We had the good fortune of connecting with Tasha Straszewski and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Tasha, is there a quote or affirmation that’s meaningful to you?
One of my favorite quotes, or sayings really, is one that Bridie Mallon, one of my best friends and assistant teacher at Tamora School of Irish Dance, always says: “high hopes, low expectations.” The things I hope for are always top of mind. Without hope, there is little approach motivation. What gets you out of bed in the morning? What is your purpose or direction in life? Regarding the second part of the quote, if you’re going around expecting things in life, whether it’s expecting certain outcomes or expecting people to be a certain way, you’re likely going to end up disappointed. If you minimize your expectations, when something does go well, it can end up being more exciting than it would’ve been had you expected it to happen. Especially in this last year, I think we’ve all experienced how unpredictable life can be. By doing my best to approach my work in this way, and everything else in my life really, I end up savoring the process more and having a better overall experience. At the end of the day, although the end result is exciting, it’s about the journey, the process, and the positive relationships you develop along the way.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
Family and developing the whole person. Tamora School of Irish Dance is a family. We have known many of these dancers and their families for so many years and have seen our dancers grow from a wee beginner learning their “jump-2-3’s” to a champion dancer recognized internationally. We have shared countless experiences, including the high highs and the low lows of competitions. We have spent thousands of hours together at practices, traveling to competitions, rehearsing for shows, and hanging around in between rounds at competitions. We are invested in our dancers and keep the conversations open. Each dancer is a unique member of the “TamFam.” The teaching staff also shares a special bond. Julia Straszewski, Kate Shaughnessy, Bridie Mallon, and I grew up dancing, competing, and traveling together, so now being able to share our passion with the next generation has been a dream. I don’t think there has been one day that has gone by where we haven’t talked at least once since starting to teach together! We also focus on developing not only the dancer but the whole person. Our goal is to help our dancers build resilience, self-efficacy, accountability, self-awareness, and dedication. We value teamwork and diversity in that every dancer has something to contribute to the class in both discussions and peer-to-peer feedback. We focus on the importance of setting goals with game plans for how to get there. One of the best feelings is when a dancer achieves a goal they had set for themselves, whether it’s mastering a difficult move or winning a major championship. We celebrate their achievements with them, and seeing them happy is a highlight of this job. However, beyond placements, we are sure to celebrate what they did to get there. We see the blood, sweat, and tears day in and day out. Their dedication is inspiring, and it keeps us going too! It’s not always easy and smooth sailing. There are long practices, a lot of time management practice to balance work, school, and life, and some tough love here and there. However, at the end of the day, we all do it, because we love it. The pandemic has made this last year especially difficult for us to try to carry on while operating in line with the constantly changing regulations–although understandably so. Schedule changes, emails, phone calls, and texts. Nonetheless, we accepted, adapted, and have been getting through the pandemic together.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week-long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
If one of my friends came down to visit for the week, there would be so many places I’d want to take them! During the daytime, you’d find us grabbing a sandwich and some cannoli’s from Bay Cities Italian Deli and eating at Palisades Park overlooking the ocean before heading down to the Santa Monica pier. At night, we’d be going to SUR and The Abbey for a fun night out. On another day, we’d grab coffees at Café Milan or Tanner’s Coffee in Playa Del Rey and hang out at Dockweiler Beach, watching the airplanes flying overhead. For dinner and drinks, we’d have to head over to The Victorian and hang out on Main Street for the night. We’d spend time hiking to the Hollywood Sign, eating at the farmer’s market at The Grove, and enjoying some amazing cookies and pasties at Canter’s, before going shopping on Melrose and The Grove. I’d take them to see the stars and the view of Los Angeles from The Griffith Observatory—one of my favorite views. In downtown Los Angeles, we’d go up to the top of the US Bank tower and go on the slide that wraps around the building, take a ride on Angels Landing, check out the Grand Central Market, and head to Perch’s rooftop at night (steak frites, anyone?). On a day where we could venture out a little further, I’d take them to the Claremont Village—I have to throw it back to my graduate school days! We’d enjoy the little shops, the bakeries (Some Crust and Crème), the go-to restaurants (The Back Abbey, Bardot, The Whisper House, and Viva Madrid to name a few), and some live music! The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are so many people I’d want to thank for not only supporting me throughout my life but also helping me further explore the arts, dive into my creativity, and continue to grow my love for movement. Two particular persons who had an incredible impact on me were Gayle M. Fekete and Ann Stabolepszy, my two professors in the Department of Theatre and New Dance at Cal Poly Pomona. I grew up solely Irish dancing, and in college, I decided to expand my repertoire and try other forms of dance, and in particular, modern dance. At first, the transition was challenging. I was used to focusing on being so sharp and technical, and of course, always performing with straight posture and my arms at my sides. Gayle and Ann took me in, and each challenged me in their own ways. I started dancing with my whole body, feeling the movement in a whole new way–even when I was still Irish Dancing with my arms down. I became more comfortable improvising in front of people (and “staying in the frying pan,” as Gayle would say), moving away from feeling embarrassed and self-conscious to just being in the moment. I learned it was okay to be unconventional and to own and honor our differences. Through completing my minor in dance, I grew not only in dance but as a person, comfortable in my own skin and ready to embrace not just the positives but also the hiccups in life. Their teachings have lived on through me to my students now at Tamora School of Irish Dance—we focus on developing the whole person and even teaching our dancers some modern dance for fun. I hope to inspire my dancers, even if it’s a fraction of what Gayle and Ann did for me. Lastly, I want to thank Mary, Dan, and Julia, for supporting me through my dance journey and coming to all of my performances—they never knew what they were going to get!