Nicolas Naman has visited Minsk for the third time within the context of the first Belarussian blues festival «WinterEnd Blues 2016» and we seized the opportunity to interview the gloriuos dancer.
— Tell me about your childhood. What did you dream you’d become?
— I wanted to be a sailor. When I was about four years old, I saw these big beautiful ships. They didn’t look like modern ones –they were majestic frigates with huge masts. They made me dreaming about crossing the ocean on one of those ships, to have a journey around the world.
— Why have you chosen to dance after all?
— I was four years old when my parents had taken me to the center to join some sport group. There was a dance group for little kids, where they could develop physically. I decided it’s funny and kept going there for three years. That’s how I started to dance, but when I grew up I found the love of my life – ballroom dancing. I realized that I want to be a dancer. Concerning blues, like many others I discovered it through lindy hop.
— What is the recent event that really impressed you?
— I have opened my dance school back in September. You‘re telling everybody on the first day: “You can come! It’s all free!» But you don’t even know if anybody comes at all. It was stressing me a lot. But many people from my previous dancing classes came to support me, like: «Man, we are with you!»
— What is the difference between European and Belorussian dancers during the classes?
— Our own classes are very «light». Belorussians pay a lot of attention to technique: «Yeah, I must stay on my right leg, because I’ve been told so, and it can’t be the other way». Sometimes I want to tell them «Relax! You don’t need to be so stiff! «And Belorussian followers don’t feel embarrassed if the leader is a bit harsh. Our girls would simply say:» Hey, man, what is wrong with you?!»
You can say that Belorussian dance-partners are «wild». Some of your women has a «harsh» manner of speech: «Eat. Sit down». And they mean no offence — it’s just the way they talk».
And they mean no offence — it’s just the way they talk.
— Have you ever had a creativity crisis?
— Sure, just like anybody else. When dancing, you have to be in constant search for new inspiration means. Your spiritual state is very important, because if there is a «hole» inside of you, you won’t give people what you want to.
— What is dance teaching for you — work, hobby, love?
— Officially, it’s my job, but I’m seeing it the other way. First, it is a challenge. When you come to classes and you say: «I want to give you this, the way I feel it. But the main thing for me is what you’ll feel it your own way».
«The blues for me is a way to open my inner world. If you don’t let it out, it would erupt just like a volcano.»
What I want is to show people this way of self-expression. The most wonderful moment in classes is when suddenly man who couldn’t do some figure for a long time, somehow manages to do it. And he smiles when he realize it. It is then you think: «I won it. I did it».
— Do you have a «favorites» as a teacher?
— Like everyone else, I do. Some people you like more, some people less. But still you have to be neutral in classes. Most of all I like students who ask questions. It is like if they wonder if you actually know your stuff and dance so good. Actually I remembered one more difference between European an Belorussian students: Belorussians are very calm, they never ask questions. It gives classes interactivity and communication.
«Belorussians are very law-abiding: they won’t even cross the road by the wrong way.»
We have it this way: «No cars — you walk». But people here are waiting for the green light even if the road is empty. It’s hard for me to understand.
— Some people think that lindy hop or blues is like some kind of a sect. What do you think about it?
— I think it’s bad but I don’t deny its existence. I guess it’s more common in lindy «companies». It always starts with some kind of an idol, just like in religion. It is the difference between lindy and blues. This is not a question of technics or style. Lindy-hoppers like to say that they are from “this” type of school style or they have “this” teacher, that is choosen like a political thing. But blues is not a dance to let feelings outside, it’s not a show. Blues is inside, it is to find the way to communicate your inside feeling. Different teacher could give different key to find the way but at the end it is your personal choice. In lindy student can say “l want to be exactly like this teacher”. But in blues your dance is a mirror of who you are. So you can like someone`s dance, you can have the same variation but even if you try you can’t be the same. That’s why I think that the blues don’t have any icon like in lindy hop, or maybe there are but less.
— Can you tell us some funny story about your blues career?
— Once I was in USA. There is a «Blues Highway» from Nashville, Tennessee to New Orleans, with music around every corner. So we went in some very old looking shabby bar. Where is blues, there is always alcohol, so we started to drink some beer. Everybody started to laugh because we were the only whites in the place
«The barman took a bottle from the bar and fetched some really strong local alcohol. He looked at me severely and said: «Hey, what are you doing here, white boy?» I said: «Dancing blues». «You’re white and French, what are you doing here?» And then he pointed at his girlfriend and said: «Dance with her»
I couldn’t refuse. Of course I was very nervous at first but then I thought: «It’s just dance. Relax.» So we danced solo in front of each other. It was so cool that all the barman could say after it was: «You may have a white skin but your heart is black», — and poured me a glass of moonshine.
— What’s your favorite food?
— I’m a Frenchman, I like any food (laughing). Hmmm…Raclette. It’s not just food, it’s an art! A fine aged cheese melted with potatoes mixed with meat. Nothing is better than eating all this with dry vine!
— Tequila, no doubt.
— What is the best way for you to relax?
— A hookah. Every Sunday after dance classes me and my best friend we’re going to hookah-bar and just hang in there for some hours.
— What is your main inspiration?
— Music. Especially Oscar Peterson and his song «Hymn to Freedom». Whether I am tired or upset — it always helps. The song itself lasts for about 6 minutes and it starts in a very depressive way. But at some moment this music gets optimistic and it gives me lot of energy.
— What is happiness for you?
— There are many ways to be happy. As for me — like for any man — a girlfriend, a best friend and a hookah.
— Are happy now?
— Sure thing, I’m in Belarus.
Journalist, author of the article — a talented Alina Tsareva. More Alina’s аrticles here.
Link to russion version of artical: here.
P.S. Thanks Ole Aneychik who patiently translated my questions in French.
P.P.S. Foto from: WinterEnd Blues