Saffron Dance is the best part of my week, my month, my year! -Judy
Dance Name | Sonya
Occupation | I am the director of a multidisciplinary arts center.  I work with performing and visual artists on a daily basis.  I curate art exhibitions; develop concert series in a variety of genres to include jazz, classical, folk, soul, and world music; manage professional visual artist studios; and develop visual arts classes and programs.
Why belly dance? I've always been interested in various cultures and art forms.  Many years ago, lived in Salt Lake City, UT. While there, I was introduced to a rich underground belly dance culture and I loved it from day one.  

How long have you been at Saffron? 8 or 9 years.
How did you find Saffron Dance, and what keeps you coming back? Late one evening, I was looking for a dance studio and started an online search.  I came across an article entitled "A Lawyer Turned Belly Dancer Advocates for the Shimmy."  The article was about Saphira, her love of belly dance, the dance community, and Saffron Dance.  I was excited and called the studio thinking I would get a recorded message.  Lo and behold, Saphira answered the phone!  We had a long conversation and I was smitten.  I was captivated by those long s's in her speech :D  We discussed my goals, dance experience, and the studio structure.  I love that the classes are progressive.  The feeling of growing, learning, and moving through the dance process is invigorating.  The feeling of family keeps me coming back. Some of the women are like sisters to me.
What were your thoughts after your first class? My very first class was with Saphira.  As soon as I walked into the studio and saw the beautifully painted restroom, I knew I was home.  Hey, sometimes it’s the little things! Her teaching style was just what I had been looking for.  She had a magical way of describing different moves.  Everything just became so accessible.
Can you speak a bit about your experience in Student Company and working closely with faculty and fellow dancers?  I have had many wonderful experiences in Student Company. The experience has been life-changing and enriching. There are women who have become my lifelong friends from being in Company together. 

My first Company was Saidi and we were a small group (Dona, Keely, Catherine, Kara, and me). I felt like I had hit the jackpot! I was the new kid on the block but everyone was so nice and welcoming. They remain some of my favorite people in the whole world.

In December 2015, just days before "The Spice of Life", my mother was scheduled to have major surgery. She tried to talk the surgeon into moving the surgery to a later date because she didn’t want to miss my performance. He was beyond tickled. My life is filled with memories of my mother attending and supporting everything I had ever done. With very few exceptions, she had never missed any of my performances. She reluctantly agreed to go ahead with the surgery so that she could spend December recuperating. Immediately following the surgery, it was apparent that she was in grave condition. She wasn’t even strong enough to move to the Intensive Care Unit and had to stay in the Critical Care Unit. I went to Company class that week and was surrounded by the love of women who I knew cared for and loved me.

The following week, I knew that I needed to be by my mother’s side and wouldn’t be able to perform. I felt so sad, lost and helpless. The only person I wanted to talk to was Blythe, my Company director. She answered the phone and I immediately started crying. She just let me cry and cry and cry. Her words of comfort were so soothing, kind and loving. I will never forget her gentleness towards me. Following the show, I was sent a company photo. The photo included a cut out of me. I felt so loved that they had thought of me!

My mother passed away on December 17, 2015. My world just came to a halt. Some of my Saffron Sisters came out to support me and for that, I will be eternally grateful.

In January 2016, I was desperate to return to a sense of normalcy so I wanted to get back to the studio. But I was also filled with dread. My mother’s office is around the corner for the studio. Every night I had class, I would go and visit with her first. Eventually, I made it back to the studio. When I walked in the door that night, the first person I saw was Saphira. She embraced me and allowed me to cry on her shoulder. It was a much-needed cry that gave me the strength to return to the studio week after week. Going to Company classes the rest of that semester meant the world to me. Being with those women taught me how to laugh again.

Just recently, I was able to bring myself open a card that my mom had given me right before she went into the hospital. Inside was a note with a check to Saffron Dance for a semester of classes. In the memo section she wrote “Dance on!” How fitting that this was the very last gift I received from my mother.

Any closing thoughts? This has been better than I could have ever imagined. I have had the pleasure of being taught by phenomenal teachers (everybody needs to take at least one class with Faten. It’s a once in a lifetime experience) and sharing the stage with amazing women. The behind stage antics are the best!

And in the words of my mother, I will “Dance on!”

How she inspires us | With the studio passing its first decade as a home for so many amazing women, we have the perspective of knowing who makes up the core of our Saffron family - and no statement is truer than when we think about one of our amazing sisters in dance and life - Sonya.  To be honest, I can't even remember how long Sonya has been a Saffronita!  And for me, that means that we have had the pleasure to appreciate one another's growth not just as dancers but as women - and to be a part of and committed to a community that we have all cultivated - through sickness and health - through life's pleasures and pains.  Normally, when we prepare the "what inspires us" - we have not seen what dancers prepare for their relationship with the studio in their SOM write up.  With the holidays, however, this month was different.  During the Christmas holidays, I read and remembered - with love and sadness - Sonya's journey of the loss of her mother.  And I remember the moment that she came back to her Saffronita home after her mother had passed - where she was met with love and acknowledgment by women and friends who will forever join her to grieve with her and remember her beautiful mother - and embody the wisdom that only a mother can share .... to Dance On.  We love you Sonya - you are now and will forever be a Saffronita who inspires us.   - Saphira