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 third interview of Dancer's Life Stories, we will get to know the story of Mateja Grajzar. She introduced a new dance style Groove to dancers in Slovenia, which is already gaining its first enthusiasts in Slovenia.
Mateja, you did not start your dance story with Groove, but with other dance genres, so we want to hear what was your dance story.
I think that the dance story probably started, just like for all, even before we were born. I firmly believe that any movement is already placed in our cradle. We are all movers in the heart, soul, nature, and something else. So, I've been dancing ever since, probably on whatever it was possible. But I knew from my childhood that I basically searched for a couples dance and I tried everything; all from Latin American, standard, salsa, tango, as well as ballet. I later went to African dances, to Oriental dances, I was always interested in everything, it was always really nice, but nothing was the real thing for me. Then, after a lucky chance, I encountered swing. I always liked swing music very much, and the fashion also attracted me. I would always be dressing like in the 20s, 30s. Then, a few years ago, I ran into a childhood friend who told me that he was dancing swing and in fact found me, the first swinging course, the next day after our coffee. At that time, this was a six-count, I did a whole two-month course. I said, "Okay, we are getting there, it's closer to THE thing." Then I danced for another two months lindy hop. In the summer, I also went to blues, and a couple of other things like that. Then balboa came. It was the first time that I saw it, that I thought - not me, I will not dance it. I do not like this - just some jumps... They just jump and something. Then, at the end of that summer, the Balboa teacher at the time posted on Facebook a clip of two French teachers from a contest, and they slid across the dance floor like on ice and danced balboa - and I told myself - that's it, I will dance it. In fact, I started dancing balboa the next day and then I found that pace of my heart in it.
Then where did the connection with the groove came?
Groove, in fact, came one year ago when I searched on Youtube for a dance workout that I could do at home, that was not just jumping and kneeling ... I ran into groove, the body groove as it is called, for home. I decided that it was me, I had to do it. In fact, it took another year and a half, or something like that - until last spring, when, after one personal downfall, when I picked myself up, back to my feet and it floated in at the moment when I decided that it was time, to go back to people. It floated back in, not only that the groves sailed back, it sailed with information on how to become the practitioner of this exercise. It was ok, action - in a month, finances good; click, click - in five minutes, I had everything booked. In a months time, I went to Berlin for education and only then did I figure out what it was - what is groove as a complete dance practice. It was absolutely amazing.
So now I'm omewhere between swing and groove.
You teach groove and also you still teach balboa?
What would you say are those common points in the teaching of both dances, and what are the greatest differences that you notice in your approach, as well as how your students respond?
In general, it seems to me that as a pedagogue or dance teacher, or just like a dancer, it seems to me that you need the widest spectrum of at least basic knowledge of different dance styles, because each dance style has some of its own, let's say specifics - some of the peculiarities that are not found in other dances. But if you already want to give someone some kind of true love for dancing (as I say), it seems to me that you have to have as much knowledge as possible from as many dance styles as there are differences between them and this is the width that can give you a lot. There are many similarities: dance discipline, rhythm, whatever ... While each dance has its own characteristics, for example: in relation to music, musicality, to a partner, even to the dance scene that we have in Slovenia.
You teach two different styles; how does your dance routine look like? How are you preparing for a class? Do you study two different types of different types each, probably everyone requires it’s own preparation?
Yes, definitely with swing or Balboa, it's just a dance with a partner, here is absolutely necessary training with my dance teacher, I mean a coteacher. So we have to coordinate two schedules. There are a few more correct things here, it's a structure, although everything is very free. Swing is such a loose dance. While the grove has all the emphasis on freedom itself. Groove is basically a dance practice, but it is very different from all traditional dance exercises, you can never do anything wrong. This phrase fascinated me the most. It's not a freestyle dance practice, just like a practitioner, you show your pupils two to three dance steps, movements that will be exchanged within one piece; what then does each one do with this clean, basic step - left, right, wherever ... then it is the case of every individual, how he moves, if he will go left or right, down, up, around, how he will use the space around him, is fundamentally different than just in these slightly more traditional dance genres.
Both dances are very close to you. Do you have any signature moves, which are really yours, which you actually use for both dances?
Clumsiness, things always want to fly down, I do not know, from glasses from the head, to flowers from the hair, from the clothes ... I do not know, from everywhere I'm always loosing stuff. This could be my signature move.
I love playing with musicality, I emphasize some of the slower movements, and this is basically for both dances, because everywhere is good to listen to music, try to somehow connect with music and what kind of "these" moments, I love playing with all of the dances, because this is the right one (takes a deep breath).
Where do you find inspiration? Probably two different, or inspiration for this movement derive from the same sources?
Yes, they are basically from the same source as saying it’s YouTube. As far as swing is concerned, I am very much looking at our and foreign dancers, can I name them?
Yes, of course, logically, the viewers will also be happy to have a chance to look for them by themselves.
Basically, Gašper Hrovat, who lives in Sweden now, has brought me into balboa, but he is somehow the pioneer of this balboa, as we know it now in Slovenia. He even introduced it, so I first studied with him, and then Katja Završnik, Nejc Zupan. We teached together with Nejc for some years. He even managed to put me on my feet, that I dared to even begin to do something myself, not just like a little mouse.
Then there are many foreign teachers I regularly follow on YouTube - their performances, or just teacher presentations at some festivals. From there you can get a lot of inspiration, how you will involve some movement, or you will only do it in a slightly different way to make it your own. I look curiously at Nelle Cherry, then Adam Speen, that's two Americans. In general, in swing, there are mostly Americans - Laura Keat and Jeremy Oath, Bobby White and Kate Hedin, then Mickey Fortanesce and Kelly Arsenault and, of course, Peter Loggins and Mia Goldsmith. If you search them, you will definitely find the real thing. Of course, let me not forget the French, to which I fell in love, these are Anne Helene Cavas and Bernard Cavas. They teach in Tollouese, there I repeatedly visited dance festivals, and I also studied with them. All are serious inspiration. I Youtube them daily.
Groove is essentially a new thing, it has only been present ten years. Founded by American Misty Tripoli, for many years she was a bodybuilder in the world of sports, she found that people basically do not simply settle in their own skin, with themselves. If you are so perfect, you only have those three grams of fat on you, but still you are not satisfied ... She was also not satisfied, she was bulimic, although she was a bodybuilder. She trained supermodels, and found that no one really was satisfied with themselfs, and because of this, she essentially designed a workout where you begin to like yourself in your own skin - exactly like you are. You have one body, and with this body you can do only what you want and you can, we cannot do two people the same thing. It's right that we are different, and that you are moving like you can move and that you begin to appreciate and love it.
To be continued…