The dance world is full of dancers' various stories, from people who dance only for fun to those who seriously train and compete, from dance teachers to choreographers, from festival organizers to dance school owners. Stories diversify depending on the style someone dances and whether they prefer dancing in pairs or dancing by themselves. The dance has so many different shades and every dancer carries his dance story, which is not reflected solely in their dance, but also in their everyday life. But in the end, all dance stories share one great love, love for dance.
In the fourth interview of Dancer's Life Stories, we will get to know the story of Jeremy Tang from Australia. He's currently traveling Europe to learn new hip-hop and cuban salsa moves to teach to his students in Australia.
Jeremy, I think it's best you tell us your story yourself. When did you start to dance, through which phases did the dance take you?
I have started about four to five years ago. I used to play a lot of sports and got injured a lot. So the story is, I used to work at a bar, that had live bands with funk, soul and R&B music. It was amazing. Then one day I saw this girl, she was dancing by herself the whole night. It wasn't like any dancing that I’ve seen before. She was dancing to old school hip-hop music, party dancing, having fun and she was alone. That really inspired me. I asked her: “Excuse me, could you teach me something”? And she was like: “Why don't you come take my class”? And that’s how I started. I got hooked, from day one. I would be taking classes five times a week. At the beginning, I started learning popping, locking and hip-hop. You would see me on the train everyday practicing... With the music in my ear, constantly moving. People would be staring at me, but I just didn't care; I just wanted to get better. What really helped me improve was, I worked in the night club, so when I was bartending, pouring drinks, picking up glasses, I would be popping… Every action I did, was with a pop. If I was wiping the floor, I was gliding around, just constantly practicing. Then I met this girl and she wanted to learn salsa. So I said I will give it a go… I think we first took L.A. salsa, cross body salsa. It wasn’t for me, I kept getting in trouble, I wasn't standing up straight… Then one teacher saw me out one night and he was like: “You should come learn cuban salsa, I think it would really suit you as a hip-hop dancer”. He was showing me, upper body movements and stuff. Since then, I thought this is what I need to do. I spend the last three years just backpacking around Europe. At first, I was just doing every single hip-hop festival there was. learning from people that created popping, locking and hip-hop. Somehow eventually I went from hip-hop festivals to salsa festivals, like Croatian summer salsa festival, Deakocan, Havana en Belgrado and all other. This year, when I got back to Australia I started teaching.
So in the past there was another trip to Europe? Is this your second trip?
This is my fourth trip, the fourth year that I’ve been backpacking actually. When I first got home, honestly, I didn't have any money. So I was just like: “Would anyone be interested if I did a five week course. Surprisingly I had around 20-something, 26 people sign up. I was like: “Cool, let's do this”. After that, everyone brought back friends to do it again,
So your classes grew?
I didn’t advertise or anything. Then I met Hannah Jackson. She's just an amazing dancer, she does the same thing. She sold her house, left her husband and moved to South America to learn how to dance. Since then, for the last four, five years she does the exact same thing I do. She goes to South America, America, Europe, just dancing all over the world. We kind of paired up and it was honestly the best thing that's ever happened. People are always asking us: “Are you guys together, are you a couple?” Cause when we dance, we are very flirty, very energetic and we are always smiling and having the best time. But we are just very professional.
But you are not traveling with her?
No, we bumped into each other here and there, it's just the best time.
But then you teach together in Australia?
Yes, we teach our beginners in front of mentors, we have cuban classes together. Then we had a “Salsa con reggaeton” class together. Then I did my own little thing. It has always been a passion of mine dancing salsa to non-salsa music. As a hip-hop dancer, I wanted to try and combine the two together. I am working on that and I still have a long, long way to go.
So it’s kind of a fusion?
Yeah, like fusing two styles together. You need to be a master of both, which I'm not even in one. But still, all my students have a lot of fun, I have a lot of fun and I'm always trying to give the correct information. I won’t just throw out a move, because I've seen it somewhere. It’s because I’ve studied it and talked about the origin of the move and where it was from. I guess, we got to start somewhere, so now I'm trying to find the balance to mix the two styles together. That's the reason, why I wanna move to Cuba. I wanna live and experience the culture.
From the source...
Yeah, I don't wanna be a hip hop dancer that dances salsa, I wanna be both.
You dance two different styles, so how does your dance routine look like? Do you dance every day, practice every day? Which style do you practice at which point?
This is a really good question. Nowadays, especially in the street community, street dancers, we’re very pushed by battles and competitions. People are always training, always practicing and always dancing in front of a mirror. There's nothing wrong with that, because their technique is amazing. If you see poppers dancing in a battle, their movements will be really clean and crazy. But for me dancing it’s something I love doing and it's something I want to have fun doing it and meet other people while doing it. I would be dancing in the club five to six days a week, so my practice is in the club. It might not be as clean like when I pop, but it’s more like grooving.
It’s about real street dance, not competition.
Yeah, it’s just how I feel and there's no right or wrong. It's a matter of environment that I dance in, it's not to battle, it’s not to win any competitions, not to prove anything. It's literally just to have fun and to be able to express myself, how I interpret the music.
So, dancing salsa and hip-hop, people always ask me, which one do I like more. I love both equally, it just depends on how I feel at the time, ultimately it depends on the music that's playing. If I hear hip-hop, I get straight into it, but if I dance too much hip-hop, I need to find a salsa night. After a whole week in Croatia, I was so happy to hear some techno in Slovenia. It's good to mix it up. And then you have reggaeton, which is a bit of both, so this is one of my favorite music to dance to.
You danced in Australia first and now, after the fourth time, you know Europe very well. How would you say the dance communities in Australia and Europe compare?
That's a tricky one. There are always phases and it depends which community you are a part of. For example; in the street community, I would be hanging out more with poppers, but then you also have the beat boys and the hip-hop dancers like wackers. Then you have the commercial side, which I never hang out with really. That side is a huge thing in Sydney, that I don’t know of. It’s the one, that ends up dancing in musicals and plays and stuff.
And with the salsa community it’s just... When I'm home in Australia, I'm working 60 hours a week. I work for 6 months, so I can travel for 6 months. So back at home, I am not as engaged. We have Wednesday nights like the main salsa night with cross body dances. I think, the Cuban thing is starting to come up as well, especially with a whole bunch of my students. Now there is an extra 30 or 40 Cuban dancers. I know there is a group, that meets regularly every Sunday, to go dancing to the beach. I can’t go, I’m always working.
But dancing community in Europe… It’s so different in every country, some countries take it really seriously. For example, in Paris: the level of dancing there is just insane, but you can see why. One of my closest friends is from Paris and he was telling me, that they take dance really seriously. It’s a lot of training, it’s very competitive. I remember being in some countries like Serbia or Czech Republic and the dance communities there are really, really close. They have classes, where everyone is a friend and the whole class goes together to learn all sorts of dances. They are travelling, going to camps and to the mountains and stuff. It's really interesting everywhere you go in the world, but at the end of the day what matter is, that dance brings people together, as long as that's the case, there is no negativity there. It doesn’t matter if it’s because they are training or just because they love to have fun and go out dancing. I think the most important thing is, that everyone is happy and that it brings everyone together.
To be continued…