International Performing Artist
Kaya (no, it’s not Kaya Star which was just a fun website name, although if things ever go really South she won’t have to look far for a stage name) is an international performing artist, who has lived in numerous countries (most of which would invite her back) modeling, dancing & acting and occasionally even helping other models and dancers escape from dire circumstances, so let’s add professional escape artist. She is recognized worldwide as one of the most exciting and innovative belly dancers of this generation (She’s also known as a Bake Sale Bad A$$ for her kids’ school, but more on this to come). She began her dancing career in a tiny Midwestern bedroom where it’s a wonder she survived all of her then signature flailing arm movements to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and went on many years later to begin a somewhat more graceful career in Denver with a moderately better moonwalk. While she was perfecting her shimmy, she graduated with a B.A. in psychology, summa cum laude and a member of Phi Beta Kappa. In a move her parents still question, she turned down a prestigious doctoral program in clinical psychology along with a scholarship to pursue her dreams of belly dance (read as horrible paying restaurant shows where she had to spend all of her time fighting off men and women who thought belly dance meant prostitution and using her earnings to pay for dry cleaning the cigar smell out of her costumes, and constantly explain “it’s not what you think” to bank tellers unraveling a sweaty large stack of cash). It’s also where she met some amazing people and experienced some of her greatest joy, affirming her decision to be a performer. She soon became an international belly dance phenomenon (not soon enough) traveling to countries all over the world to teach and perform her unique brand of mesmerizing entertainment. A trendsetter, she was one of the first to design and sell one-of-a-kind haute couture belly dance costumes, preferring a minimalist and sensual approach to costuming that truly highlighted her fluidity and power of movement onstage (it’s also possible Santa’s Barbie fashion plate gift set she got when she was 8 had something to do with her drive to design).
She was at the forefront of creating a new genre of belly dance that fused other art forms including lyrical, hip hop, Tahitian, Samba, gymnastics, and theatrics with Belly Dance. She was So You Think You Can Dance before they were. Ummm…ok maybe not, but she is a big fan of the show, I mean really big, it’s almost sad. Her extraordinary muscular control in her popping & locking style along with her jaw dropping layering skills (need proof? Just check out Howie Mandel’s reaction) as well as her commanding stage presence caught the attention of many famous artists, including Mona el Said who nicknamed her “Tigress” after watching her perform a solo live, and Dina who told her she was the future of belly dance. A wonderful performance artist, and one of Kaya’s ongoing students, Eric Salazar, said “Kaya’s presence is a force you will never forget, nor will you want to.” Basically, watching Kaya dance stays with you longer than cafeteria meatloaf.
She has two nicknames well known to her students, both well deserved: “Drill Sergeant” and “Mistress Kaya” given to her lovingly by her out of breath, sprawled on the floor in a puddle of sweat students at the first workshop she ever taught, and they have been reinforced at each and every class since. She takes great pride in working each student to their maximum capacity-not work for the sake of work, but focused mental and physical work that breaks down mental barriers and helps each student achieve new heights of individual peak performance. She has yet to meet two left feet she couldn’t turn at least one of…Her latest video editor said she refused to do another video (not because of the heat…well maybe a little was because of the heat) unless she was teaching in more appropriate attire next time, aka all camouflage with a whistle, stop watch, and bullhorn (love her, and shame on you for thinking more appropriate attire meant something else).
Her talents have been showcased on several DVDs, as well as some strange YouTube clips and in Musical Theatre productions, music videos, television, and films. The producers of the famed America’s Got Talent television show discovered her on YouTube in one of the less strange performances, and after saying it was the best belly dancing they had ever seen, anywhere in the world, flew her and her dance partner out to Chicago within 24 hours for an audition. After blowing the judges away and over 500,000 other acts, who had auditioned that season, they went on to be a Top 48 finisher in the live voting rounds on Season 5, performing live for over 50,000,000 viewers. Piers Morgan was so taken with their dancing he said “If anyone can bring belly dancing to the mainstream its Kaya…” A certain soon-to-be-ex-wife also said Kaya couldn’t stand next to the host at the end of the show but that’s a story for another time. Kaya has done that and much more, all while being a devoted Mom to two young children and a passionate wife of 16 years (more on that passionate thing a little later, or maybe less as this is a family friendly bio), as well as being a burgeoning author (yep, more on that one too).
In 2014, when not being an imaginary fairy or magical adventurous unicorn (see previous sentence if you are confused right now), she was working on many new projects, including doing press for a possible sequel to her first starring role in an independent film, “Spacegirl Battle 2121.” The film received great responses at film festivals across the country, including one from renowned Director, Alex Cox, who called her a “modern day Raquel Welch” (and made her squeal like a little girl by giving that comparison). In addition to pretending to be a movie star in between volunteering for recess (don’t mess with her in four square) and field day, she was shooting several new soon to be released (soon as in as soon as her kids are healthy long enough to complete the editing stage) instructional downloadable dance and fitness videos shot in a variety of beautiful (and crazy hot, like 100 degrees kind of hot) locations. These upcoming instructional downloads are absolutely full of her signature style creative, challenging, and butt-kicking techniques and combinations as well as her humorous, extremely thorough, and down to earth (and very sweaty, obviously) teaching approach. These new instructional downloadable lessons in fitness and belly dance will be available for all levels of dancers and non-dancers all over the world who are interested in high quality, affordable, positive instruction (or watching someone laughing incessantly at their own jokes) in Spring 2015 (provided no kid whammies) on http://kayastar.com/store/!
In addition to her dance endeavors, she also chose to delve into psychology again, including becoming a certified life coach. But the majority of her time has been spent on nurturing her personal passions which are quickly becoming new professional ones. If you’ve spent any time with Kaya in recent years it’s likely she’s forced you to have some of her Chocolate Cherry Bread, Whiskey Glazed Salmon, Grilled Chicken Salad with Toasted Pine Nuts, Sweet Potato Casserole, Homemade Limoncello, or something equally and sinfully delicious (apparently you shouldn’t write a bio when it’s lunchtime). That is because she is authoring a new cookbook which she hopes to have completed sometime this year (she is an optimist). She’s keeping the specifics hush hush, because writing hush hush is just fun and why spoil the really fun part of the cookbook which you’ll just have to wait for…which will be available on her new website… details coming very soon!!