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?

I started dancing in The Bahamas when I was about five, and even at that age, I was a bit on the older
side. 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 in dance classes...she said that I was, “Going to be a
dancer just like her sister.” After that, they decided to put me in classes and I really loved it.

...When I was 13, I had the opportunity to move with my grandparents who lived in D.C; my parents let me
go with them to continue training. I finished high school there, went on to The University of Oklahoma,
and got my dance degree.

Initially, I always intended on being a professional ballerina, but I distinctly remember being in a Kansas
City Ballet audition looking around, knowing that working as a ballet dancer was not something I
necessarily wanted to do for the rest of my life. Having the opportunity to train internationally, however,...
I also always knew that I wanted to bring the same type of dance exposure I had to kids in The Bahamas
- because that was not something we got and not something we readily had access to.

I don’t know if you are familiar with our culture, but creative arts is not something that’s 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).

For me, I really wanted to be the kind of teacher I didn’t have - which was more supportive, offering a
welcoming environment, not very intimidating, but also still delivering the tools kids need to succeed as
dancers. I think dancing is a very rigorous career, and people are paying for training! This was something
I noticed more in college...everyone was paying for the same education but not getting the same kind of
treatment. I put that realization at the forefront of everything I did.

After teaching for a bit, 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 Bahamas Pageant. Now, I
wanted to start teaching in The Bahamas when I was like 40, but it ended up happening during that
pageant. I connected with someone who was part of an organization called Global Dignity and she was
The Bahamas Rep. We put together Dance Clinic GBI which I taught and facilitated myself for the first
year. Every year there on out (from 2016) I would do a clinic and invite someone I knew from the dance
community to be a guest artist.

When I moved to Atlanta last year-this was the first time the clinic went virtual-it became the Digital Dance
Summit. I had four teachers give instruction for two days. We offered digital access to a group of
participants to communicate and take class with dancers from around the world- free of charge.

Are you passionate about travel?

I am. Even though I currently work in tourism, I actually don’t get to travel as much as I want to. My
sister, however, does all the travelling. She has written most of our travel blogs - she and her fiancé do a
lot more travel than I’ve ever done.

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 to, “Just think out of
the box and maybe just trying to do it virtually”. I took a weekend and spent some time speaking with my
friends and people back in The Bahamas. I spent some time in prayer too regarding what to do. That was
a big thing for me and so, I decided to just go ahead and do it virtually. I did two days of live classes on
Facebook.

With the clinic, I always give unstinting access to professional training. So, for people in The Bahamas, I
always want them to have free access. In the future, it will probably look a little different and once it gets
to a certain level, hopefully people will 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 want it to
remain free (especially for dancers on my island).

How did people find out about this virtual dance summit?

I ran everything digitally. I did social ads and an Eventbrite sign up.

Are those platforms pretty important to what you are doing?

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 Freeport, Grand Bahama Island.

Is Grand Bahama Island the destination that you would recommend?

Yes, it is...especially for people who like more laid back experiences. You kind of get the best of both
worlds there. Nightlife wise…there’s a limitation in that when compared to Nassau (our capital) or a city
like Atlanta. But, in terms of being able to have nice, safe, adventures...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 cool things
we have to offer. I think this is the case with hometowns anywhere though - very few people take
advantage of everything that is right in front them.

For instance, we have a really cool stingray experience where you visit a cay during a private encounter
with the stingrays. You get to learn a lot about the ecology of the stingrays, feed them and interact with
them. It’s totally unique to Grand Bahama Island.

What about for active lifestyle activities like yoga or cycling?

Yeah, there are cycling activities on Grand Bahama! We have a motorized cycling tour and if you want to
push yourself, there are non-motorized cycling tours to truly experience the island landscape.
One of my main goals, while working in tourism abroad is to facilitate more lifestyle-based events and
partnerships. I went to Core Power Yoga here in Atlanta, so I would love to pitch the idea of hosting a
retreat in The Bahamas - it would be so peaceful and make for an incredible backdrop. Ironically, in
Nassau, they have an annual Sivananda Ashram Yoga Retreat so there’s already something similar in
place to build on.

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 similar to that title). The blog was going to be based on me doing the activities in
the book and then, I realized there were so many other things I was interested in writing about. I talked to
my sister who actually went to school for English and wanted to have an outlet to create her own content.
We figured we’d blog together and turn it into a lifestyle brand that would make women feel good and
inspired.

We were working on it for about a year but nothing was concrete enough to launch. I ended up going
through a life changing break up and after that period, the blog launched. It’s just funny... the timing
wasn’t right before and it shows how sometimes, it’s best to wait for when things naturally happen.

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

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’s going to be any aspect of our life that goes back to normal, or to what we knew. The pandemic
has forced us to think ahead, forced us to press more into a digital era so everything we do will have to be
on both levels...learning how to reach people digitally and how to reach people face-to-face.

I think times like these will require a lot of grace for ourselves too- to figure life out and to work on those
things we dream about.

As it relates to tourism...one thing I will say, is that 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 has more than enough beach space, more than enough
“regular” space to enjoy the country with social distance - if we do things right, travel to The Bahamas (in
person or virtually) will still be an incredible experience.

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