By Nancy R. Elliott
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERS0N — Hands wind almost snake-like toward the ceiling as hips circle. Shoulders shimmy, and the sound of gentle jingling spills over the subtly alluring music. It’s sensual, graceful, intriguing: belly dancing.
Blonde, bright-eyed Tatiana Smith leads the dance and reminds her dancers to concentrate on the motions of the belly dance: hip circles, pelvic circles, chest circles.
“It’s like a conversation between a man and a woman,” Smith says as everyone follows. They pull their sheer, colorful veils up as they turn. “So, we’re flirting, just like that.”
It all looks and sounds elegantly exotic. It seems to transport both dancers and watchers to some other world, but it’s Anderson, Indiana where Tatiana teaches belly dancing.
“For women, this is absolutely great – it’s almost our nature,” says Tatiana.
Ballet to belly dancing
Tatiana starts each class with ten minutes of ballet moves. Ballet is fundamental to Tatiana who first learned it in her native Russia. She coaches her students in a gentle, lilting voice, still heavily accented from her homeland. As she speaks and moves, watching herself and her students in the wall mirror, she is ever smiling. It’s a smile that reaches her eyes, and flows through her graceful movements.
“She's a good teacher,” said student Tammy Barker. She’s been coming to Tatiana’s studio for two years. Barker and other students walk in the door, take off their shoes and replace them with ballet slippers. Each one dons a hip scarf adorned with numerous coins.
Barker gives her hips a shake, and the coins jingle. She started out studying yoga with Tatiana, then joined the belly dancing class.
“I’ve always wanted to do it. It’s kind of exotic. It’s fun. It’s good exercise,” said Barker. She also noted, "It's beautiful."
Tatiana points out that it really does offer a good workout, especially for the abdominals. As she steps her class through the ballet warm-up, she focuses the students on their bodies.
“Leg strong, like a guitar string,” says Tatiana, coaching the class.
Moving just feels good
The women who come to learn belly dancing at Tatiana's studio, "Yoga for Everyone," are a mix of ages and shapes, but they seem to have at least one thing in common. They’re enjoying themselves.
Marianne Woolbert, like Barker, came to belly dancing via yoga.
“(Tatiana) said it’s good abdominal workout. Now I just love it. It’s a great group of people. It’s just great exercise. You’re having fun,” said Woolbert.
Tatiana hails from Petersburg, Russia. She took ballet and gymnastics training there, although a spine injury prevented further work in gymnastics. She has lived in the U.S. for almost 20 years.
“I love sport and to be connected with sport,” said Tatiana, 52. Still, like many others, Tatiana has adjusted her activities to accommodate previous injuries. Yoga and belly dancing seem to be working well for the youthful, vibrant woman. In fact, it appears to be working for those in her classes, too.
Janie Rada is 84 years old. She easily gets up off her yoga mat, happy to talk about it.
“You stay more limber. It’s really a good thing for your body,” said Rada. “My doctor recommended yoga to me. I have really enjoyed it. I really have a good time at it.”
Connie Reding and June Risk, both 63, have been doing yoga with Tatiana since the get-go.
“I am so much more limber now. I’m stronger now,” said Reding. She pointed out how yoga helps with balance, too. “I think this helps with quality of life. You become focused on your body, your lifestyle. It makes you think about what you eat.”
No one in the class seems to look their age. Tatiana said that after about two months in the class, she notices people look a little different. Is it the exercise? Tatiana’s easy response is that they’re happy.
Yoga for Everyone
Tatiana got into yoga herself first taking classes at Excel in Anderson. She earned her certification and taught at the YMCA. Doing much of the work online, Tatiana spent another year getting a more exclusive certification through Deepak Chopra’s California-based training center. That’s when she decided to open her own studio.
“Yoga is for everyone. It doesn’t matter what religion you have,” says Tatiana. She is thrilled to see her students develop muscle, improve flexibility, and discover how to calm their minds down.
“They love yoga because they can do it… They love it. They’re committed. You feel better. You feel relaxed. It’s a lot of benefit from that,” says Tatiana. Students are happy and eager to confirm it.
“I suffered with chronic back and hip pain and leg numbness,” said student Vonnie Wright. “I began practicing yoga to try to strengthen those areas, and it has worked for me. My middle core has been strengthened, and that has helped to relieve the restrictions and pain that I had.”
The benefits went beyond that. “I was also blessed to find [Tatiana] to be a true friend who taught me to meditate and find spiritual growth to appreciate all of God's wonderful creation.”
It’s Tatiana’s inner light and her willingness to share it that seems to really inform her classes.
“She is beautiful, inside and out and deserves to be recognized for her positive force in a world filled with the opposite,” noted a student.
Yoga for Everyone is located at 12 E. Cross St. in north Anderson. For more information call 724-1377 or find it on Facebook.