Last week, Nejc entrusted us with his dance story. If you haven’t seen or read the first part yet, you can find it on the link.
This week, he shared with us his inspirations, moments from the dancefloor, routine, challenges for the future and he also shared some tips and a challenge for you to try his moves.
Is there any challenge in the dance that you still see for yourself?
I try to give myself one challenge each season. A couple of years ago, the challenge was to expand the swing to Zagreb. I started teaching local teachers there, then it was Belgrade and two years ago Trieste, where there are three dance schools teaching swing. One is called Swing freaks, this is a group I am working with. They have great socials and classes. I also taught in Kranj, where I was born and raised.
At one point with Studio Dansa, it was challenging to have socials at various locations in Ljubljana. It’s a problem, that many dance schools or groups of dancers face: bar owners accuse them of not drinking enough and they don’t make enough money. All the time we were thrown from one place to another. Like me, Tanja and Anja had a desire to have our own place and we found Vilharjeva. There were many interesting locations that just wasn’t right for us. But here the owners and managers found the common ground, so seven years ago we restored this place. Dancers have put in their effort and time and now we have our own ballrooms. We no longer have to run away from anyone, we have our socials and concerts here.
The challenge, first and foremost, is that wherever I do my job or mission, I try to spread the idea of swing and present this wonderful dance. Over the years we found, that there is not only one style, but there are many. So the challenge for me was also to learn the rest of the styles.
Since I started teaching, I've never competed a lot, but there were times when I was performing. On occasions, I still like to dance on stage, but most of all I am a social dancer. There are a lot of dances; I am attracted to salsa and tango, but I would like to learn a lot more. Whatever I learn, I bring it into my own work, my own dance, may it be pedagogical techniques or movement principles. If I go to tango classes and watch the dancers, something can become clearer, such as why people move in a certain way.
How does your dance routine look like? How many times do you train, how often do you go abroad?
Training is always a problem, as I am a social dancer and have always spent most of my trainings on the social dance floor. In terms of learning in Ljubljana and Trieste, I am lucky to teach with Špela Premelč. Every year we try to change something and find a new way. Above all, the biggest challenge is how to teach beginners the quickest manner; from first entering the ballroom to getting sovereign on the dance floor and dancing for the first time. We try something new every time and learn from our own mistakes. The class is a movement laboratory for us. We try some principles, we see they don't work and will not be applied next time. Each time we try to teach differently and change something. We also talk a lot about principles of teaching. We are lucky to have teachers at Vilharjeva, who are never ashamed to share their opinions and to receive and give criticism.
So you learn from and help each other.
Also in the international field, I see that the best and most experienced dancers and educators are the ones, who will be the first to share an opinion with you and give you some advice.
Is there any moment you remember from the dance floor, which really touched your heart and means something more to you?
A moment that really touched me, I think it was in 2010 with Katja Završnik, former Hrastar, we performed in Bologna, in a competition with a small show act and Frankie Manning was watching us. He is a legend, who passed away 10 years ago, he was 95 years old I think. He was one of the beginners of swing in Harlem, during the two wars. He noticed us when we were practicing and repeating our routine in the hallway. At the end of the competition, his partner came to us, because he had difficulty walking. She said, that he was excited about what he saw, as we were expressing some of the spirit they had while dancing in the old days. It touched me and gave me extra momentum. Each of us is constantly in doubts about what we are doing. I really enjoy it, but still sometimes you ask yourself about the meaning of your own work and effort.
For me it's a special moment every time I make swing-out, within a group, with the people I love. Swing-out is such a characteristic movement of lindy hop, that it always gives you a special pleasure. If you do this in a group to music, it's an added pleasure.
What about a funny moment, some awkward moment that comes to your mind?
Certainly something where I was a participant, as I like to laugh at myself. There was a moment with Donja, one of the members of Salsa Caliente group. I think, she no longer lives in Slovenia. One time we decided to do a swing and salsa performance together. We performed at one social in Zagreb, where they also tried to combine swing and salsa. Donja was, like me, very impulsive and she wanted to dance what she felt in the moment. She believed in me and that I would follow her in her idea. So, once I did something similar. We practiced one jump together and at some point I decided to make that jump. I don't know why by chance I set out to do another one, very similar jump. The biggest mistake was, that in the middle of the jump, we both doubted each other and the jump failed. I alleviated her fall but I fell very awkwardly.
But no injuries?
No, I never hurt myself while dancing.
Two weeks ago, I met a guy who organized that social. To my slight astonishment and at the same time joy, he did not remember that moment, so it was clearly not as tragic or comical as I remember.
Is there anything dance taught you and you are using it in your everyday life?
Mostly all types of swing dancing, especially lindy hop and balboa, are very fast. You have to have a very good spatial notion when you move through the room and you have to observe people around you, so you don't hit someone. This is an ability that dance has given me. When I walk down the street, I take very good notice of people, with my peripheral vision, I notice things that others don't. Dance is also very dynamic, and because there is so much movement, it has a very good effect on any sport you do. For a period of time, I played cricket very intensely, and that athleticism, balance, rhythm... It all helps, to bring it to other physical activities.
Do you have any signature move?
No, because I avoid them. As soon as I start repeating one movement, I try to change it or do something else. I try to avoid repetitive movements. The dancers have movements that characterize them, and I subconsciously or consciously try to avoid them. If I would ask anyone who saw me dancing more than once, they could definitely say that some movement is characteristic. But on my own, I may have too little introspective.
What about inspiration? You've been dancing for many years, where do you look for inspiration, who are your biggest role models?
My role models are dancers, who are older than me and also young dancers. Especially here at Studio Dansa, at Vilharjeva, we have a lot of young teachers who train, compete and perform a lot. They just came from the Balkan Lindy Hop championship in Sofia, Bulgaria, where they won as a group, as individuals and as couples. When I see and hear something like this, it warms my heart, cause many of these dancers I had the opportunity to teach. Now they are successful in competitions and they also enjoy the dance. So, inspiration is definitely coming from them and also from other dances. When I see super salsa and tango dancers, modern dancers, african dancers... If you like dancing, you have your eyes and ears wide open. You don't have to follow it, but when you see the dance, you can perceive it faster and respond faster.
Do you have any other advice for our dancers?
If they like to dance, they shouldn't just hang on to one dance, but go to other classes as well. Every dance community has its own charm, character. Dance and music may attract different people. It's good, especially in Slovenia, where there are not so many dance choices like for example in Lisbon, they should take their time and also try some other options. Everywhere they will learn something beautiful, and then they will transfer it in the dance they love the most. With this dance evolves and people don't dance the same way all the time. Maybe they also don't dance all the time as their teachers, but they bring something more personal to their dance.
You prepared a short challenge for our dancers.
A small challenge for you. This is called swing-out. Let's see, if you can make it.
Nejc, thank you so much for taking the time for the interview. It was a pleasure and I am looking forward to following your dance steps.
Thank you too.
Good luck, see you.