During my adventures in New York this time in June 2016 I used my time to meet the new Estonian talents. Uno Habakukk suggested to do an interview with Diina Tamm. He mentioned that she is a very young new talent in New York. I did my research about her online. When I read information about it, I felt insecure whether I am able to manage the meeting with such a rising star.
We met in the hotel, where I stayed, located behind Empire State Building area. When she came in – she emanated warmth and simplicity. Couple of hours passed by talking really fast in my hotel room and it was about the time to finalise. I had the feeling that I met another part of me, who lives her life big and fully and what is most important also without fear. She made my day. How did she do it? Read the story and find out yourself!
Diina Tamm is a woman, who has done some really courageous and crazy decisions. After she finished her masters degree in psychology in Estonia and got a wonderful job offer, she changed her mind. She travelled to Miami, New York and Portugal instead. There she got in touch with the back stage of the dance world.
Diina has danced since she was a little girl, as well when she was studying full time at the university. She thought that after her studies she would work with something else than just dance. While taking the dance lessons – there was the astonishment – Diina saw how things can get going and it made her thinking, that living in Estonia is kind of like keeping yourself afloat lifestyle.
Deeper inner guidance and inner direction told her to do something crazy. She followed her guidance while going against the rational choice – she moved to New York with only one suitcase. Her journey till this moment was long and filled with challenges, but for sure worth the new life. Read what that adventure entailed!
Diina Tamm is a freelance dancer, choreographer and dance teacher. She has passed the Estonian Dance Agency’s exams as well the Broadway Dance Center’s international dancers program in New York. Diina has danced in different dance performances as well in TV shows and music videos as well lead many master classes in Estonia, USA, Canada, Spain and Sweden and France.
She has performed her art during many dance festivals and done many choreographies for many shows, agencies and artists both in Estonia and USA. When she is creating her choreographies, she thinks it is important that every dance has its own story and every dancer should know, why they do certain moves and what emotion would that carry along.
* I believe that our being and character is really influenced by our roots. If you look back at your life, who or what has been a big influence and made you into who you are today?
I have read a lot of autobiographies. The most inspiring ones have actually been some of my close acquaintances, who have done really brave decisions and they are inspiring and passionate people. They love what they do and are into it completely. I can feel their will power from what they do. It does not matter where they are working in.
For example last summer I worked in one of the shows on the cruise ship and got to know a lady, who is now one of my close friends. She is the cabin hostess and later I got to know that she is also and aerial artist and asked if she would be okay to teach me some. She is also a yoga teacher and works in the drum orchestra and she took it all in a very positive way, as a physical training. The schedule of the cruise ship was very good and allowed her to do whatever she liked.
Just the fact how positively and commitedly she talked about it – it made me think, that you need to find your thing, it does not matter what others say, if it brings you joy, it makes you happy as a person and then you have the courage and will to do other things as well.
Commitment and passion for your profession is very inspiring. That there is a will to do something, the action energy, joy, for yourself and that you believe in it yourself and mostly do it for your yourself. It does not need to have a very fancy name. What counts is that you are committed and happy with this thing, what you work with. The work or the personality inspires me.
With my Estonian background it is really good to live here in New York. This means you are not afraid of hardships. You are respectful. New York has taught me some empathy, so that you would see the world wider.
While being here to preserve my own culture is more an honourable thing than it is in Estonia for example. When you live in New York, being from the outside adds quite a lot to it. I understand more and more from where is it I come from and how are things working in NYC. When you move to another place you will value all of it on a different level and see how unique it is. In addition you need to move across the ocean in order to shake your own president’s hand.
New York gives the courage to express yourself. The picture is so colourful and that is why people are brave to follow their heart here.
Estonia and Europe are a bit more judgmental, especially in the creative areas. Here in NYC, you have free hands to do what you would love to. This has for sure taught me to be very opened – to others and my own creation as well given courage to share it and perform it in various forms and whenever. Living in NYC inspires me. So many people who share their uniqueness, and when you are completely opened you are able to take in all these new ideas, thoughts and also to go deeper with it all. Only this has added some more self-confidence for me which is important to be able to survive here.
If you are with yourself 24 hours and do not believe in yourself, why should others do that? I feel that in New York uniqueness is more valued than in Estonia.
* Your biggest dream at the moment?
Once I thought that I would love to have my own dance show in NYC and it seemed to be a complete utopia and now it comes – the first project. It was really scary to think that it gets to the big stage, but it is so fun!
My real dream is to have a life where I can not fall asleep as I am just thinking what I am about to create the next day and I am just overly excited about it.
Then you can feel that you are growing all the time and also balancing everything else in your life.
This is a gift to be here where I am and do what I love.
My path to that has been very long and filled with challenges, but what counts is that I did not give up. I would love to unite more of the travelling and dancing. I have many Estonians both who live here and abroad who support me. More eclectic your past background is, more you can give here in NYC. In Estonia people are more judgmental about different dancing styles, but this is also about to change. In New York there are more styles and less judgments.
* What are you keys to live your dream?
When I say I live my dream, this does not mean that automatically my life is just filled with roses. There is a lot of hard work behind it and everything does not come with ease. But the job I do, inspires me to do it. There are complicated moments, but to do what I love, is the beyond for me.
If you really want to do something you’ll find a way – if you don’t want it enough you’ll find an excuse.
For me it has been the concentration, that I know what I would love to do and I just knock on the doors and sometimes it can be very tiresome and exhausting. But it is worth it. I trust my intuition and the inner guidance and what else I feel helps me is the meditation and that I have good connection with myself.
When you do what you love, you will still have the motivation even when your life gets hard. You have to put your hesitations on the side and leave it. You need to think of a goal and then find the possibilities how to realise those.
One of my keys is that you need to step out of your comfort zone. This may be complicated, but when you do something new, you will win the challenges and you will feel the results.
This may create addiction, as this supports the growth of a person, as you explore different parts of your potential. This is a very interesting process which comes to you like small sand particles step by step.What is important is that I have not given up and gone the easier way.
When you believe in what you wish to create and your dream, then you will also have the courage to find the possibilities to make it happen.
This is not complicated or scary at all. It is all stuck in the way we think. We need different kind of options for doing something. What is interesting is that when you are in that energy, you start to meet inspiring people, who are supportive, with the opened thinking and believe in your dream as well.
You should let go of the hesitations and stop listening to those who hesitate in the possibility of making your dream.
What has been also interesting is the discovery that when I have tried many new dance styles here which I did not know before I have felt like a penguin – very clumsy in the beginning. In Estonia people are less open to new things.
If you do not handle something fully, you need to do more of it. For example when my right turn is better than the left one, it is very natural that you will need to do more of the left turns. It is not important to be the best dancer, you can also be the beginner, but you commit and it grows you further. In your everyday life too. Sometimes you are number one and sometimes you are not.
In conclusion I believe that everything is possible. If you want something it is achievable and the only question is how. I have understood that everything has its time – this is one of my keys.
We all have our timeline, which is very unique. Some things ripe and come to the surface when the time is ripe, you can not do them before they are ripe. You need to be patient and trust.
I have discovered for myself Bikram yoga. It is interesting that their first studio closed down, as they thought it would not bring anything in. Now the whole world is doing it and very actively. This means that persistence and the direction of your goals takes you where you would love to go.
* What is your message to the world through your life and lifestyle?
I think it is important to have self belief. Every person is very unique, and has something to offer to the world that no one else has. My heart’s wish is that everyone would have the courage to do that what makes them happy.
Being happy is underestimated in Northern countries. In Budism they say that ‘natural state of mind’ is being happy. Sadly we have so many rules by the society which take us away from the happiness path. All the time we run around and the individuality is not stressed strongly enough. When you do your thing, you have also more to offer for others.
You need to be strong to step out of the norms and models. This is the first step towards your own happiness.
* What was the hardest moment of your life? How did you get through it?
I have had several moments which were very difficult. What has been the most difficult one? Interesting question. Once you are out of it, it does not feel that impossible. One example I can bring is when I came to the dance school in USA. The program got finished and in order to stay longer I needed to apply for the artist visa.
It was quite an undertaking to do that and at the same time finish my masters degree. This took many years to get all the papers together. After long wait I got the positive yes. I was so happy that day – it felt like I won a jackpot or something. It felt like what I had done gave me results and ripe fruits so I could officially go back and I almost could not believe it. Before that could happen, I needed to go to the final interview in the embassy of USA in Tallinn. The consul asked me who am I and why did I get such a visa?
I was in shock. Consul continued that we do not know who you are and this is not the right type of the visa for you. It was terrible. All of my life fell apart. I wrote to a lawyer in USA. They were all in shock on this side too, as things were not supposed to work like this. They even asked me to change the embassy. It is a long story – so to say – it went the way it was not supposed to go. Two months went by and I did not know what is going to happen next. It was a one in a million case. Super painful moment.
I could not get how can one person turn my life all upside down with his decision. It was not a very polite interview. I took my time off in order to figure out what to do. I understood that as I have come half of the way, I can not just quit it. I had done so much work already. I organised all the additional paperwork. I got my visa. I got the bitter sweet feeling – you will get all you want, but it came just with such a crooked way.
Looking back at it, it was the biggest lesson that never doubt yourself, you deserve all the good things that come your way.
I was so happy with the visa. Then I started to ask myself – whether I am such a good artist at all? In every life area, am I worth it? The universe put me through a test. Final test. To go towards your goal is super important and you should never leave your dreams behind. I probably needed to come back later. It went as it did.
* What has been the most inspiring moment in your life and what happened?
Getting the USA visa was the most happiest moment. I felt like if i managed this, I can manage it all. I understood that if you have a goal and make steps towards it, you will manage it. First you start with the dream – I would love to work and live in NYC and then you wake up – wow – I am actually doing it! Years ago it felt real utopia and surreal for me. It made me think that none of the dreams is too big.
When I go back to Estonia, it helps me to reflect myself and understand how many experiences I have got in the meantime and how much I have grown. Selfgrowth is very inspiring. That makes me happy.
* What is the biggest achievement of your life?
I think that I live my dream career in my dream city of New York. It has taken time to get here and has not been easy.
Small things have been the reason why I have got that far.
I am so happy that I can do what I love and here. This has made it possible for travelling and continuously inspires me.
* What relation do you have with money ?
I think I do not have a huge goal to earn a huge income. Good financial situation gives a lot of freedom, but it is just money as one of my group members in Estonia said. There has been times where you have to be very savy – have to think about all the different steps. But this is not the number one thing. When I can manage, I am not hungry and not homeless – it is all good. You should not hold on to money, then it is a blind idea which pushes back both money and opportunities.
There are times when it is easier to live and also more complicated. When you do not have enough, it is interesting to see and experiment how little you actually need to manage. Do you need this or that.
People stop themselves many times because of the money – you never know how limitless you are and how many possibilities you have till you have limitless money or no money at all.
I have done interesting things. In the Estonian house here I sold my hand made candy-almond and truffles in order to manage. For me it is more important that I can express myself openly and develop myself. When I have a more financially secure times, I am usually getting more lazy.
One time my wallet was stolen in the subway. All my money I had went with it. This made me take action 200%. Having less money makes you so much more creative. It’s just another challenge for you to find new ways how to do things and achieve your goals differently.
This brought me new job opportunities, which otherwise would not even come to me. Every situation like that comes in order to teach us something even if it is not the most positive experience.
* Would you define what does financial independence mean for you?
One of my actor friends said that in order to understand when you are rich is when you can afford an AC in your apartment in NYC.
For me it is when I can choose my tools and projects which I like and the possibility to say no to some projects, so that it would not take me more than I give. Luxury is when I can receive a job which I like and which brings pleasure and a good pay I am worth as well.
Financial independence would give freedom to invest into what you would love to. You can choose some additional courses or finance some projects. In this process what is important is the choices. We did a road trip in USA one year and found tickets for only 127 dollars. We used all the internet systems to get the cheapest places to stay as well the tickets. Nowadays technology allows that. Actually we can manage with so much less as we have.
* If this is not too personal question – how is it you maintain yourself and live your dream life?
I am a freelance dancer and offer myself and my creations for music videos as well to musicals and performances. Totally artistic life – going from one audition to another, training many young people as well children too. I make my living with dancing, teaching and performing. This way I keep it all in balance. I am making my first steps to create my own dance company – where I direct some of the projects and this is just the beginning of showing my creations. I can direct the choices who I choose to dance with me and who I cooperate with and this is also something what goes under the financial independence.
This is a very vulnerable topic for the dancers and artists. Often times you dance just for 10 minutes and then they think they should not pay for this. I have also good dancing colleagues, friends and people here, who are ready to contribute for free for my projects at times and that is an accomplishment as well. The performance we did in July in NYC, we focused on the topic – which me is the real me and which one is the one which others see. The name is called ‘Reflection Spectrum’. We reflect through other people or eyes. We talk about this aspect in the dance. In this project we had four choreographers working together.
* How do you know Crystal? What fascinates you about her?
When I read about you, I thought right away – wow, you have done so much and seen so much! Your idea, to gather the interviews by the inspiring people is very cool and that you share them. Amazing example also with you, that you do not follow the traditional road and pull into your life adventures through this and are opened to all the new and you enjoy more differences. I think this is a very important quality to keep.
I hear that you are so active as an entrepreneur and done so much. You are inspiring. I should do more myself.
* Is there something else you would love to add, which you did not ask yourself?
My dance is not just the dance. Every dance has a story. Sometimes I give more freedom, but sometimes we talk everything through with the dancers. In my dances the mind and body cooperate. When we talk about dancers, it is important that everything would be in harmony – good technique as well the choreography. At some point I would love to do more dance therapy.
We can also develop ourselves through the dance. Dance can give us some insights and inspiration about how to get through something. When you merge with the dance and the story your body starts to live its own life. The thoughts and feelings start to move differently in our body. It is a very interesting process. Right now this is in my life waiting on the shelf.
Being a dancer also means to be in connection with your own vulnerability, as you are in front of everyone and they can judge you.
But we have to remember that how we do something is our uniqueness. This must be pointed out and to create a space through that. You need to humbly trust that it will also come through the dancing style. The natural result comes through the flowing. When you trust, the right people will come. In NYC dancing is a very challenging profession, as we have the world’s leaders here. There is always someone who is better than someone. Everything has settled for me so I am taking everything more with ease. I am trusting and patient.
Sometimes it is like that you can’t connect the dots before you have walked through them…
* How can we get more info about the event you did in July in NYC?
You can get the info from here
* Additional info about you?
Dance video ‘Go Figure’
Diina Tamme Coreography, check it out here:
Dance video ‘ Thinking of New York’
Diina Tamme Coreography, check it out here:
Lorde Royals video,
Diina Tamme Coreography, check it out here:
Estonian Culture Days in NYC
, check it out here:
Estonian Culture Days inNYC
, Boggle dance, check it out here:
Additional info available from diinatamm @ gmail.com
All the photos from Diina Tamm’s private collection if not mentioned otherwise.
Text written and edited by Crystal Ra Laksmi.