This week, we’d like to show our love and appreciation to the amazing Natasha “Tash” Jean-Bart. This outstanding Canadian artist has paved the way for so many dancers in our community. Tash is an accomplished professional and connector who is actively sought out by companies and dancers for her balanced, fundamental, and progressive approach to teaching, consulting, coaching and mentoring.
After years of study in jazz, Natasha Jean-Bart became interested in the various street dance styles. She was inspired by her mentors and went abroad to study “locking” with original members of THE LOCKERS and other pioneers. She is responsible for bringing the art of locking back to the Montreal community. Tash was also the head judge and consultant for the USA World Hip Hop Dance Championships for 7 years straight, and she portrayed the role of LADY MADONNA in The Beatles “LOVE” by Cirque Du Soleil at the MGM Mirage in Las Vegas. On top of that, she is the CEO and creative director of WÄTTSSOUL INC (https://wattssoul.com), an interactive platform aiming to inspire, promote, and support unique artistic identity with creative visual content and clever storytelling.
Tash has touched so many people with her love for dance and self-expression. With the amount of passion and dedication she possesses, she has this incredible gift of lighting up an energetic fire deep within any artist she works with. We couldn’t think of a better representation of what a YGTGirl is all about and we are very excited for you to read all about Natasha Jean-Bart. Thank you Tash for your incredible heart and for all the good you have created in the dance community!
How have you learned to embrace your authentic voice?
Ha! Now that is not an easy question to answer. I must say that I have learned to embrace my "authentic voice" after many MANY years of trial and error. I was born in 1971. I am not certain that women (our mothers and grandmothers) in those days wondered about how to find their authentic voice let alone knew what authenticity really meant. Authenticity was ascribed to material things, and did not necessarily define an inner quality.
dcFA woman's first instinct is tribal — to protect, serve and love our families. We spend our youth looking for fulfilling relationships, but haven't been necessarily taught how or where to find meaning because meaning is ascribed to a feeling or some "thing". You cannot find meaning if you do not know what is truly meaningful to you. How do you then embrace your authentic voice let alone find it?
What came naturally to me was love, yet it was also my conditioning. From the moment women are born, we are internally and externally wired to build and provide a nest of protection for those we love. There are so many expectations — to be pretty, to love, to be talented, patient, motherly — to become perfect in an imperfect world ruled by ideals that have long deviated from the sacred feminine.
It is only in the last few generations that more of us had our own little "r"evolution as we taught ourselves to be strong, to be competitive, to make a stand, to give and have it all and, through it all, keep striving for equality. Today, it is now possible to attain goals in measures that were once reserved for men only but unfortunately this came at a cost. In doing so, women gained more freedom, but too often started to feel un-centered and lose sight of their values. They began to walk what I call the "tight rope", and in heels, because society wanted and demanded that we do it gracefully. As a side note, we all know that wearing heels is bad for the alignment of our bodies, but we do it anyway! We too often do things in order to feel validated, significant, successful and celebrated by "the other". Unfortunately, it's a painful process to awaken and notice the parts of you that are "lost", and suddenly remember who you were always meant be. Some of us even feel we have to dim our light because what happens when we start finding those seeds of truth, which seep out at random, is that it often creates a lot of chaos in both our lives and the lives of our loved ones.
In trying to be everything to everyone I was faced with the realization that I was not giving or serving from a place of strength, because to learn how to serve well we must first know and serve ourselves — our "true" selves. But too many times, we get stuck in the fantasy. The real-life characters often mirror the various archetypes of our fairy tale books. The American philosopher, writer, and cognitive scientist Daniel Dennett said, "Our tales are spun, but for the most part we don't spin them; they spin us." This struck a chord with me. These (un-fair) fairy tale endings teach girls to wait for Prince Charming in order to live their happily ever after. This is our conditioning — to "be" that light for the world without understanding what "being" is. Hence, we lose ourselves in the "doing".
I often use my youth as an example when explaining how I used to run around like a chicken without a head. It pretty much sums up why I bumped and crashed into everything and unconsciously set myself up for a lot of "failures" and suffering (of course, they were lessons and not failures). I also discovered a few months ago that the etymology of the word "passion" comes from the Latin root "pati" which means "suffer". It was a sort of revelation for me to understand this at age 45. Through passion we also learn compassion, which means co-suffering (to suffer with others). As young girls we have to learn how to spark, hold, tame and share our inner flame with others, all the while avoiding setting wild fires inside us and along our paths. Passion makes you feel alive; it can also set you on a burdensome path. It can be threatening to the people you love and this is why they may seem way more comfortable when your light is dimmed. You must learn to stand in your center before you traverse the abyss and before you kindle that fire. If you do too much too soon you end up burning the tightrope (the bridge) from both ends while you are dangling from it. You either become repressed or reactive, both are shadows with potential for growth. There is always an arc to each of our stories. We often think it's when we come upon success. I discovered that my story arc peeked during my "dark night of the soul". This is the place where I realized that all of the things I thought mattered most had lost their meaning; this is the place where I first heard my inner voice. It's in that moment that I began to observe my "not-self" in a constant state of mindless "doing" instead of a conscious "being". Things had to die — careers, relationships, ideals etc., in order for me to be able to reclaim my true self, to rebirth my "natural" state without urgency and anxiety.
When you reach what you "think" is your "authentic voice" you may also notice it has so much to say. We begin to understand that what we are is a synthesis of all of our experiences. More and more, young people are asked the "authenticity" question very early, sometimes too early. The pressure to know and find that authentic voice can actually be more of a burden than an answer. You cannot bypass the lessons or take shortcuts. What matters at 17 does not matter at 45. This is why you must listen, observe, and only pick what you know is right and true to you in the moment. Your authentic voice is not one voice — it is not singular. It has many gradients and layers that must be nurtured over time. As women, we are multidimensional beings, each with a potential to walk this life majestically. And to walk that tightrope you must learn to become supple, flexible and ultimately know that your voice will mature in time. Don't rush to the finish line, be in your now, let the being inform your doing, or as I often say, let the inner Buddha (supreme self/being) inform the outer warrior. The warrior will go out into the world to find focus and meaning. When meaning is found, only naturalness arises, your Buddha-self arises. The warrior must transcend. This is the quintessence of life.
Who are some of the current activist who inspires you and your work?
This question created a sort of rabbit hole in which I searched my memory for the names of the activists that have made the biggest impact on my life. Finally I came to the realization that there are too many to list here.
I had to admit to myself that I couldn't name just one. Fundamentally, at the source, I am a pacifist. I have always been the mediator and peacemaker so although I can appreciate activism it's difficult to align myself with one cause since ALL of them stand in their truths. I would most likely be the girl going on a hunger strike just to create the sort of change that this world needs (sort of like Gandhi, but I also know that Gandhi wasn't perfect).
I am incredibly inspired by my best friend, Lara Tavares, who is a true activist and founded a successful philanthropic youth organization in Toronto, Canada called Sky's The Limit Youth Organization (www.stlonline.org). Their mission is to narrow the Digital Divide by refurbishing used laptops and donating them to youth who need them. Lara took a small detour to fully immerse herself into motherhood, but still holds her title as Honorary Chair/Founder of the organization where she was once CEO. Watching her defeat the odds of the philanthropic world taught me so much about the power of one woman's passion and dedication. She has become my mentor, and one of my biggest supporters. In many ways, she is the opposite of me, yet we balance each other on so many levels. In the end we also discovered that we want the same thing — to serve humanity, so at the source we are the same, but different. We are true soul mates.
It is really important to get to know the person and the motivations behind the causes they defend. It's hard to fully celebrate and support an activist if I cannot sit with that person in a room, and get to the root of who they are. My advice is to never blindly follow anyone. Study them, study their causes, and always try to remain aware along any of the paths you choose to take. This is why YGTG is such a great project for young women. You get to meet Kim and Mel face to face, as human beings first, which outweighs the myths that they face as professional dancers. You have a first row seat and can watch them craft their art into a vehicle that serves a bigger purpose. They also introduce you to the women and ideas that have shaped them into who they are today. I have always known that finding guides along the path is a gift as long as you don’t project your own ideals onto them. It's an exchange of gold. It's sacred and we must always remember that sometimes we must give the gold back to the person who has asked us to carry it in the first place. I learned this from a great book by Robert Johnson called Inner Gold (Understanding psychological projection).
We love that you are wife, mother, dancer, writer and a painter. You are someone who shows girls that you can have it all! Can you tell about how these experiences have helped shaped you as a woman?
I have an abstract way of thinking so I need to tell you this story to explain my process. My best friend Lara asked my permission to get my astrology chart done by a good friend of hers who also happens to be sort of a psychic. At first I was a bit skeptical about it - then a tad nervous. What if the person said something that I didn't want to hear, what if I didn't want to know. And then, after letting go of my need to protect my inner structure, I decided to surrender and welcome the process. I would like to share with you this small excerpt from what the astrologer said about me (as they interpreted from my chart); "She can create a fantasy about what she wants to do with her life, and then make it a reality - she can really execute on her dreams so her dreams come true and she is absolutely aware of that." When I heard this, my whole spirit agreed. But how does someone who doesn't know me know this about me. This information could seem irrelevant to some, but to me it was evidence. I knew this to be accurate and the truth. From the perspective of a dancer that had once lived in the doing for years, I somehow stumbled onto new territories and began a sort of self-observation through writing because there was so much output in my life. Growing up, I identified most as a girl with big dreams of becoming a professional dancer. Yet it seemed there was always a higher force pulling the strings. It was from these signposts that I was able to unearth that voice. They always seemed to be at odds, the stable homemaker and mother vs. the free-spirited street dancer. The introspective nature balanced out my need to investigative and study everything. Both were necessary in order to gain knowledge and mastery. The first time I fired my arrows into the world, I flew from Montreal to Los Angeles to attend B-boy Summit 1999. I was a 28 year-old mother of three. From that point on, I unconsciously accepted my dual life. I am a spiritual being who loves the ethereal nature of life, yet I am extremely practical and grounded in reality. I am dreamy, yet completely present in the now. Through the synthesis of these opposing forces waging in my life, I forged the ultimate woman that seems to "have it all". To expand on this notion, it is important for me to explain what having it ALL (for me) entails. ALL is therefore, about learning to embody and master many different things — JUST at different times. I believe that you cannot be ALL at one moment. You must learn to cultivate yourself, like you cultivate a garden. You must imitate nature. There are seasons for each flower, fruit and seed. You cannot plant a seed when the soil is diseased. This is the key. You must know your soil, water it, and diversify it by planting other seeds that will in turn strengthen the soil's (soul's) potency. This way it will produce healthy new roots and shoots. The first Big Bang of the soul for me was when I started noticing the recurring signs around me. This was and still is my secret. When the signs would appear on the road, often in the natural world, and sometimes in a book, my inner voice would say, "This is for you. Observe this." This eventually became the insight I needed to overcome the intense obligations of being a full-time dancer and full-time mother. It also inspired me to start journaling my thoughts to calm the excess energy. It invited me to recognize and embrace my inner authentic voice. It also taught me to recognize others that had found theirs. If there is one thing all girls should have is a journal. That is the second secret — Write everything down.
What is your definition of a YGTGirl?
A YGTGirl is a girl that wears many hats, but tends to her heart. Her style is ever changing, yet she forever stands in her truths — with or without heels!