Out of the Shadows: Jaiyana

This post is the first in a series of interviews with the performers you have come to know and love as part of Dark Follies.  The show would not be what it is without the diverse and talented performers that participate in the shows.  Their dedication to their various arts and their willingness to share those talents with the world is what keeps our audiences entertained and leaves them asking for more.

Our first featured performer is well known for her own talents and those of her performance partner, Stabby.  A versatile and charismatic dancer, Jaiyana has been performing with Dark Follies since our very first street show in 2008.

Jaiyana - April 2011 - Vaudeville Never Died (photo by Nate Hall)

1.      What do you do and how did you come to do it?

I’m a dancer.  I have a special interest in American Tribal Style (ATS) bellydance, a modern art form with ancient roots that allows dancers to collaborate in the moment.  I teach classes at my studio in downtown Portland, Bright Star World Dance. I’m also the artistic director of Magnolia Devi, a professional ATS bellydance company, as well as Saraswati, my advanced student troupe.

I’ve been dancing all my life — over the years I’ve studied modern, tap, jazz, a little bit of ballroom, and lots of flamenco — but never felt comfortable in my body until I came to tribal-style bellydance.  I found a class when I was living in Flagstaff, AZ in 2003, and thought it would be a great way to meet women friends.  I quickly fell head-over-heels in love with the movement and theatricality of the art form, as well as the way it allows dancers to connect with each other.

There’s also a radical sort of body acceptance that happens when you’re connected with yourself and another person — judgement falls away and gets replaced by presence and bliss.

I also really like dancing with swords. Sword dance is powerful, playful, and theatrical, and it shows off the strength of the female body.

 2.      Where do you find inspiration?

First, from my primary teacher and mentor, Carolena Nericcio of FatChance BellyDance in San Francisco. American Tribal Style is her brainchild and aesthetic, and I study with her whenever I’m able. I find inspiration from her personal presence as well – she is calm, deliberate, and kind when it makes sense to be.

Also: I love collaborating and innovating with other local dancers and performers. The creativity within our local performing arts community blows me away. Portland has a huge amount of talent for a city its size.

And, of course, from audiences. One of the great things about being part of Dark Follies over the years is that I’ve learned a little bit about street performance, and how adaptable and creative one needs to be in order to keep audiences happy.
3.      How did you become a part of Dark Follies?

I was honored to be asked to be part of the very first Dark Follies!  I’ve been part of almost every First Friday show since then, as well as a lot of the stage performances.

 4.      What is your favorite part of performing with Dark Follies?

The reactions to my sword. I love the kids especially.  There was this one kid once, maybe eight or nine years old, who said to loudly to his dad during a show: “That’s not a real sword!” So I walked over to him, showed him the edge, and said: “Does it look like a real sword?”

The kid’s eyes got huge, and he shut up.  The dad just smiled!

 5.      When you leave this world for the great hereafter what do you hope to be remembered for?

Leaving the world a little more beautiful and interesting than I found it.

6.      If you were left on a deserted island and you were allowed one book and one tool what would you choose to bring?

Book: American Gods, by Neil Gaiman – I could re-read this book a thousand times and never get sick of it.
Tool: machete. Preferably one that will balance on my head.  Just in case.

7.  How can people find you…should you want to be found?


… or at my dance studio:

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