Nov 19 2012

Tatiana Zamir Wants to Touch You…

“Truth is a part of our foundation…even though pain may come from being vulnerable, beauty will surely follow.” –Tatiana Zamir

Tatiana Zamir wants to touch you.

Yes, you read that right.

Not only does Tatiana Zamir want to touch you, she wants you to know that it may be one of the most moving experiences of your life.

The word touch carries a lot of meaning for us humans. Being touched is a basic human need—but because so many of us have been injured or betrayed or abandoned in our quest for intimacy, we have forgotten how uplifting and nurturing it is to allow ourselves to feel the healing and serenity that comes from letting another human authentically meet our need to be touched.

Zamir, who is a graduate of  UCLA’s renowned World Arts and Cultures Program (and  is also a licensed massage therapist and graduate of the Institute of Pycho-Structural Balancing),  believes she is on earth to remind us not to lose our vulnerability.

Talking about truth and touch and vulnerability with this multi-talented healer, dancer, teacher, writer and theater producer reminds me of the opening quote from the Oscar-winning Paul Haggis film Crash a movie which, at its core, was about how we hide our truths and our vulnerabilities in an effort to feel safe:

“In L.A., nobody touches you. We’re always behind this metal and glass. I think we miss that touch so much, that we crash into each other, just so we can feel something.”

Zamir is on a mission to change that—one human being at a time.

Whether Tatiana is transporting a client to “another realm” via her “Healing Hands” massage therapy practice, or delivering messages of hope and healing to packed audiences through her sold-out theatrical dance production, “Moonlight Reflections, or teaching her students to “sweat joyfully” via her popular “Afro-Hip Hop Dance Class,” Zamir has made it her life’s work to share her temple and her truths in ways that are healing, inspiring and spiritually uplifting.

Afro-Hip Hop Dance Class 

“I grew up dancing and I always hated going to dance classes in Los Angeles because they were so competitive and I just wanted to have fun. Then I found this class and I couldn’t be happier. Not only is it dance, but it is a serious, fun workout!

The best thing about the class is, the studio is filled with students from no experience to dancers, so the instructor, Tatiana, creates an incredible workout and choreography that allows you to either just keep up or stylize it to your own skill set. Tatiana is sweet, challenging, fun and super talented.” –Ashley L, Afro-HipHop Dance Workshop student

“This class is the most enjoyable cardio style dance class I’ve taken in my 20 years of taking classes at various studios and gyms in LA.  It’s a great workout whether you are a beginning dancer or a professional. Tatiana is a knowledgeable teacher with great energy and she creates such a welcoming environment.  Everyone is there to have a good time and a good time is ALWAYS had!  I always walk out of this class with a smile on my face.” – Tracy M, Afro-HipHop Dance Workshop student

 

Moonlight Reflections

“Through a diverse range of topics, from the female African American experience, to spirituality, materialism and struggles with family and the pains of growing up, Tatiana Zamir weaves these dramatic vignettes to tell a story of love, creativity, roots, forgiveness and healing that is truly inspirational…I left the theater floating on a higher physical and spiritual vibration!” ~Dustin G.

“[Moonlight Reflections] was AWESOME, I was moved!!! I laughed, cried, danced, etc.!! The entire cast… amazing. Folks NEED to see this work…” ~Leslie G.

Healing Hands Massage Therapy

“Tatiana truly has a talent of transporting your body and mind to a whole new level of bliss with her intuitive touch. “ – Taylor D, massage client

“I have traveled the world, literally, getting massages and body treatments everywhere I go. I have had just about every type of massage; shia-tzu, swedish, thai, spa pamper. Throughout every experience I always find something to complain about; it’s too hard, not hard enough, not long enough or just not all around complete. Healing Hands by Tatiana is the only time that I get to fully let go, not think and enjoy the love my muscles receive. ” -Yaani King, massage client

If the ultimate Purpose of Life here on earth is tied in any way to how effective we are at using our bodies, our minds, our talents and our time to inspire growth and healing in others, Tatiana Zamir is setting an excellent example of how to get that done—and how to have a great time doing it.

I recently sat down with Tatiana for an in-depth discussion that reveals how and why she is so committed to and effective at touching others, and why she is so good at telling the truth:

KC: Why are you on earth?

TZ: I’m a truth teller. I’ve always been a fan of the truth. It’s always come easy for me to express it, and I hope to inspire others to be closer to the truth–whatever that looks like in their own lives.

Why is truth telling so crucial to you?

In the Baha’i writings it is written that “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtue,” so we can’t really grow or develop spiritually if we cannot be truthful about where we are now. We are essentially spiritual beings and part of what helps us to be spiritually successful is to be truthful.

If Tatiana Zamir were a brand, what would that brand represent?

Vulnerablity. Truth. Healing. Creativity. Inspiration.  I’ve been hearing so many people say how inspired they were by Moonlight Reflections. Whether inspired to go create something themselves, or to finally address some situation in their lives that required truth telling and honesty. I think people saw on stage tangible examples of how being vulnerable can be the foundation for real change in our lives and in our relationships.

What does vulnerability mean to you?

There are no walls. Or fewer walls. I have a couple of walls as an artist and as a human, but there really are not many emotional boundaries I won’t cross. I’ve had people tell me that creatively and emotionally I’m really brave and courageous, though I don’t really feel that way because it comes so naturally to me.  Sharing is not something that’s hard for me. I think vulnerability is letting your walls down and not being afraid of what people will think and knowing that the truth is part of our foundation and that even though pain may come from being vulnerable, beauty will surely follow.

The ways that you reach for your fellow human beings are very tangible. Why are you so open to sharing your temple in such visible and tactile ways?

What else am I here for? If I can’t fully be myself and fully share myself with the world why do we even exist? Because I’m so attracted to the truth, I always want to get to the core of who people are and I want them to see me right away. I believe it gives people permission to be their true selves when I do that.

What inspired you to want to be a massage therapist?

It’s something I’ve always loved to do and I was always really good at it even before I received formal training. I hadn’t really considered massage as a career, but I have always been attracted to healing, and I know that when I massage a client I’m literally making the world a better place. Healing touch produces so much good in the world.

Your clients really do rave about your technique. What makes you such an awesome masseuse? There are a bazillion massage parlors in L.A., why do your clients come back to you?

I think people come back to me because I’m really in tune with what’s happening with people and I really nurture them while I massage them. That may sound like “duh doesn’t every masseur do that?” But, unfortunately, the answer is no, they don’t. I get massages myself all the time and I’m often disappointed because I feel like people are so disconnected from the touch they are putting on your body and the work they’re doing is not reflective of the frequency your body is at. I’m really good at connecting with people and being present with them. People often say to me “I’ve had massages all over the world and I’ve never experienced that before.” My clients say they go into a zone. They go to another realm. They get their muscles worked on but they’re having an out of body experience as well.

You are a person who lives and breathes dance. What are people missing out on when they have no dance in their lives at all?

I really feel everyone’s life would improve tremendously if they danced every day, and I believe that so strongly because of what it does for me. Dance really takes me to a higher place. No matter what frequency I’m at, when I dance, it takes me to an even higher one. If I’ve had a bad day, after dancing, no stress can touch me. If I’ve had a great day, I’m just that much happier. I don’t know if it’s from releasing endorphins and relieving stress or what, but I feel closer to the Creator. I feel a real spiritual high.

Can I experience that spiritual high vicariously through watching others dance, or do I need to experience it by actually dancing myself?

I think you could have a piece of that high by witnessing it. I think you can feel that and I think you can experience some of what we’re feeling. I think you take it to another level when you do it yourself. You’re feeling things that are unique to you and depending on how your body’s feeling and where you are, you’ll experience it at a uniquely personal level. It’s a different experience when you put yourself out there.

If I attended a session of your Afro-Hip Hop Dance Workout, what would make me want to come back?

I believe my students come back week after week because they get a great workout–they’re drenched at the end–but they’ve had an amazing time doing it. They’ve told me they really love the music. I mix up my playlist with Afro beat, dance hall, salsa and hip hop, and I”ll mix contemporary radio hits with old school artists like Common and the Roots. You would love the intimacy of the class too, and the uniqueness. It feels like family. Everyone is supportive and loving and you don’t always get that in a dance or exercise class. But my class is like a family reunion every time. People say they feel very supported and supportive there.

Your decision to create, choreograph and produce Moonlight Reflections must have been a huge leap of faith. Is this a new direction for you? Will you venture further into dance theater?

In the process of creating that show I felt a happiness I had never experienced before. It felt so right and it was clear that it was where I needed to be. It’s very new for me to even be thinking about this right now. This is a new dream for me. I had a burning desire to bring my ideas to life in a theater and have people witness it. I had no idea it would sell out two weeks in advance and that people would call for me to stage it again. I don’t know yet how this calling will continue to express itself in my life, but I do see myself in the future as a producer of work that heals and hopefully inspires others to heal and inspire others.

What did you learn about yourself in taking that risk?

Being a producer requires bringing a lot of skills to the table that I might not really need to use too often in other areas of life. Hiring and assessing and critiquing the expertise of staff for example. I had endless learning experiences, but the thing that really floored me was that I never anticipated how deeply moved people would be by my work. It’s inspiring and humbling to see how sharing truth can ripple out into other lives in meaningful ways. I am still receiving letters from people who were moved by Moonlight Reflections. And, I mean written letters sent in the mail. In this age of technology, that is so stunning to me. People must have been really moved and inspired for them to sit down and write me letters and share their stories with me. I’ve had so many parents say the show made them think twice about their relationships with their children. They really want to be different and open and truthful and work harder at nurturing their relationships. I also had many young people come up to me after the show to say they felt like I told pieces of their story so truthfully, without me even knowing their actual story.

A significant part of Moonlight Reflections entailed the abusive-turned-estranged-turned-healed relationship with your mother. Through movement, music and spoken word you told many truths about your childhood experiences with her that were not cute or sweet. You really exposed some hurtful things that many mothers would not want exposed. How did your mother feel about that?

Her friends were like “I can’t believe you let her say these things about you.” My mom’s response was, It wouldn’t have been as powerful if she didn’t. What Tati shared is the truth. It’s what happened. The healing part of our story is so powerful because the painful and uncomfortable part was truthfully and fully shared. The show created even more healing and love between us. I had never had so much support in my life from my mother as I did with developing and producing this show.

In the successful Kickstarter project you launched to fund the planning and production of Moonlight Reflections, you talked about how your mother’s transformation as a parent began with a spiritual experience. In a state of prayer and meditation she suddenly became you and she felt the tiny heart of a little girl that was so shattered by her actions. How did your mother begin to heal your injured relationship?

Our healing occurred because my mother was able to finally tell the truth after she was in denial for so long, and she was able to truly apologize for hurting me all those years. A true apology is when you really mean it, and I knew for the first time in my life that she meant it. In the past I felt her apologies were followed by a million excuses. “I’m sorry but I was a single mom and this and that…”

This apology was different in what way?

It was something I truly felt. It was genuine. It wasn’t an angry apology. It wasn’t an I’m sorry, but…”  It was genuine and it was beautiful. And, more importantly, after my mother apologized, she actually changed. She actually became a different mother. She doesn’t yell at me. She doesn’t verbally abuse me anymore. She came to a place where she really wanted something different for us. 

So many people were touched in amazing ways by your journey. What do you think we can all learn from your story of injury and healing?

The truth really will set you free, if you allow it to.  That saying has a whole new meaning for me now.

www.tatianazamir.com
twitter.com/tatianazamir


Jan 13 2012

Joshua Bennett’s ’10 Things I Want to Say to a Black Woman’ — To Click or Not to Click?

Spoken word artist Joshua Bennett has ten things he wants to say to a black woman, and I’m not sure I want to hear it.

I’ve happened upon Bennett’s YouTube video and I see that hundreds of thousands of viewers have already clicked play.

I’m curious, and dubious. Haven’t I seen more than enough of these user submitted monologues and their hurtful diatribe masquerading as “advice” on how black women can become less flawed?

Yes, I’m defensive, despite the fact that whatever Bennett’s message is, it is probably not directed at me.

As a “mixed” woman who did not inherit my black father’s genetic code for brown skin, I exist in a narrow category of African Americans for whom the “racial” identifier “black” is hesitantly (at times begrudgingly) applied. Despite my stubborn insistence on claiming my “blackness,” the truth is, I have walked through life experiencing the privileges white skin affords one in America. Privileges I am acutely aware of due to my proximity to brown-skinned family and friends whose social interactions differ so greatly from mine.

I’m sure there are some privileges I’m clueless about because they are conferred when I’m not paying attention to how brown I am not.

But sometimes I am paying attention.

Like recently when I sat with two four-year-old brown girls to watch Disney’s latest princess movie, Tangled. And, no, this won’t be a rant about popular culture’s preoccupation with the pretty white girl and her extra-long glistening blonde hair. I can discuss that image with my girls, no problem. I can confirm to my little ones that Rapunzel is bright, brave and beautiful under her blonde tresses, and in the next breath I will rave about how smart, sweet and stunning my girls are beneath their brunette twists and braids.

As a mother of four brown-skinned daughters, I have become quite adept at explaining how the Creator made us all with varied skin tones and physical features that are a perfect reflection of the Universe’s awesome diversity. In our discussions, brunette does not trump blonde. Long and straight isn’t more perfect than tightly kinked. Vanilla is delicious. Chocolate is delectable. It’s all good. It’s all beautiful. 

I can do that conversation. No sweat.

But there are times when the Media are so blatant and brutal in their bias against black women that it knocks me back a few paces and I have to regroup.

Like when Psychology Today publishes “scientific” findings on why black women are the least attractive on earth.

Or when the Los Angeles Times Magazine honors the 50 Most Beautiful Women in Film, and omits stunning black women who apparently are too brown to be visible.

Or when First Lady Michelle Obama must publicly defend herself against accusations she’s an “angry black woman.”

Or when filmmaker George Lucas spends his own money to make an amazing film about the black Tuskegee airmen of WWII, omits the black wives, and focuses instead on a love story featuring a Portuguese woman. (By the way, George, there were Tuskeegee Airwomen, too.)

With the exception of a rare few (most of whom are very light skinned), black women are not celebrated in mainstream American culture, or held up as role models for American children to cherish, respect and emulate.

Having said that…

We are twenty minutes into Tangled, these two little brown girls and I, and we are getting to know and love this feisty Rapunzel, and we are celebrating her escape from the tower, and she is led by prince-to-be Flynn Rider into a dark den of disgusting, mean , lawless outcasts, and…

Disney flings this dagger at my little loves:

Flynn Rider: You smell that? Take a deep breath through the nose. (He inhales.) Really let that seep in. What are you getting? Because to me, that’s part man-smell, and the other part is really bad man-smell. I don’t know why, but overall it just smells like the color brown.

Really, Disney?

There wasn’t one human being among the hundreds who worked on this picture who read/saw that scene and said something like,

“Um, won’t there be little brown children watching this? Won’t this movie be around, like, forever, and should we equate the skin color of millions of children who will watch this with ‘really bad man smell’?”

*blink*

Seriously?

And, what might this moment have to do with white privilege?

Everything.

It has everything to do with having the privilege (or not having it) of raising daughters in a society where their skin color will be publicly celebrated. Where it will be held up as something beautiful and worthy of admiration and protection. Where it will not be referred to, even indirectly, as something really bad smelling.

Before you watch Joshua Bennett’s poem, watch this excerpt from Kiri Davis’s brilliant film A Girl Like Me, and ask yourself what is going on in the heart and soul of this little girl at marker 1:36. What messages has she already received about being a black girl, and from where are they coming? Who will counter those messages with beautiful truth?

I must admit, when I clicked on Bennett’s YouTube video, “10 Things I Want to Say to a Black Woman,” I steeled myself for what I suspected would be another disgruntled man giving “advice” to black women on how to be less “angry” and more “lovable.”

Not even close.


May 23 2011

Sometimes ‘Scientists’ Really Aren’t

If you haven’t heard or read about Psychology Today blogger Satoshi Kanazawa’s recent proclamation that he could “scientifically” explain why Black women are the least attractive women on earth, consider yourself fortunate to not have that garbage in your head. (The article was quickly removed from the Psychology Today website, but if you really care what he had to say, you can find screenshots of that mess at BuzzFeed.)

Though Psychology Today hurriedly flushed this nasty PR problem, I’m keeping the conversation about the article alive because I believe Kanazawa has pulled the lid off an ugly little secret many people are hiding. He was idiotic enough to reveal his bias against Black women by trying to scientific­ally rationaliz­e it, but there are millions of others (of every ethnicity) who don’t even know or admit they have it.

Ideas about beauty are not “objective­,” they are learned. Western culture has systematic­ally diminished the value and dignity of Black women for centuries, while consistently offering Euro-featured women as the “ideal” or “standard” for what it is to be beautiful or desirable. The best thing about the disgusting sentence I just wrote is that if something can be learned, it can be unlearned and/or re-taught.

That a so-called scientist would try to “prove” why one group of women is inferior to another speaks volumes about him, but offers no insight into an issue as socially and psychologically profound as white supremacy.

If you read my previous post “The Darker the Berry…The More Invisible?” you saw how the LA Times Magazine’s article “The 50 Most Beautiful Women in Film” offered an excellent example of media bias against non-Euro-featured women. I received a lot of positive feedback about that post, but a few people wrote to let me know that LA Times Magazine doesn’t “owe” our brown-skinned daughters anything.

Right. Just like the Montgomery city bus system didn’t owe Rosa Parks a seat in the front of the bus.

The Media’s relationship with us is supposed to be reciprocal–we watch/listen to their broadcasts, buy their publications and support their advertisers. So, while I’m paying attention to the L.A. Times Magazine, why shouldn’t they be paying attention to whether my brown daughter sees herself in their public definition of beauty?

Ev­ery parent of a little brown girl knows how creative and diligent we must be if we are to successfully counter all that social brainwashi­ng and instill a sense of beauty, value and dignity in our daughters. But, we should not be the only ones doing that for them. ALL PARENTS of ALL CHILDREN should be instilling in their sons and daughters an appreciation of beauty in all of its diverse human expressions.

Why?

Because it is right.