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 12th interview of Dancer's Life Stories, we will get to know the story of Tjaša Krajnc, who was my first dance teacher when I really started dancing. Currently she teaches bachata sensual, reggaeton, cuban salsa and lady styling.
Tjaša, we would love to hear your story. When did you start dancing, how did your dance journey develop?
As a very young girl, about fourteen or fifteen years old, I traveled to Latin countries with my parents like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Mexico... I first encountered salsa in Cuba, before that I had no clue about it. These were classic animations, the basics of salsa, a bit of merengue, but it didn't mean anything to me at the time. I really got in touch with dance a couple of years later, around 2004 or 2005. There was a party at Trust café in Maribor and we went for a drink with my colleagues. One boy, Marko invited me to the dance floor to dance salsa. I liked his dancing and asked him, what kind of Latin rhythms were this. He told me it was salsa. That's when I got to know it more. Marko, thank you that you got me to dance as dance has become my new love.
That's when it kind of all started. I went to Ljubljana because the dance scene was very poorly developed in Maribor and there were no such parties here. Only Rolly and Pingi had some classes, so I started dancing in Ljubljana. It was line salsa at the time, which was my first style of salsa. It lasted about three years, I was totally into it and every weekend I went from Maribor to Ljubljana to parties. Then, at one party in Ljubljana I met Krista, who introduced us to a new style, reggaeton. It was brought from London by Andrea Stewart. Krista said, we were going to do an animation and show off this new dance style and so I met reggaeton for the first time.
That's when everything changed, it became my new and main love. I took two classes at Krista as there was no other place. She was the first in Slovenia to teach it. I could see what it looked like, but had no place else to study, so I was self-taught by I watching Youtube videos. my dance partner Marin is currently learning bachata sensual this way. Those were my beginnings, pure self-taught. At home, I set myself up in front of a mirror, revealing and discovering my body and body isolation. Then, a year later I decided to teach a reggaeton class and see what it would be like. The interest was very big, great response. I was the first to teach reggaeton in Maribor. After that, I started attending various salsa festivals but there weren't as much of them as there are today.
Then I went to the festival in Koper, organized by Soy Cubano. I danced at Leysis Smith workshop. While dancing, I wondered if it was salsa or not and what kind of salsa it was, because we didn't dance it like that... That is when I had my first connection with cuban salsa, and that is when it all started. I focused on cuban salsa and reggaeton, which fits together perfectly. I still went to line salsa, but reggaeton was my primary style followed by salsa cubana.
That's when you opened the El movimento studio in Maribor?
With Alja, Daša and Donia we started Sabor Cubano. Donja is now lost somewhere, I don't know where she is. The Sabor Cubano dance school was in the same location where Alja has her Jam dance and recreation center today. Matjaž and Zala also collaborated. I had reggaeton classes. We didn’t teach cuban salsa as haven't had enough knowledge yet. It was basically the first dance school where it all began. It lasted about a year and a half. Then I decided to go on my own, because our interests didn't match. I wanted to do a lot in this area, I was addicted, I wanted to dance as much as possible. I started El movimento dance society, where you joined us. There were very strong groups, I had four or five groups of twenty or thirty girls in each. This was something new and attractive in Maribor, even though I was still learning as well.
We also performed a lot.
It's true, we were pretty good. We did a lot of shows, there were a lot of locations, it was nice and interesting.
But where did El movimento end and your journey continued?
I opened El movimento in 2007 and it lasted about five or six years. It was a lot of classes and at times it was a little difficult. In the meantime, I also worked with other teachers from Ljubljana and from around Maribor. A turning point came when I wanted to calm things down a bit. I closed the company, there was little controversy in the market also because of inspections, as the non-profit societies were under scrutiny. It was also when zumba took over the world and I decided to take a break. Reggaeton has always been a part of me, I never left it. I went to teach to former Jam for a while. We worked with Alja, I rented a studio there and tought my reggaeton classes. There were maybe two groups a week, nothing much. Then we changed locations again and soon I opened the Youth dance club, which was again a society. It lasted about two or three years. We had problems with neighbours living above us, as they were disturbed by the music, etc. It was very unstable, I was teaching reggaeton all the time, but it was all at much slower and smaller pace.
But then things started to change. Two or three years ago, we opened new studios Plesno vadbeni center S at S Hotel, where I work today. These are our own studios. We went a bit wider here, I started to dance bachata sensual with my current dance partner Marin. We expanded last year, adding other classes, such as ladies styling, cuban salsa, bachata sensual and salsa fusion. In the meantime, we were joined by a friend of mine who lived in Cali, Colombia, for four years, so we started with salsa cali as wekk. We are established now and the classes are in place. This is a kind of journey from 2005 to the present, almost 14 years. All this time my main focus was reggaeton; cuban salsa more at festivals, but still reggaeton remains my thing.
You also visited quite a few Latin countries. Could you compare them? In which country did salsa seem the most genuine or the most suited to your style?
I was as very young when I went to Cuba, about fourteen or fifteen years old. Between the ages of thirteen and seventeen I was also in Dominican Republic and Mexico, with the choir in Venezuela, Chile... I saw almost all of Latin America. It is true, however, that I didn't experience it the way I would today. Back then, dancing was not a part of my life and I looked at it with different eyes.
For several years I have been saying that I have to go to Cuba again, to see what it is like today and to learn more about dance there. I was a tourist when I was there, but today the interest is completely different. These lands have certainly changed and my perspective would be different too. Cali impressed me in particular, as I went there for one month last year with the intention of learning the dance. The salsa style they dance there is Cali, so salsa calenia. It is quite different from the cuban salsa, it's more similar to the linear salsa, it's very playful, there is a lot of leg work...
There are of course always parallels between the different styles of salsa, as it all began with the same mother. I remember Cali very well, there all my focus was on the dance. I had six to eight hours of workshops a day or I helped at dance schools and learning salsa cali at the same time. I had private lady style and reggaeton classes, or urban as reggeaton is called in Cali more commonly. This term is being used as it include several dance styles. I had a lot of private urban hours there, which taught me a lot of important things for reggaeton, salsa and for everything I dance here. I gained a lot of knowledge and also the level of professors, with whom I have had private classes, is very high. I have very beautiful memories of Cali and I will definitely return. I didn't manage to do it yet, we will see if I can do it this year or the next one.
Where do you see challenges for yourself in the future? Maybe further developing by going to Cali or some other Latin American country?
I definitely need to go to Cuba again to see the difference and to develop in the "heart" of salsa world and to educate myself. Although I have been dancing for thirteen, fourteen years, I have been a fan of lifelong learning. You never know so much that you have nothing more to learn. Same with reggaeton; I think I have developed myself to a level, where I can teach and share knowledge without difficulty. I can explain to people how to get there, but still you can always learn something new. So Cuba is definitely still the plan and Cali for sure. Cali maybe even more from the point of reggaeton or urban, and Cuba more due to salsa and of course afro. I still have a lot to work on in this style, which is also my goal for the future. Not to upgrade my knowledge, but to learn afro, I am still very weak there. This is the my future plan.
To be continued…