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 6th interview of Dancer's Life Stories, we will get to know the story of Vesna Jevšenak from Salam Ghazeea dance society. She teaches bollywood, indian and oriental dances, besides that she is also a dance-movement therapist.
When did you start dancing these diverse set of styles, where did you find out about them and what attracted you to them?
I started dancing as a five-year-old girl. I started with ballet, went through jazz and modern dance techniques, got into oriental dance and after a few years I got acquainted with Indian dance, which became part of my main repertoire. I also added standard dances and flamenco, but here's where my heart is.
Have you ever visited India?
I did, I've been to India twice. I also attended a dance course with my teachers, once in southern India and once in a central area near Mumbai.
The styles you dance come from abroad, so you probably went abroad to study them? Did you go anywhere else besides India?
I have been in India twice, in Egypt and I drove a lot to Austria's dance center. There were various workshops from teachers coming from America, Egypt, India and every possible country. There was a center of knowledge in Vienna, I went to Graz as well, but mostly to Vienna.
Indian dance and bollywood are not very recognized in Slovenia yet, you probably know how big the community is around here. Could you tell us a little bit more about the two styles and the differences between them? Some of us imagine, that bollywood is Indian dance, but Indian dance is so much more, right?
So, we have classic Indian dances, there are seven basic styles. I dance Bharat Nãtyam, which is one of the most recognized styles.
Bollywood, however, is a mix of dance styles, where the main note is Indian with added jazz, hip hop, modern, ballet... Bollywood is a movie industry which is almost always connected with dancing and singing.
There are a lot of movies made in Bollywood, right?
Yes, there's a lot of dancing and singing in it. They dance various choreographies, which are a mix of classical and almost purely modern variants of Indian dances mixed with other styles.
Which one is more popular in Slovenia?
I think bollywood is more popular. It's known better, because people watch the movies. However, more people dance classical Indian dance, maybe because the tradition of classical Indian dance is longer.
How long have indian dance and bollywood been in Sovenia?
I think in year 1995 they had the first workshop of Indian classical dance at the Public Fund for Cultural Activities, that is also when I saw it. But bollywood came later. I started teaching it... I don't remember anymore. Sometime between 2000 and 2005 I started with bollywood workshops and then it spread forward.
So it has been present in Slovenia for many years.
Yes, but it has always been a small community, it's something exotic and special in Slovenian circle.
You mentioned that you were in India. How is the dance community there and how is it in Slovenia?
I can tell mostly about classical. Classical Indian dance in India is danced by children and in adulthood by some women. That is the main difference between us and them. In Slovenia, there are mostly adults that start dancing it. In India men and women are dancing, mostly women, but in Slovenia exclusively women. There dance is more connected with spirituality, but here it's one of the dance styles.
You've been dancing for many years. Certainly a funny moment happened during that time, as well as one that impressed you as something special in your career?
The funny moment was, when we added a piece of music in one show quite late and due to that we got on the stage too early. We weren't ready, we were in front of an audience and we didn't know what to do. Then we just improvised. Years later, we laughed about what we were doing.
An event that impressed me... I like to remember dancing with my teacher Ujwal Bhole, who unfortunately is already deceased. It was a really special experience to dance with him on stage, it felt spiritual.
So did you also perform with him?
Yes, we performed together a lot. We had a special connection, always very harmonious in our dance, although we didn't practice together much, since he only came to Slovenia twice a year. He came from India to Europe and stayed with us for ten to fourteen days and gave classes to us.
As you mentioned, you dance different styles. There are certainly different teachers you worked with and maybe some you haven't had a chance to meet in person yet, who are your inspiration. Who would they be? Or do you get your inspiration from somewhere else, not from existing teachers?
Once I was inspired by teachers that taught in Austria for many years. They were coming from Egypt. They gave me a lot, they encouraged me. An important experience was also going abroad, because there was much more knowledge than here. Today I would say that it's more about a moment, a movement, a situation that reminds me of some possible interpretation in dance. This is how I get the most inspiration and challenges.
You have been dancing for a long time and already have a lot of knowledge. Where do you see some more dance challenges for yourself? Is there any style you want to upgrade?
I would be happy to learn a whole bunch of styles, I would happily turn back time. The challenge for me would be working with a professional group - a group of highly educated dancers, who dedicate their time to it. This is a desire, a vision, which, unfortunately, is difficult to achieve. That would really make me happy, because than the dance could get bigger dimensions.
Do you perform alone?
I perform alone and with very high quality group. They are longtime dancers, who are technically very good. We have a lot of performances.
Dance gives us a lot. There is certainly some dance knowledge you have learned, that can be applied to everyday life. Is there anything that especially touched you?
In dance you can gain a lot of confidence, body knowledge, proper posture, sociability, contacts with people, persistence, concentration, memory, creativity...
Is there any advice you would give to dancers regarding dance?
The most important thing is to dance with heart, technique comes.
Is there any dance movement you prefer or a movement that you always do as your signature move?
It's hard, considering I'm dancing a few different styles. There was one dance movement, that I used for the logo of my dance society. It represents a blossom, an opening, you do it by the opening of hands, and the feet are also in a special position.
You also prepared a short challenge for our dancers.
For the dance challenge I have prepared a short bollywood mix. Try it yourself.
Vesna, thank you very much for taking the time for today's interview and for presenting the story of bollywood and Indian dances to us.
Dancers, I hope you learned something new and that you might join Vesna's classes in the new dance season. Vesna, thanks again.