Chance to Dance: Tarja de Silva

Oct 09 2023.

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For the last three decades or more Saturday night out dancing has ranged from disco to baila to some ear-splitting music in a nightclub or a beachside bar. However in the last decade or so this has changed largely due to popular dance shows such as Strictly Come Dancing. Sri Lanka has always raised a small generation of dancers in each decade who follow other dance forms which range from Ballroom to Latin American dancing. Local competitions are fiercely contested. Despite the enthusiasm at a young age the dancers soon get sidetracked and leave competitive dancing.

However, there are some exceptions such as professional dance and fashion designer Tarja de Silva who is driven by a passion to reach the next level in professional dancing.

In the last few years, Tarja de Silva has come to the fore for her exceptional dance skills. Whilst a student in London many years ago, Tarja competed in the Blackpool Dance competitions and this time around she has returned to London to further her dreams of being a medal-winning dancer. A qualified fashion designer, Tarja has put her design career on hold to concentrate on competitive dancing whilst in the UK.

Q When did you take up dance?
I fell in love with Ballroom dance when I was 11 and started formal training at the age of 13. 

Q When did you realize you would like to pursue a career in dancing?
I was always passionate about dance both competitively and as a performer, making it a career wasn’t so much of a choice but a natural progression. 

Q What forms of dance do you specialise in?
International Ballroom and Latin dancing. 

Q What brought you to the UK? 
A chance to further my dance career and accomplish the dream of competing in Blackpool (which is one of the benchmark venues for all Ballroom dancers). 

Q You recently performed at London Dance Nights. What was the outcome?
It was my first-ever performance in London, with a new partnership on a new platform. Not having my friends and family around with the added pressure of proving myself to a new audience was not easy. 
Fortunately, our hard work paid off and the show dance went better than expected.

Q How many hours a day do you devote to rehearsing?
2 hours a day. 

Q How do you manage to remember such complex routines and how long does it take to perfect one routine?
In our world there’s no such thing as perfect.. however remembering a routine simply takes practice until it becomes muscle memory. 

Q Who is your dance partner and what is his background?
Nauris Kalva. Born in Latvia, he trained in Ballet, Jazz, Ballroom and Latin from the age of 5.  Having competed during his youth, Nauris performed at the National Theatre of Latvia. Today he works as a professional dance instructor and performer in London. 

Q As a fan of Strictly Come Dancing will you be going to any of the shows?
Yes, I’d love to see the show live! 

Q Who are you inspired by from the dance world?
There are many wonderful dancers out there but I enjoy watching Troels and Ina for their beautiful partnership and the incredible Victor de Silva who does extraordinary lifts with his partner Joanna Leunis who has always inspired me. 

Q Where do you source your costumes from?
Usually, my grandmother would make my costumes for me but this time we had a wonderful dancewear brand called Minejas that executed the perfect costumes for us. 

Q How much rivalry is there in the dance community?
There’s always politics in any industry and dance is no exception. The scale of it will depend on the depth of involvement. I personally try my best to stay away.

Q Do you also have to watch your nutrition as part of the training for the dance competitions?
Yes, we do, however, my love for food keeps getting in the way. 

Q What is your ultimate goal during this time in London?
To gain as much experience and knowledge from the dance world of London and to compete at the prestigious Blackpool arena. 

Q What do you wish to take back to Sri Lanka after your time in London?
I hope to take back all the knowledge and experience I’ve gained and share it with my students. Moreover, I hope to keep organizing competitions in Sri Lanka and create a platform where dancers can grow.

Q Do you believe you are the first Sri Lankan to reach such heights in the international dance arena?
I don’t believe I am the first however as there are very few Sri Lankans represented in the international ballroom arena, I am proud to be one of them. 

Q Given the variety of dances, what is your favourite dance?
My favourite dance style constantly changes as I mature in my career, at the moment I enjoy Samba and Tango.

Pix courtesy Tarja


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tina Edward Gunawardhana

Tina Edward Gunawardhana is a journalist specialising in travel, fashion, lifestyle, cuisine and personalities. She is also the Deputy Editor for Hi!! Magazine. An intrepid traveller, she likes to show readers the world through her eyes and experiences. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - tinajourno [email protected]

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