I started when I was nine. My best friend was dancing, so she brought me into a ballet class. I was actually really into soccer before. I was a hard-core tomboy. I took my first ballet class and then after that, I realized I really, really liked it and stayed in. The foundation was ballet. From that, you can take any other classes, so I took jazz, musical theatre, tap and hip hop.
To be honest, and this sounds horrible, but I put dance first. My parents had to drill, ‘No, you have to do your school work,’ because I was so in love with dance. I did go to a half-day program, so I was only in school from 8:45 a.m. to 12p.m. I did two courses a day and I would dance the rest of the day. It definitely was hard. I’d have to come home and it would be 10 p.m. and I’d be like, oh crap, this is due tomorrow and I’d have to bust out an essay.
Right out of high school, I went to Royal Caribbean and got onto the ship. From there, I just went on and decided, you know what, I want to travel and see where this can take me. It has to do with networking. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been booking quite a bit of commercials, which is great.
I like live performances on stage because you get something in return, which is the feedback from the audience. If you’re on film, it’s the director saying ‘OK, cut’ and you’re like well, hello, did you see how good I did? I go on stage and I want people to watch me. The rehearsal process beforehand, you’re like, OK, I’m working my ass off right now, and I’m eventually going to go on stage. You don’t have room for flaws. Everything you’ve practiced has to be perfect.
The dancing here in Vancouver is not as big as I feel every dancer here wishes it was. There’s no shows that are going on constantly. There’s just not enough work here, so for me, it’s like where can I go and live and do my job every single day? I really would love to go to the United States because there’s so much work there and everything I want to do is there. That’s what it is. It’s struggling to be like, OK, I need to save up enough money while I’m at home, but also find a balance of trying to dance. Everyone always preaches do what you love, but sometimes you have to make sacrifices.
Yes, completely. I went to Australia for a bit, blew through my money and had to come back home and start from square one again. I went back to the studio that I taught at, just saved all my money. Luckily, my parents don’t make me pay rent, so I saved up everything and then went to the States recently. But all on my own dime. I ran out of money, so it’s like OK, time to go back home. I come back home to regroup and then I go do something. I’m definitely at a point in my life where I need to make the commitment to stay in one place.
Definitely read your contract. You can get walked over in this industry and I think a lot of times, dancers go, ‘I’ll do it just because I’m dancing.’ But it’s like no, this is your job. You should put your foot down and be like, ‘This is how much I get paid.’ I’ve made that mistake before and got screwed over. It is what it is now, but now I’m more cautious.
The director of The DanceLAB in Coquitlam reached out to me when I was young. I think I was like 19 or something. I didn’t ever really think of teaching because I just wanted to dance. From there I realized, OK, I’m kind of good at this. It’s great because I can also fall back on that if I have some down time. I get to tell my students the life struggles, and be like, ‘Hey, be ready for this.’ I want my students to be prepared for it because I had to learn the hard way.
To work their ass off. I always ask my students, ‘Why are you here if you’re not going to work hard?’ It’s not just in dance, it’s in any industry. Hard work does pay off. You just have to keep going at it. Work hard. Show up. In this industry, there are so many let-downs, but you can’t let that define you. Cry it out for the day or something, but get back in the saddle.
While I’ve been home in the last four months teaching, I’ve realized that all my students who graduate are like, ‘This is where I want to go, I don’t know how to do it.’ What I would love to do is a post-graduation thing. It would be me and a few other people guiding people, just getting dancers where they want to be. That’s what I would have loved to have.
Tereza Verenca/ Burnaby Now
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