Chivvaun Smith Atlanta-Aficionado, Ballet Dancer, Miss Universe Bahamas, Bahamas Ministry of Tourism, The Champagne Series

Posted By: Eric Smith In: Dance On: Thursday, January 7, 2021

Chivvaun talks about her discoveries in dance, travel and supporting community-on and offline.

So where are you currently based?

I’m actually in Atlanta.

I see that you are in Marketing with the Bahamas Ministry of Tourism; a ballet dancer, producer of the Digital Dance Summit (Bahamas); and Co-Founder of The Champagne Series Lifestyle Blog.  Can you speak a bit about how you got involved in dance, travel and The Champagne Series?

Yeah, I’m originally from the Bahamas and my parents just kind of threw us into everything when we were little.  And things we participated in just started dwindling down to those activities we actually liked.  Looking back on it this was a pretty smart thing for them to do.

I basically started dancing when I was about five-and even at the age it was a bit on the older side when compared with Americans.  But ironically, my parents were walking through a grocery store and met a lady from the Czech Republic who came up to them and said they should put me into dance classes-she said that I was going to be a dancer just like her sister.  So after that they decided to put me in to classes and I really loved it.  And when I was 13, I actually had the opportunity to move with my grandparents who lived in D.C; and my parents let me go with them to continue training.  I finished high-school there and then went on to the University of Oklahoma and got my dance degree.

I always intend to be a professional ballerina to perform on stage and stuff.  But I was actually in a Kansas City Ballet audition and remember distinctly after looking around that was not something I necessarily wanted to do the rest of my life.  Growing up and having the opportunity to train internationally I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to give that same type of exposure to people back in the Bahamas-because that was not something that we got and not something we readily have access to. 

I don’t know if you are familiar with our culture, but, creative arts and stuff is not something that is huge in the Bahamas.  Even though we are very talented people-it’s not something that people push as careers per se; and I think now it is just starting to catch on which I love to see.

So after the time in Oklahoma, I ended up moving to Florida for about a year and taught at a couple of studios there and really wanted to be the kind of teacher that I didn’t have-which was more supportive offering a welcoming environment, not very intimidating but also still delivering the tools you need to succeed as a dancer.  Because I think it is a very rigorous career and a lot of the times they’re paying for training which I noticed in college everyone was paying for the same education but not getting the same kind of treatment, you know? So that was something I put at the forefront of everything I did while teaching in Florida.  

After I ended up going back to the Bahamas for a couple of years to work for the Ministry of Tourism.  During this time-I also competed in the Miss Universe Pageant representing the Bahamas.  I wanted to start teaching back in the Bahamas when I was like 40 or something, but it ended up while during that pageant I connected with someone who was part of an organization called Global Dignity and she was the Bahamas Rep and we kind of put together the first dance clinic which I taught and facilitated myself for younger kids to give them tools that they needed.  So while in the Bahamas for about 3 years working with the Ministry of Tourism-technically I was supposed to end up being back on the stateside and that didn’t happen-so I made the most of my time there and used that every year there on out from 2016 I would do a clinic each year and invite someone from the dance community that I knew to be a guest teacher.  So from 2016 we started-and each year after we had a guest teacher come in who was in the industry to provide personal instruction.  

When I moved to Atlanta last year-this was the first year that it was virtual and so I had four teachers this for two days-we offered digital access to them a group of participants to communicate with-other dancers from around the world from different genres of dance classes to exchange ideas. And now especially because of Covid, I’m trying to figure out what the next version will look like. 

Are you passionate about travel?

Yeah, I am.  And on this side-I currently and working in tourism.  However, I actually don’t get to do as much as I want to.  My sister, she has written most of our travel blogs-her and her fiancé had done a lot more travel than I had done.  But I am passionate about travel.

With the pandemic situation-how did you approach organizing the Digital Dance Summit 2020?

Believe it or not, I was not going to do it.  I kind of talked to my dad and he told me well-just think out of the box maybe just trying to do it virtually.  I took about a weekend and spent some time speaking with my friends and people back in the Bahamas and I spent sometime in prayer too-that was a big thing for me and decided to just go ahead and do it-just do it virtually, two days of live classes on Facebook.  My thing is I always give unstinting access to professional training that’s it.  So for people in the Bahamas I always want them to have access to it for free.  In the future it will probably look at little different so that once it gets to a certain level and people do start coming in from abroad based on the teachers leading the program-from that aspect it will be a paid educational experience.  But for Bahamians, I always want it to be free especially on my island.  So doing it virtually this last time-it wasn’t thing where I would have missed out on getting any money from it-because it was cheaper for me without have to find any sponsors to produce it because everything was online.  So I really enjoyed doing it. 

How did people find out about this virtual dance summit?

I ran Facebook ads, rans ads on Instagram-digital stuff.  I did an Eventbrite signup as well.

Are those platforms important pretty important to what you are doing?

Yeah, I’d say so.

With respect to people who want to travel to the Bahamas-what part of the islands are you from?

I’m from the Grand Bahama Island.

Is the Grand Bahama Island the destination that you would recommend?

Yes, it is.  Especially for people who like a little bit more laid back experiences.  You kind of get the best of both worlds there.  Nightlife wise…no-there’s a limitation in that when compared to Nassau or coming from a city like Atlanta.  But in terms of being able to have a nice safe adventure activity-you could have a solid 7-10 days of activities which a lot of people don’t realize.  Even people on the island don’t know all the stuff we have to offer.  I think anywhere you live you don’t take advantage of everything that is right in front of you.

We have a really cool thing like the stingray experience where you visit the key and have a private experience with the stingrays.  You get to learn a lot about the ecology of the stingrays, feed them and interact with them.  So yeah, it’s a very cool cool thing.

You have two kinds of all-terrain vehicle tours where you can have one that is a little bit more adventure or a little bit more romantic.  So just stuff like that.

What about for active lifestyle activities like yoga or cycling?

Yeah, there are cycling things to do.  You have a motorized cycling tour and if you want to push yourself more there are non-motorize cycling tours to experience the island landscape.  

One of my main goals here is to develop yoga programs there.  I do Core Power yoga here in Atlanta and see if they would want to do a retreat there.  In Nassau, they have an annual Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat there.  It’s a specific retreat place in Nassau that a lot of yogas go to where you can personalize your tours for 3 days, 5 days and you can get certified there as well too.

What’s the story behind The Champagne Series you Co-Founded?

So it started out when a friend got me a book for my birthday-which was a 100 things every woman should do or something.  The blog was going to be kind of based on that me doing those things and then I realized there were so many other things that I was interested in and that I would want to write about-beyond those 100 things in the book-because those 100 were doing things like ride in a red convertible-stuff like that.  So I figured that could be a smaller section of it-but I talked to my sister who actually went to school for English and she really enjoyed writing and wanted to have an outlet as well, so I figured we’d do it together and turn it into a brand.  A really nice lifestyle brand that would make women feel good and inspired; to give you the different help you may need in decor or wellness or you know stuff like that.  We’ve been working on a few things all in good faith to prepare for what’s coming this year.

It was supposed to start it around the second year from being back home from the Bahamas. And I was working on it about a year and it didn’t launch until about a year later after that.  I had just ended up going through a break up and that’s literally when it launched-like right after that, a couple of months after that.  So it’s just funny, the timing wasn’t right and it was best to wait for the timing when it naturally happens.

Do you think post Covid life will change what you do moving forward?

You know I think it’s hard to say.  I will definitely say that the world is going to be changed forever.  I don’t think that there is going to be an aspect of our life that goes back to normal or what we knew it.  It has kind of forced us to think ahead, forced us to press more into a digital era so everything you do will have to be on both levels-learning how to reach people digitally and how to reach people face-to-face in person.  So, I think it will just require a lot of grace for yourself to figure that out and then be able to just work on those things.  

One thing I will say, the beauty about being from the Bahamas and working with the Bahamas is that our islands are so unique-we have 16 different destinations, so that’s 16 different experiences.  Each island virtually you have more than enough beach space more than enough regular space to social distance people-so that health concern is kind of behind people’s mind if you do it in the right way.  So I think that is one of the most beautiful things to have.  Even if for instance you and I are on the beach having a yoga experience or something and you show that digitally people would still have that to escape and feel that they are on the beach.  

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