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Interview with the joyfully jaunty Jazida

I am so glad and honored to be able to interview so many Australian performers and this incredible performer is no exception! Jazida is a very talented performer, producer, teacher, title holder, business savvy person (and more) residing in our nation's capital, Canberra. I have had the pleasure of performing in a number of shows with Jazida (and lucky enough to have been employed in Decadence and Debauchery a few times too). I hope you enjoy reading about this fabulous performer (don't forget, jazida's links are at the bottom of this article - as well as the like button).

(photo by Captavitae)

1. You are an established performer with a few genres up your sleeve, when did you start performing? How did you get into live performance? What was your first experience of burlesque? I started performing in 2009 as a belly dancer (performing at restaurants). I started doing burlesque because I had just had my 2nd baby and it was just too hard to get to my regular gigs/classes, so I thought I’d try out something totally different and found a class closer to my house. I was inspired to try our burlesque because I had been a huge fan of Kelly Ann Doll for many years! Kelly actually taught at my Hens night back in 2009 in Melbourne and I’d had that little taster from her and had been following her incredible legacy on social media since then! 2. Tell me about the styles of performance you do. What would you say your signature style is? Do you have a signature move or act? My background is in bellydance, so that movement vocabulary heavily influences my work, but I try to fuse lots of different styles together. I think I’m most known for fan dancing with silk fan veils and feather fans – I take a lot of inspiration from fire twirling technique and love to fling them around like they’re poi.

3. Artists are inspired by many things, what inspires you to perform? I love the community and meaningful connections that come with dance and performance. It’s the human connection that drives me to keep at it 4. You have been awarded numerous titles in your performing career thus far. What has been your favourite title/title you are most proud to hold? Why?  The award I’m most proud of is “Best Dance” for “Catch Jazida” at the Adelaide Fringe Festival Weekly Awards. “Catch Jazida” is such a special show to me. It was developed over for so many years and I put a lot of my heart and soul into it and it really means so much to see it recognised. My second favourite is that I’ve been nominated twice for “biggest contribution to the Burlesque Industry” at the 'Busties'. Supporting the local community is such a huge part of what I do and I dedicate a huge amount of my life to it, so it’s such an honour to see it recognised nationally. 5. What is the most challenging thing about competitions? What was the most rewarding? Do you have any advice for performers who want to compete? The most important thing is to have good intentions going in. If you enter a competition hoping to win – you may end up devastated. If you enter a competition hoping to create your best work that you’re the most proud of – then your fate lies in your hands. The most rewarding element is also the most challenging... and that’s cornering yourself into a deadline that you HAVE to meet. 6. You performed at the prestigious Burlesque Hall of Fame for the Movers, Shakers and Innovators Showcase in 2018.  What prompted you to apply for BHOF? What was your experience like in the US? I decided to apply because performers that I respected saw my work and told me I should. I figured it didn’t hurt to try, and I could fight with myself forever about why I shouldn’t.... but the best growth comes from throwing yourself into situations that feel a bit out of your depths and I’m so glad I did! US was so interesting! My biggest take away is that the Australian burlesque industry is INCREDIBLE! The quality that we produce here really is world class!

(photo by Damien Geary)

7. You produce a fabulous show called Decadence and Debauchery, which I have had the delightful opportunity to perform in. How did you start producing? What have been the highlights of producing D&D? I started producing because I really believe in elevating alternate performing arts and artists.... and paid performance opportunities are a big part of skilling up! Highlights of producing Dec and Deb is bringing amazing interstate artists (such as yourself) to Canberra to perform and help upskill our local community. I love seeing the amazing acts from across the country and workshops people bring and how the local artists take the things they’re learnt and run with it! 8. You have been streaming live performances - how has this impacted the way you produce or perform? Has it been a new learning curve as a creative? I really love the accessibility that live streaming provides! It’s been so nice seeing people contact me saying how thankful they are to be able to see the shows despite being stuck at home due to disabilities/parenting duties. It has really driven home how important accessibility is and it’s encouraged me to continue having Auslan interpreters at shows and doing what I can to help people engage where they might not otherwise been able to. So far, my live stream shows have been run alongside a small socially distanced live-audience... Which means that the way in which we produce/perform has still been pretty similar... but gosh it’s exciting all the new and creative doors this digital delivery method opens up! I’ve been really digging all these creative video-clip style acts I’ve been seeing emerging.

9. A performer, producer, teacher powerhouse, tell me how the Fabulous Fan Society came about? All the punny acronyms are great! You provide a lot of community engagement and local performance opportunities - How have the classes (online and in person) been received in the local community? What future plans do you have for the FFS? The Fabulous Fan Society has been a dream of mine for many years! I used to participate in a similar thing within the fusion bellydance world called “Pseudo Skirt” run by a dancer called Ma’isah... It was so long ago, that we used to receive the video tutorials on DVDs that were posted out to us! We’d learn across Australia and then all come together at big bellydance festivals and it was such an incredible way to meet dancers from the other side of Australia and make friends that you’d never expect to make otherwise. Another magnificent part, was being part of 40+ dancers all cramming on the stage together... It was something I always wanted to make possible with fan dancing – so 2020 was the year it was going to happen! The fact that this pandemic hit, making online learning modules more desirable, was pure chance! The classes have been well received and I’ve got a lot of good feedback from people (particularly around having x2 HD cameras for front and back vision at the same time).. but it’s so hard with many of our performance opportunities being hijacked by Covid. I’m really looking forward to the future when we can all come together and perform as a group (as was always the vision). The actual learning part if only part of the fun! 10. You have an impressive list of accomplishments- one of those is you have recently been nominated as a finalist for the Local Business Awards in Canberra - congratulations! How did you feel when you were nominated? What do you hope might come from this? I’m so damn thrilled!!!! At the core of Jazida Productions is a aim to see all people represented and celebrated on our stages. I put my effort into removing barriers to professional development for artists, removing barriers to performance opportunities for artist, supporting meaningful connections, community and networking, and demonstrating that burlesque/stripping is a legitimate and amazing art form. I’m really hoping that by being recognised as a finalist, it will open even more doors to allow me to continue to do this kind of work... I want to be able to solidify business partnerships, gain sponsorship, and secure more grants/funding to help this good stuff that makes a difference to the community continue to happen and expand. 11. You toured your show 'Catch Jazida' earlier this year. Tell us a little about the show. What was it like creating an entire 'solo' show from scratch? What was your inspiration for the theme? What was the most challenging thing? And what was most rewarding? I’m so proud of this show! I was very fortunate to secure funding from ArtsACT to develop this work and I learnt so damn much through the process! Thanks to the funding, I got to work with Miss Friby (who provided mentorship and direction through the creative development process) and she really helped me to understand my own show and how everything fits together. I really recommend having someone on you side like that if you’re creating a solo show for the first time – I don’t think I could have done it without her. Developing “Catch Jazida” was such an extremely intensive learning period in my life! Not only was it learning a huge amount about writing scripts, using Q-lab, new ways of making acts, direction, set design, writing music, choreography, etc etc... but I also learnt a LOT of other things that I didn’t expect. In particular, I learnt a lot about communication, managing expectations, and contract management. I learnt about balancing home life and work life (kinda, almost). I learnt hard lessons about who to trust and who not to. The most challenging part of developing the show was being utterly screwed over by a very unethical performer, who was originally booked to play my co-star. The whole project ended up being way behind schedule as a result, I copped a lot of emotional abuse, and I was out of pocket $1,300 (which I eventually got back – but only after 8 months of invoices and finally threatening to go to ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal). It made, what was already a very stressful and emotionally challenging process almost unbearable. HOWEVER... the wonderful flip side of that, is the most rewarding part, which is that I got to bring Artemis Seven on as my co-star! Artemis is an absolute LEGEND and brought so much more to show than I could have hoped for – she really did elevate the show to a whole new level that I couldn’t have imagined! She is such a hard worker and helped me to pull together all the pieces and we ended up acquitting the grant on time, despite the initial sabotage! 12. You had grant funding for Catch Jazida - what was the grant application process like? Do you have any tips for performers applying for grants? Oh heck!!! YES! If anyone is trying to apply for grants for burlesque, please do contact me, because I have learnt so much through this process! I had been applying for years and been getting knocked back, gathering feedback, tweaking applications, trying again on LOOP until it finally happened! And truly, that’s probably the best advice I could give – if you throw your hat in the ring 10 times, you only need a 10% success rate to win. Not just that, but every time you apply and get feedback, you learn a little bit more about the funding body that you are speaking to. There is a lot of public information they provide. However, there are also other considerations, stakeholders, and agendas that might not be as easy to know about. Since getting that first grant in 2019, I’ve now secured x2 other grants, which just goes to show that there is a lot of be said for understanding the process and knowing how to play the game. I was also fortunate to be a peer assessor on the artsACT panel, which meant that I got to read 64 grant applications and help select where the funding went (which was a HUGE eye opener that helped me to really understand how it all works and what people are looking for). As a general tip... Go into it knowing that grant writing sucks. The process is LONG and exhausting and the inevitable rejections always hurt. Give yourself a lot of time (it usually takes me a good week to write an application, because there’s so much evidence and signatures to gather and attach) and be kind to yourself through the process. Make sure you are doing things to reward yourself when you get through the drafting process (because otherwise it can feel like several days disappearing for nothing). Take up the opportunity to learn from people who have done it before you! I’m happy to do workshops and I know a lot of other artists are also happy to help! I believe that “Creative + Business” (which is a Sydney based business support service for the creative arts) can offer grant writing assistance and I can vouch for their ability to provide really useful advice and guidance.

(photo by Etienne Reynuald)

13. What is your proudest moment as a performer thus far and why? I’m most proud of Catch Jazida. I’m proud because it really is my pièce de résistance, which combines so many different acts and skills I’ve been developing over many years. But I’m also really proud of it, because it’s a bit of a feature in terms of me coming out (while I don’t think of myself as having “been in the closet” before that... it was the first time that Jazida was properly acknowledged as queer in a public forum) 14. What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind as a performer? I want people to remember me as someone that supported other artists and helped support representation of all types of people and bodies on stage. I want people to be able to say that they felt like it was possible for them to do the thing because the path had been cleared for them in some way. 15. What are your future plans/goals as a performer/producer? My dream is to open up a dedicated space for alternate performing arts. I want to create a hub, where artists can upskill, connect together, perform, and where everyone can enjoy the benefits of this kind of safe space and associated community. You can follow Jazida online by clicking the links below: Facebook Instagram Website Jazida Productions Facebook Jazida Productions Instagram Fabuous Fan Dancers Facebook Fabulous Fan Dancers Instagram

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