Dance Changed My Life… By Natasha Wozniak

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Above Photo: I performed at a friend’s wedding bonfire, photo by Rima Shamieh

Did you ever find yourself going out for an evening and having it lead to experiences that you couldn’t have imagined in your wildest dreams?

Back in 2006, I was making a beautiful line of jewelry, with delicate silver and gold tendrils sprinkled with colored stones. The line was in a lot of stores, and its success made me happy, but I was also burned out, trying to do everything myself.  The pieces were cast, which meant I made an original, sent it off to the caster, who returned multiples that I then had to finish by hand. My studio had turned into a one-person factory.

Left Photo: A very popular design from my first collection

For 5 years, I had immersed myself in the jewelry world, to the exclusion of everything else. You could find me at every conference, trade show, reading magazines and books about jewelry. My husband would beg me to talk about something other than jewelry. But around this time a friend invited me to see her Middle Eastern drum performance, and even though I was working overtime getting ready for a trade show, I knew that she really wanted me to be there.

What happened that night was one of those moments when life switches course irrevocably, and a new path opens up. My friend was accompanying a belly-dance group. After the student performances, a dancer named Kaeshi took the stage. Her style of belly dance was magical, and I was awestruck. She wasn’t Middle Eastern, and her Asian background also led me to ponder the boldness of her choice to become a belly dancer. The combination of who she was and her signature dance created a pull in me that I could not resist. I surprised my husband by telling him, “I want to do that.”

I studied with Kaeshi for 1 1/2 years, thinking of it as fun and fitness, when she started to ask me to perform at her weekly event. I came up with every possible excuse to avoid this terrifying prospect, for a year! Finally, Kaeshi enlisted one of my friends as her ally, and added a couple of cocktails to break my resistance. I actually really wanted to perform, but I was also afraid of what might result.

But once I was in, I was in all the way. For that first performance, I surprised Kaeshi by creating my own choreography and my own costume. The reluctant performer turned creative director. This, after a year of cajoling me just to get on the stage! I was overwhelmed by the joy of being on stage, the cheers, the happy faces of the audience.

I started to embrace my performing nature. I found collaborators around downtown NY, working my way up to an all-day dance performance that started in Central Park and wound its way down Fifth Avenue; a stage at the Brooklyn Academy of Music; and even a dance festival in Bali. I explored classical Balinese dance and added some underground dance styles to the mix. I had moments I could not have conceived of in my wildest dreams.

Left Photo: At the House Dance International conference. Photo by Becca Fox

So here I was getting this bold and electric feeling from performing, but in the studio, I was holding myself back. When I looked at myself in those full-length mirrors in the dance studio, I saw that there was a discord between my physical presence and what I was designing. People frequently described my work as “dainty.” Like many women who got tall very young, I was always aware that “dainty” was something I was not. How had I ended up making “dainty” jewelry?

Dance had taught me to release fear of judgment, and pushed me far out of my comfort zone. When I took that back to the studio, what emerged was the Wrought Collection. Big and bold. No longer a cast collection, these pieces were one of a kind and hand-fabricated. It wasn’t that I didn’t love the old work, but this collection represented a more authentic representation of my artistic voice: boldy romantic.

Right Photo: Baroque Wrought Bracelet

Today I am stirring up the creative mix once again. Last year, I focused on developing my business, really getting down to the core of what I do. Concurrently, I was suffering from hip pain that prevented me from dancing. But last Wednesday night, my body was finally ready, and I took to the stage and danced with intensity. Meanwhile, in the more solitary environment of the studio, I am applying an equal intensity to creating new collections. And as I do, I smile thinking of you feeling that electric charge of attention when you wear them.

Have you had an experience like this? Have you ever thought about skipping a performance, gathering, art opening because of over work, only to go and have your life changed forever? If so, please share it with me in the comments, I would love to hear your stories!

Visit Natasha Wozniak’s site and see her jewelry collection.