Megha Gavin of Devyani Dance Company
Devi Mamak talks to Megha Gavin of Devyani Dance Company, Alabama, U.S.A
Devi sits down one on one with Megha Gavin.
Bellydance Oasis Issue 33. July to September 2008
1] HOW DID YOU GET STARTEED IN DANCE & ATS?
I took my first dance class at about 4 years old. I guess I’m what you’d call a “born performer.” I did every play and musical possible throughout my school years and my focus was on acting. I stumbled into Carolena’s class by sheer good luck after moving to San Francisco. I was on a mission to do all the things I’d always wanted to but couldn’t growing up and bellydance was one of those things in the back of my mind. After many, many referals to FatChanceBellyDance I called Carolena to ask if I could observe a class to see if it was something I thought I could do and she said yes. I was hooked from the first moment that I watched that class, and her teaching it.
2] CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOURSELF?
I was born and raised in the Southeastern US; most of my life in Birmingham, AL. Strangely, I never felt like I was in the right place, although I’ve returned to Birmingham after living in San Francisco and then New Orleans for a number of years. I’m married to a wonderful man and have an amazing little girl. I live a vegan lifestyle (my entire famlily does) and homeschool my daughter. What else can I say? I love teaching and helping people do things that make them happy.
3] WHAT ABOUT DEVYANI DANCE COMPANY?
Devyani was founded in New Orleans, LA in 2000. (or maybe it was 2001?) It grew out of my dance classes that I started after moving there. There was no-one in the area doing ATS so I knew that if I wanted to keep dancing I’d have to start teaching. I was offered an opportunity to teach a class at a women’s health club shortly after moving to New Orleans and that’s where it all started. The original group was a very tight-knit one and we grew by leaps and bounds. Before long we were performing at all kinds of events all over New Orleans. That’s the group I was with when we brought in the 4 new moves that are on Vol. 7. A few years later I moved back to Birmingham and had to start the company all over again. I now have a fantastic group of very talented and dedicated dancers here that perform all over the place and teach at the studio. It’s always been about being the best we can be at ATS and sharing it with others. The name Devyani means “gift from the Goddess.” We truly believe this dance is a gift.
4] CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN DEVYANI DANCE COMPANY & FAT CHANCE BELLY DANCE?
The biggest thrill of my career was when Carolena told me that she thought we should work together in a partnertship. The fact that I had moved all the way across the country and managed to maintain the dance in it’s original form, staying in contact with her and always seeking her guidance ended up being really significant to both of us. We had grown to really like each other and since we were doing the same thing it only made sense to start doing projects together. I guess it really took off when she invited me to teach with Karen Gehrman (sp?) at the Majma Dance Festival in Glastonbury, England.
ATS refers to the style created and performed by FatChanceBellyDance. Every other style that branced off it and made changes to it falls under the category of Tribal. Tribal is such a widely used term now that it’s hard to really give it a definition. Originally it was used to describe the group of dancers doing what looked like folkloric middle eastern dance. Now it seems that everything that isn’t Cabaret or Folkloric style is lumped under the umbrella of tribal.” – Megha Gavin
5] WHAT IS TRIBAL PURA & WHAT IS ITS GOAL?
The more we figured out how we were going to be working together the more we realized that this new venture needed a name. Our original thought was to call it “Pure Tribal”, because that’s what it is and that’s what we are sharing with people, but that name wasn’t available. We ended up choosing Tribal : Pura after learning that Pura means whole or complete in hindi. The purpose of the Tribal Pura workshops and shows is to bring the knowledge of true American Tribal Style Belly Dance to the world. Tribal style has split off into so many variations, either by choice or from lack of access to the original thing, that there wasn’t really an understanding of how to do ATS outside of FCBD. We’re taking ATS to everyone who wants to learn it or re-learn it in the correct way. It’s been such a great success. People are really starting to understand what “tribal style” is all about and they are falling in love with it all over again.
6] CAN YOU TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE GS CERTIFICATE & THE TEACHER TRAINING CERTIFICATE?
GS and Teacher Training Certifications are really Carolen’s baby. She kept getting asked about doing a certification program so she finally put one together to certify people who wanted to teach pure ATS, which is FCBD style. From that, people kept asking for the option to take training from her that they could apply to their teaching even if they did a fusion style or taught multiple styles of dance, so she put something together for them, too. Being her partner, I often teach the General Skills workshops with her. These workshops are fantastic because we cover every step and concept in ATS in a 15 hour course. People are walking away from these trainings with such a profound revelation of what ATS really is and why, and they are LOVING it. In fact, it’s become so popular that we are phasing out the regular Tribal Pura workshops to focus on bringing the GS and Teacher Training to more locations to make it accessable to more people. We’re even adding a new component called “Tribal Village” which is a week long intensive that includes both GS and TT with options for refresher courses for previous graduates. More details about that will be coming out soon.
7]WHAT ARE THE LONG TERM GOALS FOR THE PARTNERSHIP & TRIBAL PURA?
We plan to keep working together indefinitely. We really just want to spread the knowledge and experience that we have to everyone who wants it. We also really like each other so it’s a good excuse to spend lots of time together. 😉
8] WHERE HAVE YOU & CAROLENA TAUGHT TRIBAL PURA, GS & TEACHER TRAINING? So far we’ve taught together all over the US, in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, England, Finland, Belgium, and Italy. At the time of this writing I’m in the process of packing for our 1st trip to Spain and we’ll also be going to Mexico this year.
9] HOW OFTEN DO YOU & CAROLENA TRAVEL? WHAT IS IT LIKE?
We travel an average of 2 weekends a month. It’s both exciting and exhausting. I always knew I wanted to see the world so it’s been a real blessing in that way. Travelling together makes it much less stressful and more enjoyable. The challenge for us is that we both have very active studios and troupes at home so we try not to be gone more than a few days at time. I really don’t like being away from my daughter for very long. We tend to do just one event at a time unless we are flying all the way across the world and there are two locations relatively close together that we can consolidate into one trip. It’s been so great, though, to see the love of ATS everywhere we go, and to be able to bring it to people who can’t get to us in the US. We’ve met some wonderful people and seen some incredible places. It’s been quite a ride so far.
10] HOW DO YOU SEE ATS PROGRESSING IN THE U.S.A & AROUND THE WORLD?
It’s really heartening to see the resurgance of pure ATS since we started travelling so much with it. People are really coming home to it now that they are learning the true form of it and can see the whole package. People are seeing that there’s a reason for every movement and every concept and that they don’t need to keep adding new bells and whistles in order to have something amazing. I think ATS is at the beginning of it’s second hay day!
11] WHAT IS THE DIFFERANCE BETWEEN ATS & TRIBAL?
ATS refers to the style created and performed by FatChanceBellyDance. Every other style that branced off it and made changes to it falls under the category of Tribal. Tribal is such a widely used term now that it’s hard to really give it a definition. Originally it was used to describe the group of dancers doing what looked like folkloric middle eastern dance. Now it seems that everything that isn’t Cabaret or Folkloric style is lumped under the umbrella of tribal. Even solo dancers are doing “Tribal Fusion”, even though they aren’t part of a “tribe” so it’s hard to put a firm definition on it now. Back in the day, Tribal Style was the nick-name for American Tribal Style.
12] THE LATEST DVD BY FCBD, VOL 7 HAS ENCORPORATED SOME OF YOUR NEW MOVES. CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THESE?
While teaching and working with my young troupe in New Orleans I was really inspired by some movements we learned at a Rajasthani Folk Dance workshop. I had already fallen in love with Indian art and dance, but something about this workhsop just really sparked the desire to bring some of those movements into our vocabulary. We picked the handfull of moves that we all really loved and looked at the viability of bringing them into our performances without changing the look of what we were already doing. We worked at them over and over until we had the perfect mixture of the flavor of the Rajasthani moves and the structure and integrity of ATS. There were a couple that just couldn’t really work so we had to let them go. We ended up with the Resham-ka which is a choo-choo variation, the Sunanda (named for the dancer who taught the workshop) which is a shimmy variation, and the Water-Pot which is a turn that comes out of an Arabic Set up. We also took a comonly used footwork pattern and added an elaborate arm movement and more contained lower body technique to come up with the Doubleback.
13] ARE THERE ANY PLANS FOR ANOTHER VOLUME?
Not at the moment, but who knows what the future holds. Right now I’m looking forward to putting together a Devyani performance DVD in the near future.