Jeffery Klaehn: Thanks so much for the interview Diana!! Where are you from, and how did you initially become interested in dance? At what age?
Diana Bastet: I am from Ukraine, Sumy. The start of my dancing interest happened once upon a time, on cold autumn evening, when I was young. I was almost 20, studied at the university and got bored in the evenings, so I decided to try some new hobby and went to dance classes. Nothing serious, actually. And to be honest, I didn't even like it so much. Mostly because of music. So, I left those classes soon after. At that time, I didn't realize yet that my new way of life had just slowly started. Later, accidentally, I discovered a genre of music, "oriental metal," with Orphaned Land songs. That was music which I finally loved for dancing, and I decided to try it. So, I began to dance seriously. Alone. Nobody couldn't teach me, and there were no teachers around, cause who dances to metal? It's a crazy idea, but I tried anyway.
JK: How would you describe your dance performance?
Diana Bastet: It's art of my amalgamation with great music, where a song is the heart of a whole mechanism.
JK: Your facial expressions convey so much, I feel, throughout your performances. How do you approach expressiveness strictly in terms of your eyes and expressions in your performances? A quick smile at about the five second mark of your "Ratamahatta" video, for instance, conveys tone, feeling, and attitude, and then that performance seemed to follow directly from this, wonderfully. And that grin returns at the end, meaningfully, expressing emotion. I'm thinking too of your expressions and smiles throughout your "Angry Darbuka" performance video. And those convey joy and joyousness, to me, as a viewer, and your passion and confidence. What can you tell me about this element of your performance art?
Diana Bastet: Interesting question. I never really paid attention. Honestly, I don't control it. I'm not playing a role. I'm not making those faces specially. It's part of me. A part of the whole process, connected with body and emotions, music and all feelings at the moment.
JK: How important is confidence in doing what you do, and how did you achieve this? At the same time, are you self-critical, as an artist? How important is balance here?
Diana Bastet: Good question … balance is very important. It's impossible to develop without self-criticism, but [only] when it's not too much. Sometimes I dive in self-criticism too much, too deeply. It's very hard to create at that time, because I can withdraw into myself for a long term totally powerless. I am confident in my life only or mostly only on a stage. I still don't know how it works. Feels like something special and very inner comes from inside, when I'm wearing a costume and when the music is loud. Something makes me so powerful in those moments.
As for confidence in general, as a little bit in everything – resistance to haters, critics, strength and faith to continue to do what I do – it's experience. Huge experience, hard work, across years. I always loved "bright" people. But never thought I can be one of them. Kind of like "anybody but not me" thoughts, since childhood. I started to make my art with friends by their initiative, they believed in me much and much more than I believed in myself. They created my YouTube channel, uploaded the first videos … And I am endlessly thankful to them for that. :) After a while I've continued singly, because I loved it, because I needed to create as I need to breathe. And so a lot of people started to follow me, it inspired me so much. And this made me more confident. Their support around the world is priceless for me.
JK: What can you tell me about your own inner muse and creativity, how your ideaspace influences your dance performance and choices regarding music?
Diana Bastet: My inner muse works 24/7. :) Sometimes it can be tired, but not too long. I love to create, it's my air. Music choices are absolutely intuitive.
And music dictates me what to do. When I listen to a great song I see a picture, kind of some abstract drawing, and trying to repeat it by dance with motion.
JK: You're globally famous. What are some of the nicest compliments you've received from audiences and fans so far in your career? And how do you see your fame at this point? What does it mean for you?
Diana Bastet: I think I can already make a book with all the interesting feedback and comments which I receive from people on social media. It's lovely and inspirational :) Fame, I don't know. I feel and live as a simple human. Fame can mean big responsibility to me for my art.
JK: Are you more known in specific countries or areas of the world, do you think?
Diana Bastet: My audience is mostly from the USA, but also a lot of people are from the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico, Brazil and Scandinavian countries. Ukraine is in 19th place in the analytics list, and people don't so much know me here.
JK: How much training, hard work and practice has been and is involved in doing what you do, on a day-to-day basis? And what advice might you give those who want to try belly dance but are perhaps afraid or unsure where to begin?
Diana Bastet: Very often I do dance training as a sport competition by myself, trying to win and do better than I did. I pay a lot of attention to workouts with muscles and flexibility. It's a substantial base of powerful movements, which is very important in metal belly dance style.
It's not a question how much or how often to work out. It's an individual thing. And the main thing here is pleasure of process, only that way will there be a result.
For beginners, only one advice: just start. Open a door to a dance room. It's simple and so hard. But it's absolutely worth it.
I do not work every single day, especially nowadays, but trying to keep myself moving, like Diana Bastet does!
JK: Some of your biggest artistic inspirations and influences?
Diana Bastet: I adore human ability and creativity, so much. And I love those who stand out among others for their way of thinking, living and working. They inspire me. To talk about famous artists and their influence, for example, I love Giger's and Dali's paintings, Gaudi's architecture. I love Coco Chanel and Thierry Mugler for their immortal fashion. I love Dita von Teese because she is Dita von Teese. :) I love music, it gives me wings. :)
JK: What about cinema, some of your favorite films?
Diana Bastet: All films by Guy Ritchie, Quentin Tarantino, brothers Coen, David Fincher.
JK: Your favorite books, writers?
Diana Bastet: Now I'm reading U Nesbe. And I love books by King, Remark, Hugo, Bulhakov, Henryk Sienkiewicz, Sapkowski, Christie, Doyle …
JK: Please tell me about your passion for dance and performance art, today, now. Has it changed? In what ways have you changed and grown as a performer since you initially became interested in dance?
Diana Bastet: Difficult to talk and even think about it nowadays, because I miss the stage very much … It's great to feel huge experience now, be stronger mentally and physically, have cool costumes, have a name … cause I didn't start like that. If it could have been possible many years ago to show me what I'd be able to create in this world after time, I think that I would not have believed and just fainted.
JK: La dolce vita. What's the good, sweet life mean for you Diana?
Diana Bastet: To live like you want. Rare luxury.
JK: If you could meet and have a quick coffee with anyone in the history of pop culture, fictional or real, who would it perhaps be, and why?
Diana Bastet: Maybe I would have had coffee with Freddie Mercury. Because my love for rock and heavy metal began with Queen music when I was only 6 years old. I would say "Thank You, Genius" :)
JK: Thanks so much Diana!!
Diana Bastet: :)
Jeffery Klaehn holds a PhD in Communication from the University of Amsterdam and a PhD in Sociology from the University of Strathclyde. He resides in Canada.