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.
In the 13th interview of Dancer's Life Stories, we will get to know the story of Sylvia Valentine, who worked as a dancer in Indian movie industry.
We would like to hear your story. Where did your dance story begin and how did your journey take you to India?
Long story, I fell in love with Indian dance as a kid. I was thirteen or fourteen, I used to dance other styles and I also did aerobics. Later Vesna Jevšenak, who was also a guest in Dancer's Life Stories, introduced me to Indian and Oriental dance. It has became my passion, well it still is and will be. I have always wanted to go to India, to get to know the film industry. Not just dance, but also acting, teamwork, work in front of the camera. My dad, who is from London, has always worked behind the camera, he was part of the tech team, so I think I have it in my genes. I always planned it; it's not easy, but I try to be on the Indian scene, which is huge, there are so many dancers, actors and interesting people there.
Tell us about your beginnings there? How did you get in touch with people in the industry? Do they have any public auditions?
There are quite a few different ways to get there. It's a huge country, but the industry is pretty small. Everyone seems to know everyone and everyone has been on a date with someone from the industry. It was difficult for me because I was the only Slovenian and had no connections there, no one who had already worked in the industry in Mumbai. However, I knew the dancers, Indians from Germany and England, with whom we worked in Slovenia.
So, because of my desire to get to know and study acting, I went to India again. A colleague from England, a teacher of Indian dance, suggested Jeff Goldberg Acting School in Mumbai. I did go there and it was great. If anyone wants to learn more about it, I'm happy to share information. Before that I have also been to academy for classical dance. But then I had to live from something and I got into the network of connections and collaborations. You get to know more people day by day, you have more contacts and then they start reaching out to you. Documents still needed to be arranged, because of course you never escape bureaucracy. If anyone needs information, I can share, they can contact you and get me or of course I also have Facebook.
I went to India twice for a longer period of time; first for just half a year, then another year and now another two years, as I worked in Mumbai and in other cities.
To which dance style did your work relate to, was it more Classical indian dance or Bollywoood?
For the first two times, it was just classic South Indian dance - Bharatanatyam, but then I went to the acting side and danced in the Bollywood industry. In all these years my focus was on Indian classical dance, Oriental dance and exotic Eastern styles. Bollywood, which is a mix of styles, is increasingly leaning towards the western styles - hip hop, jazz...
So away from your favorite...?
Yeah, unfortunately. The priority is given to dancers who are trained in these western genres. At least today that's the case. We are moving away from the 90's bollywood, which is my favorite, but times are changing. There is also a lot of dancers from England, Australia, Russia, Ukraine...
Are there many foreigners, who perform in Bollywood industry?
Like it or not, white women are desired as a symbol of sensuality and exoticism, so there is absolutely more work for female dancers of the west than for male dancers. I also have some colleagues from the west who are working as stuntmen or are combining acting with dance. These are usually Russians and Englishmen. It's hard to remember all these people because there are so many. The industry is open to everyone, but then it depends on the movie, the director and if they will only need Indian dancers, only foreigners or a mix of both. It depends.
What was your daily routine in India? How often did you train, how often did you film?
Organization in India is very different. You can find out about the movie shooting in the last minute, we traveled a lot by plane, I think I had over sixty, seventy flights last year. It's a lot of trips because filming can happen in Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai... You can get a message right now, to where are you flying the next day. It can be rehearsals, or there may not be and they teach you everything on the set. Certain dancers can be in rehearsals, but then some others come to the actual shooting; it's very complex, not everything is pre-defined. You just have to relax about these things, otherwise you can get a bit frustrated. Sometimes the rehearsals last from three to twelve hours. There are pauses in between, depending on where you are in the formation. Often you'll be taught something, but in front of the camera you will have to do something completely different. Who would know. If anyone is interested, they can try, but it is tiring. It always comes as a package; first makeup, hairstyle, also expression... At the end of a twelve-hour recording day you are exhausted.
But the real dancing may last only for an hour.
Yeah, so I missed dancing as the real dancing. I don't want to lie, basically I've been losing the joy of this work day after day. I'm much more excited about dance workshops, to learn from someone or to teach. At the moment I am saying goodbye to performing, but I will have a couple of workshops, so follow posts on Dancer’s Life and join me at the workshop.
It seems, all of this exhausted me because it becomes like a routine. It would be expected that I work with celebrities almost every day and it will be very exciting. Maybe it is for the first two months, but then it becomes a routine. All that glitters is not gold. It looks fantastic on camera, just like we do, but there is a lot of work behind the camera.
What challenges do you see for yourself in the future, in dance and beyond?
The challenges are primarily financial. I'm going to take a break from dance for a little bit, because I'm going into hosting in India. We are preparing a show with an Indian co-host. The director is from Australia and the production itself is in India. There is a good chance that I will be moving somewhere near India, as it is more convenient for me at the moment and the flights are shorter. Guess, where that is?
Maybe I'll return to economics, as I studied it in Ljubljana. The reason is primarily financial, but with all the plans, this will somehow combine. I believe, I become more productive when I have more things obligations.
Do you still see any challenges in dance for yourself, do you still intend to develop in this field?
Yes, I will take a short break, but then I will focus more on Oriental dance. I like Egypt very much, maybe I'll go there someday. This music is surrounding me lately. I have experienced India now, so...
Time for the next challenge…
Yeah, maybe something Egyptian.
To be continued…