspire the reader to dig deeper into present moment awareness and to embrace the duality that dwells within us all. Proceeds from book purchases are donated to global cause.
|Who do you believe will relate to the book most?
This work is blessed with contributions from celebrated international artists and powerful emerging talents. The multicultural perspective of the writing goes below the surface of race and creed and delves into the simpler aspects of nurturing human development that we all seek in our own way.
I designed this as a three part sensory journey that includes the currently available book, audio book, and the second book which will be released in September. These three components make up the Final Feliz trilogy experience. I am humbled at having the foreword to Final Feliz be written by Global Yoga Master and Dance Anthropologist Shiva Rea. This is a beautiful confirmation that the work speaks for itself.
Win it now! Taj has graciously offered a copy of Final Feliz just for community members. To enter, share your favorite dance from around the world - inspired by culture like Taj's book. (Entry deadline is Friday, July 31, 2009 at 11:59 PM PDT. A random winner will then be drawn.)
Thanks to Taj for sharing her new book with us!
Shaking it up
Students dance at the Oak Park Public Library on Sunday afternoon during a book launch for Final Feliz put on by local dance instructor Miss Taj. The project brought together noted international and emerging artists for the purpose of examining the art of human communication.
Miss Taj's Post-Workout Sensual Motivation
Meditate on these words after a workout:
You are, at this moment, fully alive.
Give yourself permission without judgment to enjoy the vitality that pulses through your body and mind.
Linger a few minutes longer and revel in the nourishing force field you have created. Take time to appreciate the vibrancy of knowing that all your senses are peaked.
Drink in the rich textures around you. See the world through a fresh lens, without judgment. Take this opportunity to enjoy the organic sensuality of everyday life.
Go ahead, I dare you.
Source: Miss Taj, creator of Exotic Yoga
Where to Take Belly Dancing Lessons in Chicago
Lessons with Miss Taj
Gallery lessons with Miss Taj are street popular in Chicago; everyone knows about them. What makes Miss Taj's lessons so popular is that everytime you walk out of one of her lessons you will have picked up something new, something that hasn't been covered in any other class. New moves seem to come spontaneously, but in fact the instructor is always studying new inspirations that are then brought into the art of belly dancing.
A Chicago Area belly dance instructor did something for children last
weekend: She led a Hula Hoop class.
And she did. Clark said the best part of the evening was “the fact that I accomplished something.”
The participants learned about their minds and bodies as well. Twice during the evening, they set their hoops aside and listened as health professionals spoke to them.
Claudia Cuellar, Midwest Account Manager for Sequel Naturals Inc., a company that urges people to “seek wellness” through its food supplements, encouraged participants to stick with plant-based nutrition. “If you can’t pronounce it,” she said, “maybe you shouldn’t eat it.” Cuellar distributed “goody bags” containing Sequel products and made healthy smoothies for the women to sample.
Dr. Jaena Stanley-Gonzaga, a Chiropractic Physician and Holistic Practicioner based in Elgin, Il., spoke about the mental aspects of wellness. She emphasized the mind-body connection and told the women, “You are beyond your body. You’re made up of energy.”
Stanley-Gonzaga encouraged participants to let go of aspects of their past that continued to haunt them in the present. “You’re like a computer,” she said, “You don’t want to run your life by old programs.”
She also introduced participants to a technique known as muscle testing. “Your subconscious mind knows what’s true and not true,” she said. By pushing down on a woman’s arm and testing her muscles’ resistance to the push, Stanley-Gonzaga could determine whether or not participants were telling the truth when asked simple questions. Some participants were awed by the test.
Taj said the evening was a success. “It was exactly the way it was supposed to be,” she said. She said even people who were unable to attend the event donated money to the DreamsCanBe Foundation.
Taj typically teaches belly dance workshops and regularly-meeting belly dance classes that range from the beginner level to the advanced level. She is preparing for an international tour.
ARTICLE Sheque IMAGE:
Every woman has a divine right to explore the multi-facets of femininity. From learning to nurture the body as your sacred temple to showcasing the hidden desires of your deepest intuitive impulses, we have the platform for you. ZaZalove has teamed with Sheque Chicago and designed a sensory experience that not only delights and entertains but educates and involves you in the process of how to fully embrace ownership of your “SEXY”.
You will be supported in your quest with a community of women open to being inspired, challenged and encouraged to grow. We will turn up the heat with lessons from the world of exotic movement, ponder notions of womanhood with expert lecture and blow the lid off every misconception you may have been taught about the definition of the word.
What’s it going to take for you to evolve into ultimate womanhood? Your courage is a very attractive asset. Trust us. This is an opportunity for you to bloom. Be elegant, graceful and brave. Be Sexy. Be You.
always remember that you are loved…
Twenty-four women danced in a circle, pivoting their hips and moving their arms to the beat of exotic music Wednesday night at the Levy Senior Center in Evanston.
Taj, the instructor, moved around the circle and encouraged the women to keep dancing.
"Who's committed to having fun?"
In a demonstration of their enthusiasm, every woman raised her hand.
The center at 300 Dodge Ave. holds weekly women's belly dancing classes offered throughout the year for six- to eight-week sessions.
From undulating to shimmying, women of all ages learn to dance in a fun, low-stress environment, Taj said. Student Elloise Davis said the class is a fun alternative to traditional exercise.
"People think aerobics has to be fast to lose weight," she said. "But I heard this was fun, and I thought, let's do something new."
Taj, who has taught belly dancing for seven years, said its popularity is here to stay.
"It's been sweeping the globe for the past two years in a tailspin," Taj said.
Belly dancing provides both physical and psychological benefits to the students, Taj said.
"Belly dancing creates an emotional and psychological balance in the body," she said. "Even though your posture and the physical things improve, it also gives people more confidence."
She said these benefits contribute to the dance's growing popularity, adding that many students who begin dancing enjoy it and continue to pursue it.
Belly dancing classes at the Levy Senior Center often fill to capacity, Taj said. On Wednesday night, the class had to move to a bigger dance space to accommodate extra students.
Many women said they return to Taj's classes because they like her teaching style. Some said they enjoy the lessons so much that they bring friends and family members as guests.
Chicago resident Roslyn Cohen said her sister-in-law encouraged her to come to the classes. Cohen, whose father's side of the family is from Iraq, wanted to learn the dance to connect with her heritage, she said.
The classes have helped Cohen learn how to be comfortable with herself, she said.
"I really enjoy these classes because you are encouraged to let yourself go," Cohen said. "A lot of it is getting in touch with your body - or trying to."
At the end of the class, the students created a dance using moves taught in their lesson. All the women participated enthusiastically, and a few women were even brave enough to perform their dance for the rest of the class. Davis even volunteered for her group to perform first.
"I'm learning to feel comfortable with my body," Davis said. "It is fun, fun, fun, and you can lose weight, too."
Ya Body Lika a Snake, Ma!
Body & Soul
Sure, I was dressed like a reject from the show “Fame,” hot, sweaty and
maybe even a little funky, but I felt like the sexiest woman on the
planet. In just
that short time, I experienced the power of belly dance and I’ve been
hooked ever since.
technology bears striking resemblance to its model!
YOU CAN TACKLE THE CHEERLEADERS!
Pro Publisher: Midway
Rating: Everyone Genre: Sports Release
Reviewed By: Chuck Combs NFL Blitz Pro
ain't your mama's Blitz. Is it yours?
excerpt BY CHRIS CARLE
First and ten. Eleven players on each team. Cheerleaders. Two out of three of these things have never existed in a Blitz game before. Two of these things haven't even gotten within spitting distance of a Blitz game. Blitz has always been about breaking rules, not conforming to them. But the desire to give gamers what they want, coupled with the desire to maintain a franchise that appeals to consumers year in and year out has moved Midway Sports to draw influence from both sides of the coin.
Night Out - Chicago Sun-Times
Mere mortals were transformed at the Ultimate Goddess Night, a sumptuous evening of massages, meditation and mixed drinks. The celebration of all things female was held at Ame ("soul" in French), 1006 W. Armitage. A sanctuary for the senses, the 6-month-old space offers traditional spa amenities (facials, pedicures) along with not-so-typical treatments (belly dancing, Pilates). On the ground floor, a sweet boutique features clothing for adults and children crafted by co-owners Vanessa Palmer and Tamara Duckler.
So how does a goddess unwind? With the help of a toga-clad male model. He hand-fed the group grapes and was only allowed to put down his platter and palm-leaf fan when he offered sensual shoulder massages.
"He reminds me I need to go to the gym," said one partygoer.
"He reminds me I'm very single," added guest Mia Tatic. "I'm going to make out with him in about 30 seconds." A gourmet feast fit for a goddess -- sushi and mini-cakes -- was served while luxury sugar hand scrubs and energy readings were performed in adjoining rooms. Later, a group belly-dancing session was led by "Miss Taj," who showed guests how to flutter, slide and strike the showgirl posture."Honor the universe, honor the earth and honor yourself," she urged. Because every goddess should get her due.
|Meet Our Ambassador
It’s hard work being the princess of fun. Whether it’s a concert dance performance on an auditorium stage or teaching a movement workshop at an international conference, my body, mind and spirit are programmed for a certain level of excellence. I also require big energy to create an environment for others to discover their own excruciating beauty. It is my responsibility to educate, inspire, challenge and encourage growth. I demand results from my every muscle, including my heart and brain. I need pure and instant nourishment.
Discovering Vega has catapulted my endurance. A rare and precious find, my body craved Vega after the first experience. Sometimes creativity is overwhelming and artists forget to eat when enraptured by the imagination. My body decided that Vega was my missing link to a completely healthy plant based balance in my diet. The after performance recovery effects are an added bonus after a day of playing hard. I’m in constant motion like the ebb and flow of the ocean. Vega provides the quality fuel I need for bold athleticism and poetic musicality. As my career surges forward, each project produced must supersede the last. I consider this an honored pressure, but know that my endurance will be put to the ultimate test. I plan to have Vega be my lifetime companion.
Not just food, Vega is my lifestyle.
Brendan Brazier, founder of VEGA launches USA lecture tour and book signing.
THINGS UP A BIT -
BY ANNE STEIN
An ancient dance once associated with fertility rites and religion is making its way onto workout videos and into health clubs and dance studios as a get-fit alternative to treadmills and other aerobic staples.
Unlike other dance forms, belly dance welcomes all body types--not just the skinny-as-a-rail ballet type--though it's mostly women who enjoy the traditionally female dance ritual.
"Belly dance is a non-impact, total-body workout," explained Taj, a Chicago-based belly dance performer and teacher who legally dropped her last name several years ago after leaving the corporate rat race to devote her life to what she loves.
Taj, whose flexibility, grace and muscles are a testament to just how fit a belly dancer can be, said that "the results are slower in terms of calories burned than if you did a rigorous cardiovascular workout, but the results are more outstanding because you're building muscle underneath.
"And it's the perfect adjunct to your current cardio program," she said. "The belly dance specifically isolates the hips, thighs, abdomen, chest and arms, and it stretches them. And it gives muscle tone and definition throughout the back, arms, torso and triceps."
Though belly dance is fairly popular in Los Angeles and New York--both Crunch and Bally fitness clubs offer classes ( Bally also has the class in Miami)--Chicago club members haven't voiced a demand for classes--yet. Crunch plans to offer a class this fall at its Chicago club. "In general, it's great for flexibility because you're using your arms and legs in many twirling positions," said Donna Cyrus, national group fitness director for Crunch. "It's aerobic, it's sculpting and it's flexibility training all in one."
Taj teaches at Belle Plaine Studio in Chicago, where both "fusion" style and the more traditional "Egyptian" style of dance are available. Classes are also offered at Chicago's Flamenco Arts Center and occasionally through the Chicago Park District.
Belly dance comes in a wide variety of styles using dance elements from around the world, particularly the Middle East and India: Egyptian Cabaret is controlled, elegant and typically what you'll see on television, in movies or at a banquet/restaurant. Turkish Cabaret is more flamboyant, with leaps and more pronounced pelvic movements. Persian emphasizes the arms and shoulders, while fusion, sometimes called tribal, is a modern mix of dance ingredients from the Middle East and India with some Spanish flamenco flavors thrown in.
"We do a lot of big, round full movements in fusion," Taj said, "using the whole body and also focusing on isolating muscles."
Karol Henderson Harding, a Ft. Collins, Colo.-based belly dancer who writes for belly-dance publications, states in one of her articles that belly dancing is uniquely designed for the female body because the movements place "emphasis on abdominal muscles, hip moves and chest moves."
Perhaps for these reasons, few men show up at classes.
"I've had a couple of men (both with dance backgrounds) take classes, and it went well," Taj said. "But it's hard for men to feel comfortable in a group of women. Most of my students are professional women, 30 and older, with very busy careers who haven't had much or any dance experience at all. Belly dancing is a creative outlet, and they need to feel comfortable."
Katrina Bruback has taken belly-dance classes at Belle Plaine once or twice each week for the last 1 1/2 years, even leading the class just before she gave birth in March. "I'm not one to work out, so it's good I found something I like," she said.
Bruback credits belly dancing for the fast and easy labor and delivery of her first child. "I stood in a shower for four hours at the birthing center at Illinois Masonic Hospital, then pushed him out in four contractions. No drugs, and it was quick," she said, smiling.
Aline Silberg, a Chicago paralegal and mother of two, has been belly dancing since last summer. "I think it's beautiful," she said. "It's very sensual and I like the songs. I discovered it was good for fitness too. I hate to go to the gym because it's like torture. Here, I free my mind and it re-energizes me. I'm on another planet for two hours after class."
Though it's hard to say exactly how many calories a belly dancer expends, a 110-pound woman who ballet dances for 45 minutes burns about 240 calories, while that same-sized woman performing slower dances, such as waltz, expends about 120 calories. It's safe to say belly dance, depending on your level of expertise, falls somewhere in between.
"All dance is a great workout, assuming you do it with workout intensity," said CC Cunningham, a spokeswoman for the American Council on Exercise. "And because you usually do it in a group, the likelihood you'll stick with it is much higher than if you work out alone."
Educator, author and radio host, this gifted artist exemplifies pioneering efforts of 21st Century American Dancers. Integrating a seasoned career in health care, Taj has studied various forms of holistic art and science throughout the globe. She brings her concepts of healing movement into classes filled with children and adults throughout Chicagoland and locally at the River Forest Community Center, 8020 Madison Street, in a 6-week session in Classical Egyptian
Bellydance from 7:15-8:15 pm and 8:15-9:15 pm beginning April 18th. For more information about the Classical Egyptian Bellydance session, call 708.771.6159 Dancing since the age of two, Taj has a classically trained dance background, but found her passion in bellydance as an adult. “I was curious about the mystery of the dance,” she said. “I signed up for a class on a whim and immediately fell in love.” Dedicated to the educational development of dance, she has created her own unique approach to the process of learning that evolved out of her risk taking background as a pilot, rescue diver,parachutist and lifestyle coach.Having taught thousands of people, Taj is an authority on traditional and modern styles. Under the masterful tutelage of some of the world’s legendary dancers, she continues to study, knowing that learning is a lifelong process. She successfully launched the world premiere of a new style of dance at the convention for the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) in Las Vegas in January 2002. “The essence of the dance is discovered through leading physically through the spine and emotionally through the heart,” she states.
A radio host on WCFJ 1470 AM, Taj has a Sunday morning program that expands on human issues related to International Arts, Science Knowledge, Historical Perspective and Industry Expert Interviews. As an active mentor, she stands firm in the importance of appropriate role models for children and adolescents. Taj is also versed in working with the special needs population. Motivated by cause, Taj continues to create unique opportunities for diverse groups to experience the joy and therapy of dance as a community. Her book, Beyond Dance: Elements of Human Communication will debut in the spring of 2005. Be sure to join Taj on tour at http://www.misstaj.com/.
On behalf of Perspectives Charter School, I want to thank you for presenting at our annual high school career panel talk. You were awesome! Your presentation was excellent and was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. We appreciate you sharing your time, talent, and expertise with us.
The career panel was an outstanding success
in every way due primarily to your contribution. The encouragement, commitment,
and care you showed our students were deeply appreciated. Thank you so
much for taking time out of your busy schedule to give back to the community.
Time is one of the most valuable gifts one can give.
Amber :)Amber Donell
Dean of Academic Affairs
Perspectives Charter School