(Interview #2 of 5. To read interview #1- Giana and Nery- click here)
I walked into James’ and Alex’s cha cha workshop a little low in energy. I was tired and wasn’t sure I would make it through the class. But it turned out to be one of my favourite workshops because Alex and James were so fun. In fact, the combination of the music they chose, the playful choreography they put together for us, and their own charisma, made me forget about my sluggishness earlier. Instead, I found myself laughing and enjoying myself all the way through, and I also left reenergized!
I really enjoyed your cha cha workshop today. Is it one of your favorite dances? You seem to have a lot of fun with it.
James: More and more now, it almost seems like we prefer cha cha over salsa (smiles). And it helps that because of our cha cha performance, we are getting asked to do more and more cha cha workshops. You can play with the timing a little more. You can put your own routines together for it in a way that can be a bit more interesting and more unique than the regular old patterns. But really, we like both.
Alex: But the energy does often seem to be much higher in cha cha workshops. It’s fun. You can have a laugh with it. Cha cha is very loose. As long as you feel it, you can do whatever you want in it, really.
Alex: Yes, first time in Vancouver and first time in Canada.
Oh, wow! And you both met in Dubai but you are from different countries, right?
James: Yeah, I’m from the UK and Alex is from Belgium. But we both met in Dubai. Alex has been in Dubai for about sixteen years. I’ve been there twelve years, almost thirteen years.
I keep hearing of people who go to Dubai and then either don’t leave or at least don’t want to leave (laughs), like Cheyenne.
James: It is a hard place to live. But I think a lot of people actually leave, and then they realize they miss it too much and they go back.
And what is the scene like in Dubai for dancing, for salsa?
James: It’s getting stronger now. It’s been going since about ’98. It’s definitely the stronger city in the Middle East, for salsa. I think we’ve been lucky as well. We’ve had quite a few good dancers and DJs who moved to Dubai and lived there for a period of time. And that helps to improve the level of the dancers that are there, because you get to dance with much better dancers and learn from them.
Alex: I think a lot of people from the Dubai salsa scene started travelling and seeing the level outside and around the world. And they began understanding that if they were to stay where they were, in their comfort zone, they wouldn’t improve or learn more. So by travelling, it kind of opened their eyes. And it challenged everyone to go up in their level.
And you guys had a performance at VIS on Friday night. How did you feel about it? How did it go?
Honestly, the crowd was brilliant. They gave us that kick, that energy that you need when you’re on stage, just to give that much more to the audience. So many places you go, the crowd is kind of just there, just watching, and in the end, they clap, but you don’t feel them so much. You don’t get to feed that energy from the crowd into your show. But when you have the kind of energy like we had last night, from beginning to end, it’s just brilliant.
James: The other thing is that it’s quite an old show for us. We’ve performed it so much and we know it so well that it’s so natural to perform. So you just go out there and you don’t have to think about the choreography or about what’s coming next. And I think that really shows. We can play with it, and we can dance it a lot more and not worry about it.
Alex: Unlike the one we will perform on Saturday night (laughs). That one is very new to us and we might feel a little more nervous before that show.
Do you still get nervous when you go out there to perform?
Alex: I think if you don’t get nervous, then something’s wrong.
James: Definitely the more we perform, the less it affects us in terms of nerves. And even with the cha cha routine we are so familiar with, I don’t feel nervous until the performer before me goes out on stage, and then I just feel it a little bit. But I think once you get on stage, it disappears. Once the music starts, you relax and you kind of get in your own zone.
Well, watching you guys out there is really inspiring for a lot of people. If you had the chance to speak to or interview someone that really inspires you, who would it be?
Alex: I’d like to say one of those creative directors that runs shows like Cirque de Soleil, because what goes on in their minds is out of this world. I’d like to understand how all of what they imagine comes into reality. They make you dream when you see their shows. They come up with these surreal concepts and make them come alive in front of you. And I’d just like to understand the thinking behind it and how they make it all happen. What they do is amazing.