Feb 16, 2016 2:43PM

Introducing Dancer Vanessa Marian & The Way She Moves

Groove therapist.

Vanessa Marian is a Sydney-based cool chick who knows a thing or two about throwing shapes. She's trained in classical Indian dance styles by an IRL guru, has jammed with b-boys and hip-hop legends, and is a groove therapist to young and old.

Vanessa recently collaborated with her pal Kurt Davies, who's a talented photo and video guy himself, on a mad dance clip. In the video, Vanessa does some fresh freestyles over Black Vanilla's total tune 'Smacks' while a keen squash player does his thing in the background.

We got the mates to sit down and chat about the project and Vanessa's life as a true dance head.

Kurt Davies: Can you tell me a bit about your history with dance?
Vanessa Marian: Oh lordy, how do you answer this succinctly? I was born and schooled in Dubai until age five, and I would watch Indian dancing, Arabic music clips and the Lambada on TV and copy all of it. This led into 15 years of intense classical Indian dance training with my Guru Jayalakshmi Raman, learning a style called Bharathnatayam. It's rigid, strict, hails back to ancient Hindu folklore and is the legit stuff from India. Actually, you can see me doing some of the hand gestures in this video! 


The video we shot was all improvised, what do you think of while dancing to keep moves fresh?
This completely depends on the situation. Black Vanilla's music can't definitively be categorised under one genre so my interpretation through freestyle was the same — ambiguous genre-fluid stuff. Seasoned dancers, with extensive movement vocabularies, should be able to hear a song and interpret its genre through its corresponding dance style. Or, you can just know your foundations and break all the rules anyway and dance however you want!

What does teaching mean to you?
Everything. It's my favourite part of working in dance. It's an opportunity to make my world accessible to people who have always admired dancers but never had the guts to take a class. In a world riddled with insecurities, I love the power of commanding a room and telling everyone to chill out and not take themselves so seriously.

I've seen videos of you teaching teenagers and the elderly, how does that change your style?
It's never the same approach. For example, teens need a role model — for all that angst on display they actually soak in everything that a young female hip-hop teacher brings to the table, and I can't take that lightly. My favourite are my elderly dementia patients. They don't even remember me the following week because their short-term memory is affected, but by playing music of their yesteryears, we trigger their long-term memories. This brings them back into a state of understanding their surroundings and being able to express themselves. It's amazing to witness.

Where has dancing taken you?
Everywhere! I've travelled and worked across Australia, joined as an honorary member of a Japanese b-boy crew in Tokyo, trained in Dancehall and Afrobeats across France, London and Berlin, and learned street dances from the OGs of hip-hop in New York. If there's one thing a true dance head will tell you, it's that you can never ever stop learning.

Photo: Kurt Davies

Lucy Jones