Dance world is full of various dance 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.
Naja, how did you get started with dance, where did you get in touch with Tahitian dances, and how did your dance story continue?
My story with Ori Tahiti started back in 2011 in Milan. I went there for the first workshop, led by my current teacher Amanda Mendoza from Mexico. She brought this dance style to Italy and we were very lucky that she shared it with us. She started her own school and dance group in Italy and I brought this knowledge to Slovenia.
Where did you find out about Tahitian dances?
Before I started Ori Tahiti, I danced oriental dance. As part of one project, I met a girl from Milan who was already learning this genre with Amanda. I went there, because I like to try new things and I liked the dance. Then I danced oriental and polynesian dance for a while, and soon my love for Ori Tahiti prevailed.
Tahitian dance is quite unknown in Slovenia, how did the people respond to it?
Even now, people don't know where Polynesia is, so when I describe what I am doing, I first have to geographically define Polynesia and Tahiti. There are people who try the dance, but don't identify themselves with it. After three years of teaching, a small group of eight dancers has been formed and they take classes regularly. We perform, we spread our love for the dance, I organize workshops and we also have classes once a week.
You have classes in Ljubljana, do you also have workshops in Koper?
No, everything's happening in Ljubljana. I moved, so it's logistically easier.
For sure you already visited Tahiti and got to know this dance at the place of its origin. How is the dance community there?
I first visited Tahiti in 2014, after three years of intensive studies with Amanda. I felt I really have to go to the place where this dance is coming from. Amanda shares the knowledge very well, but still, the original environment must be absorbed with all our senses. I went there, studied at conservatory and with other teachers. I had individual lessons and spent a lot of time educating myself intensely. In 2017 I went there for a second time and stayed for three months. I also became interested in other areas: music, tahitian language, culture, history...
Is their culture very open, do they dance a lot? Does everyone know the dance or is it just a very small group?
With us, society is made so that dance is an activity that makes you happy, you like it or you don’t. But there it is already in their culture, they are all very musical and have rhythm. They live in an environment where dance and musicality develop automatically.
What about in Europe? You mentioned Italy.
There is also France and smaller communities in Spain, Hungary, England and Slovenia.
What is your dance routine today? How often do you dance, train? Are there some Tahitian dance socials you go to?
In Polynesia yes, but in Slovenia there are no dance socials. The plan for this year is to do our first solo production. Otherwise, I dance at home as much as possible. I also have a regular job so I have to balance it both. I practice alone and also as part of my classes. When you are preparing for the class, you have to try the moves yourself, you can't be just teaching something. Every day I try to practice at least five minutes, go over the basics, maybe play an instrument, sing, anything to stay in contact.
Where do you see the future challenges for your development, in Tahitian dance or in other Polynesian dances?
For now, I place Ori Tahiti in the forefront, as it offers me a very wide field of exploration. I have the desire to go to Tahiti again and for longer periods. I would love to perform at their annual festival, where schools perform and compete, and I would like to go through the whole learning process. There you do everything by yourself, from beginning to the end. You learn the language, interpretation of songs, rhythms, create the costum and everything that comes with the festival.
How long does such a festival last?
It happens every year in July and is similar to the one in Rio de Janeiro, when February is dedicated to the festival. In Tahiti, all the traditional sports and activities are happening at that time. The festival is dedicated to culture in general, not just dance.
To be continued…