Meet Tarra Iziah in der Mühlen: the coolest dancer we ever did meet. Born in New York City and raised in Zagreb, Croatia, the young dancer knows a thing or two about following the sun. Fresh off the plane from Koh Samui, Tarra sat down with Golden Edit to share some of her favorite parts of her trip, her love for dance, and her summers sailing the Croatian coast...
Tell us about growing up as a dancer. You’ve done ballet, modern dance, and hip hop just to name a few
Growing up as a dancer was tough and fun at the same time. I started dancing in New York at a very young age, so dance was pretty much all I knew. When we moved to Zagreb, Croatia it was really tough being a foreigner in middle school, so dance was my getaway. Being a professional dancer while growing up and trying to keep up a social life can be tough, but now choosing between dance and my social life isn’t a hard decision. I enjoy dancing all styles, like Jazz, Musical Theater, Hip Hop or just generally more commercial styles I do mostly for fun. My love for Ballet has grown every time I put my pointe shoes on.
Can you share a bit about your journey with dance
I started training at The Alvin Ailey School where I studied Ballet and African Dance. In 2003, when my family and I moved to Croatia, I transferred to the Ballet Academy of Zagreb. In 2005, I got the opportunity to join a Contemporary/ Modern Dance ensemble, which at the time I was the only child performer in the group. I started to work as a professional dancer in 2010 and within two years I had been in a few European commercials, performed in many plays and television shows. Aside from work, I was competing with a Hip Hop group with whom I received 1st and 2nd place in several competitions. Soon after that I was accepted into Skidmore, Saratoga Springs. A small group of dancers were chosen to study with the Martha Graham company for a couple of months and later got to perform the famous Martha Graham solo in the Heretic which was a huge honor.
What are the challenges?
You have to have thick skin, get used to hearing “no” and having doors slammed in your face. You’re judged all the time: perfect posture, perfect feet, perfect weight, you have an image to uphold and you’re constantly compared to other people. You want to live up to everyone’s and your own expectations. Growing up I was never okay with second best. To me, being second is the first to lose. Another challenge is the competition, there are many talented dancers out there and booking a job doesn’t always depend on talent – you can miss an opportunity just because you’re not what they’re looking for, or you performed the best but the girl next to you has a better background in dance education, there can be many reasons you don’t get hired.
You’ve spent countless summers in Croatia. What is your absolute favorite destination in Croatia? Tell us a bit about those Croatian summers
We have a beach house in Omiš which has been in our family for many years so it’s where we spent our summers growing up. Omiš is a tiny city, the only thing to really do there is relax. From there we would drive or take our boat to other islands. Those were some of the best days of my life – no responsibilities, very little parental control since everyone knows everyone. As we got older we started going to Split which is just 20 minutes away. I spent two summers sailing with my family – north of Split there are a lot of deserted islands, the islands of Kornati is like being on another planet, complete with secret restaurants. If I could go back to Croatia and choose only one city, I would choose Omiš – it’s the perfect getaway from a big city like New York, with nothing to do but relax.
You recently came back from a yoga retreat in Thailand - where were you?
I was in Koh Samui! Yoga is a big part of my life, always has been, especially when I became a professional dancer - it really helps me with my injuries and flexibility.
What were your days like there?
I was there for work and thanks to jetlag, I was up super early so was able to take some private Pilates classes, followed by photoshoots and then laying on the beach soaking in the sun. For one of our shoots we took a speed boat to another island which had a Yoga sanctuary. The beach was beautiful - crowded with yogis and hippies. We got some great shots there but got stuck in the rain on our way back!
My takeaway from being on this trip would be coming up with a yoga concept. I am in the middle of studying to get my Yoga certificate to teach - so being there helped me come up with a unique concept.
How do you find balance in life?
I'm not the best person to talk about finding balance in life, I'm still figuring that out myself! What I've learned throughout the years of studying Yoga and dance is that there never really is a perfect balance in life, there's always going to be something thrown at you. You have to accept that at times, you're going to be off balance.
As a New Yorker - in your opinion what's the best way to "summer" in the city any time of year?
I love going to the Russian sauna - it really warms your bones on a cold day! Especially when we get those stretches of ice cold weather, it gets my blood going! Or I just open up a bottle of rose!
What's next for you?
I'm currently working on an updated dance reel, while also auditioning and taking on some shoots. I’m planning on auditioning for the Martha Graham Company in 2019, so in the meantime I’m taking classes at Broadway Dance Center and Martha Graham Center of Contemporary Dance. I’m also in the process of receiving my yoga certificate to teach, with a concept that’s focused on Yoga and dance so I look forward to seeing what I can achieve with that.
Photo credits: Thailand images by Luciana Pampalone.