Belly dance rejuvenates my soul... I have such an inner peace and joy in my heart. -Kim
Dance Name | Anya
Occupation | Navy Nurse
Why belly dance? It's so much fun! Originally I came to belly dance because I was turning 40 and wanted to try something new, and this was unlike anything I had done before and completely out of my comfort zone. I have struggled with body image my whole life, and belly dance has really helped me gain an appreciation for my body and to love it for all that it can do. I love seeing women of all sizes dancing and seeing how their bodies move. Dance is a challenge for me, both mentally and physically, and it forces me to be less rigid and more fluid in my movement.
How long have you been at Saffron? It'll be three years in January.
How did you find Saffron Dance, and what keeps you coming back? I found Saffron through Google. I just googled belly dance classes and Saffron was one of the first hits. I looked through the website and read Yelp reviews and then decided to enroll in a Crash Course. What keeps me coming back is the community, this collection of women of all ages, all backgrounds, all walks of life. Everyone has been so friendly and so accepting, and there's really been very little drama. I've made some really good friends, and I really feel like I have found my tribe.
What were your thoughts after your first class? I was in a Crash Course with Malek, and I remember thinking, wow, this is so much fun! There were women of every age (literally, we had someone who was 16 years old, all the way up to a retired nun in that class - it was really diverse) and we all had a really enjoyable time. I also remember being surprised that I could dance, after believing my whole life that I had two left feet.
Can you speak a bit about your experience in Student Company and working closely with faculty and fellow dancers? I have taken classes without performing, I have been in Performance Classes, and I have been in Company - and really I think if you have the ability to commit the time, Student Company is such a positive experience. I feel like it has really helped me grow in my dance and in my self-confidence. It has also really strengthened my bond with my fellow dancers - I was fortunate enough to work with some of the same dancers the first two years in student dance company and I really feel like when you've danced together for a while, it really helps challenge each dancer to work harder and to grow more - you're more accountable to one another. There's also this bond that comes from shared experiences and you just spend so much time together that you can't help but develop this bond. I've also been fortunate enough to work really closely with Keika - she was our faculty for two years in a row and I've learned so much about dance and about choreography from her. I have come to really trust her judgment and during times that I have struggled with my progress in dance, she has been not just a source of support but also a fantastic source of honest feedback. I'm excited to continue to work with Elena this year - it's extremely interesting to me to see how differently each faculty member approaches the music and choreography process.  
Any closing thoughts? I look forward to continuing to grow in my dance. Through the support and encouragement I've received from the Saffron community, I've decided to take another risk and am currently working on a piece for an upcoming PDC. This would never have occurred to me three years ago - just the thought of being on stage was terrifying. I'm so thankful to have met everyone at the studio and I'm excited to see what the future brings.
How she inspires us | I had the pleasure of having Anya with me for two years of her belly dance journey. Anya is a deeply committed individual - she puts her whole heart into her family, her work, and her dance. She is thoughtful and takes time to listen. She is a reliable company member and genuinely cares about her fellow dancers. I often made her the "costume police" at shows, because I knew she would ensure that everyone was pinned and tucked appropriately. Anya doesn't know that I also used her as my litmus test for choreography... I always knew whether my choreography was too basic or too complex based on her reaction when I was teaching it! I've watched Anya grow so much - from her first stage performance to an experienced student company member who knows the ropes. Her love of the dance and community shines through. I look forward to seeing her perform at PDC and will be Anya's biggest fan in support of her future dance endeavors! - Keika