Those in our little Dublin dance community might already be familiar with this talented man. Some of you reading this might even be taking his classes – number 1 students right here, ahem. So why have we fallen in love with this wildly talented dancer? Keep reading to hear how Eloy moved from Venezuela to Dublin and has built how own dance community.
Unfortunately, the lockdown has closed our many studios for the past year, causing teachers like Eloy to adapt a new online business model while also trying to find motivation to stay fit and look after themselves. (Side note, this is also how Struttin’ was created.)
To get more insight and share stories from the Dublin community, I asked my teacher and friend to share his experiences with dance as his personal support system, during and before Covid.
Originally from Venezuela, Eloy moved to this fair little city about eight years ago, when the dance community here was almost non-existent. I remember having to search hard and long for dance classes in Dublin myself and had to give up several times because I couldn’t find what I was looking for.
Eloy tried to get started by applying to a few dance schools in the neighborhood but couldn’t secure a place. Instead, he built his own path and here we are, years later, where Eloy has built a successful career as a dancer, choreographer, and creative director. And there’s no amount of lockdowns that can change that.
Dancing has always been in Eloy’s blood. At the young age of seven, he started dancing Venezuelan folk in his hometown. He also grew up in a culture where dancing is one of the predominant ways of expression. “It was rare to see someone not dancing. When I was nine, I was dancing salsa with my parents and my aunties. It was just there, every day in my life,” he shares. “We’d put the furniture outside so people could sit there to enjoy the weather. It doesn’t rain there as much as here, so we could do that! And then the living room would be the dance area.” It sounds like a wonderful way to grow up as a child, especially the lack of rain part.
“There was always a party going on somewhere in my neighbourhood because we all knew each other. My neighbour was my auntie and our other neighbour was her friend, and so on. I also had about 25-30 cousins, so we had birthdays every month. Culturally, in that way, dance was always present in my life.”
Even though it was deeply rooted in his culture, dance was not always something Eloy could share he enjoyed doing as a young boy. As it had not occurred to him yet that this could become his career, he had an on/off relationship with his hobby, until he figured out another way to keep his dance spirit alive.
“But when I was 13, 14 years old, I picked it up again and started creating choreography – bad ones, though! From an early age I knew I was very creative, but I would always be behind the scenes. I was not confident to do it myself. I was pretty shy and I struggled with my weight. Too embarrassed to do things outside with other people.”
After a year or so, he decided that he wanted to grow as a dancer. This is when Eloy made some serious changes. Moving to Caracas for college was the first step. “I went to study journalism, but also managed to start my career there. When I moved, one of my goals was to find somewhere I could dance. I didn’t know what I wanted or how I was going to do it, all I know was that I wanted to dance. I started taking jazz classes, along with contemporary and hip hop. My love for dance came together as I became a full-time dance student. I trained in different styles of classes for 7 hours per day from Monday – Friday. And on the weekends, I would teach. I was literally a full-time dancer and a full-time journalism student. Attending class in the mornings and after 2pm, I focused on dancing. My crew was created and it became one of the best-known crews in Caracas.”
“ That’s something I always liked doing – creating for other people and put them out there. I didn’t want to be in front of the camera all the time, myself.” Due to his work with his crew, Eloy’s training had slightly fallen behind. “I realized time was passing and I felt like I was getting too old to keep training, especially compared to other people who started dancing at an earlier age than I did. There were five years where I didn’t dance at all. So, to make up for it, I threw myself completely into dance and my life went crazy! I started dancing eight hours per day, consisting of 2 hours ballet, 3 hours jazz, 2 hours hiphop, then rehearsals and additional training. This helped me to improve a lot in such a short time.”
Growing up, Eloy experienced similar adversities with his dance ambitions. “Dance was not something you could make a career out of. Contemporary, ballet, jazz – it was considered more feminine, so it came with a lot of prejudice. My family would often ask me why I danced. So, I studied journalism to get the degree. I was not passionate about it, but I wanted to show my family that I could do it all.” And that he did! “I worked as a radio presenter for three years, but it wasn’t for me. So, I left the job to grow as a dancer. After a while I started creating my own shows. I put full productions together. The theatre was always sold out – and that’s when my family and friends realized that it was more than just a hobby. They seen how happy dance made me and that made them realize that it was an attainable career, one I worked hard for. Dance requires a lot of effort, but if you keep pushing, it will pay off. You will see the results. Even if I wasn’t able to go professional, I would still be dancing because it keeps me alive.”
We have all dealt with lockdown differently and found – or are finding – ways how to look after ourselves. This can be in the form of binging chocolate as much as learning Mandarin. For Eloy, dancing was the one thing he refused to give up, no matter how low he felt. “Lockdown was a big crash for me. I got different kinds of illnesses a few months in a row and that also impacted my mental health. But I kept forcing myself to dance and create something. I knew if I stopped, it would be a lot worse for my mental health. Dance usually gives me the energy to keep going and push through adversity, it’s my support system. When I feel sad, I’ll play sad songs and create some moves to go with it and when I’m happy, I’ll play happy songs and create choreo for that. Being able to feel that energy, to connect with the music, it helps me as a dancer because we react to the music we hear. Without that, I would have struggled a lot more with the lockdown.”
He also shares how dance has been his personal support system throughout other difficult times in his life. “Dance helped me express and be my true self. I was not ready to come out as gay to my family, so I couldn’t tell them I was doing ballet. Like I said, they were considered feminine and would come with prejudices. I would say I was doing salsa, so I could ask my parents money for the shoes I needed.” In the long run, this not only helped Eloy hone his craft, but also helped him come to terms with his individuality in his own way and in his own time.
“All the training I was doing gave me a lot of confidence and taught me to stop giving a damn about what people were thinking! I just kept dancing. I also lost a lot of weight because I was training so much. This really helped me become more confident in myself and my performing skills.”
It’s hard to think that a talented dancer like Eloy, with all those years and hours of training, still struggles with fears and insecurities. Most of us dance students struggle with our inner saboteurs, where one glance in the mirror can make us rethink all of our dance choices.
“Oh my god, I look stupid. Ridiculous. I should give up, I just can’t dance. I’ll never get that move!” I asked Eloy if he struggles with this too. “Yes,” he confirms. “It’s different for everybody. Fears and insecurities will always be there. As a kid, I struggled with dance because I was always overweight.”
“DEFINITELY! I still get a little insecure when I collaborate with other dancers, I’m afraid I can’t match their style. Back in 2019, I traveled through a few countries in Europe, on my own. I had gotten to Paris, I had three hours before the class started. In my hotel room that’s when my fears hit me. I started thinking: ‘What am I doing? I can’t dance with these people. They’ve been training since forever, I won’t ever be able to get to their level and dance their style. I’m a fool, I can’t do this.’ It was eating me up, but as I drove myself crazy, I was able to talk some sense into myself. I thought: ‘Eloy, what are you doing? It’s already paid for, so just go and enjoy the hell out of it, and face those fears.”
“And if I wasn’t going to dance as perfect or amazing as these guys, then at least I would leave class knowing I faced my insecurities. As a teacher, it keeps you humble and you can turn that energy into a good motivator to push yourself.”
There’s something reassuring in knowing that even our teachers deal with the same demons. It makes them human and shows that they understand the processes that come with teaching/learning their art. At the end of the day, these struggles do not determine one’s skill and talent. It’s just figuring out what works for you. “I have been to studios where it’s crazy competitive. It’s all about showing off. Everyone is just trying to be better than each other, nobody talks to each other, everyone just looks down on one another. Nobody is there to have fun. If that’s the route you choose, you have to be a BEAST. You can be physically prepared but if your mental state is not ready, you will not be able to push through that.”
Just because Eloy’s a ridiculously talented teacher, doesn’t mean that he has nothing left to learn. The world of dance is still his oyster and he continues to practice daily like the true beast that he is. “I’m currently learning Waacking. It’s a style coming from the US. I love the music – it’s rooted in disco, so I’m enjoying the hell out of it! I’m doing a lot of classes to perfect the style. And another one I’m learning is Afrobeats, which I try to practice as much as I can. They are both completely different, but that’s what I want. I think it’s important to learn different styles as a dancer, because your body starts creating a corporal vocabulary. It starts remembering all the movements from each different style and it can help you create and express yourself in different ways.”
“You must make a decision: go for it or don’t. The most difficult classes for a first time dancer are the first and second classes, because you don’t know how to dance and that can make these first classes frustrating, because you’re not getting it immediately. You must keep pushing. These first classes are for figuring out how your body moves and after a while, you start learning what else your body can do. Our limbs are not used to isolated movements, our bodies are just used to what we do every day – sitting at a desk, walking the stairs, lying down. Dance classes take time because it’s not something we always do. Also, if you start as a beginner, start with beginner classes. You cannot drop yourself into an intermediate class. People often do that because they want to see quick results but that’s not how dance works. Start from the beginning, give yourself the time to learn and go through the process, because that’s the most beautiful thing. You see how your body develops and get to know your body through dance.”
If you’d like to learn with Eloy, he currently offers online privates and group classes. You can find him on IG @eloyquezadamove
Article by Indah SuriaShare