Name: Carol Tandava Henning
Business: Tandava Arts
Location: Brooklyn, New York, United States
Industry: Arts & Entertainment
Reason for starting? As a child, I loved ballet but was quickly body-shamed out of continuing. In 2000, I suffered a traumatic abdominal and lumbar injury and began to bellydance to recover. Bellydance not only returned my love of dance, it gave me strength and confidence, and redefined my sense of beauty through movement. In 2011, I created a show, Blood on The Veil, about this experience, which has now been performed to critical acclaim in eight U.S. cities. Audiences are inspired by the body-positive message and are intrigued by the historical information about the misunderstood art of bellydance. Currently I am working on two new projects: Living Our Mythologies: Divinity in Dance, a multicultural dance concert of sacred dance that will be performed in NYC, and Beauty By Bellydance, a new blog featuring the stories of bellydance enthusiasts who have found a new sense of beauty, strength, healing, confidence and community through this ancient art form.
How do you define success? Success is a combination of shared joy and value. On a personal level, I value those things that give me joy, and strive to connect things that are not directly joyful to a greater purpose that I value (i.e. find joy in). On a social and business level, it is my hope to be able to creatively share what has been joyful, transformative or creative to me with others, in a way that is valuable or meaningful to them. Or, in plain English, success is when I can continue to perform and produce shows, write and put together other creative works that are meaningful and inspiring to enough people so that I can keep doing it and still pay my mortgage.
Biggest success: In February 2015, I did a 2-week run of Blood on the Veil at Theater for the New City in NYC. I showcased 30 local bellydancers and reached thousands of audience members, many of whom knew nothing about bellydance beyond wiggling Bond-girls. This was the largest professional and financial risk I’d taken — and it was during a difficult time of year. I also booked eight shows per week, which, since this is a 2-hour monologue with continuous dancing, pushed the limits of my stamina. Yet, in spite of brutal winter weather, we had full houses and glowing reviews. In fact, the final Saturday shows were booked solid in spite of a ferocious snow storm. Now, many of those tickets came through discount and papering sites, so I barely broke even financially. But the fact that they came out in that weather to see an unknown dancer tell her story, and then got onstage to dance at the end, was a blissful blessed triumph for everyone!
What is your top challenge and how you have addressed it? Scaling up has been the biggest challenge so far. The show is good, people love it. With the right promotion, it could have a solid run in NYC and a successful tour inside and outside the U.S. But I need the right connections, and strong, solid promotion that effectively communicates what the show is about.
Related: The Afterbirth Entrepreneur
Who is your most important role model? Eve Ensler has been a great inspiration to me as someone who put together a show at a time when the world needed that message. She did not fit any familiar mold for a female performer at that time, yet her work resonated. I feel the same is the case with Blood on the Veil, Living our Mythologies and Beauty By Bellydance. Girls and boys, men and women throughout the world are cutting themselves into ribbons to fit impossible beauty ideals — only to find that they are not valued even as they approach the ideal. I want every person, young and old, of every age, shape, race and background to begin to develop a sense appreciation for their bodies through the joy of movement, through connection to music and connection to others through community dance. Today dance has become more about competition. We need to focus on the social, personal aspect. So just as Ensler taught women to embrace that part of ourselves we considered “forbidden,” I want to reinvigorate our sense of dance.
Edited by The Story Exchange