Dancing in the Dark

Article by Thabo Jaffe

As a foreigner in Xi’an, there’s a high chance you’ve been to nightclubs and bars galore. You see, for a large portion of us who are English teachers, our free time on a workday starts at around 8 or 9pm. This leaves us with very few options as to where we can have fun or meet up with friends.

13-1Having had my fair share of clubbing, I began to notice the people who actually work at these different bars and clubs that we often disregard or make crude comments about in our violently inebriated states. Turns out they’re awesome people, with their own stories, aspirations, and struggles. What you may see through half-open eyes for ten minutes possibly took countless hours to get right (in the dark, in heels!).

At a café on an unusually warm winter afternoon, I sat down with Olya, a singer (and often dancer) at “The One” Vogue Club.
Thabo: Can you tell me about your early life, where were you born, what was it like there?

Olya: I was born in a small beautiful place in the south of Moldova. Until the age of 11 I lived in a huge house surrounded by a beautiful forest with my big family: brother, sister, mom, dad and my grandfather. In 2000 we moved to the capital of Moldova, Chisinau, where I started my singing and dancing career.

Thabo: What did you want to be as a kid?

Olya: I always knew I was going to be a singer. Even when after 2 years of my vocal classes my father couldn’t pay the school anymore, he still gave me a chance to improve myself as a dancer (at that moment dancing school was cheaper).

Thabo: Can you tell me your routine for a typical working day? Is it difficult?

Olya: I’m always into my projects: daily rehearsals for new shows (2-5 hours), recording new songs, dance classes…It’s not difficult if you truly love it. Even if it’s tiring, it’s a pleasant feeling.

Thabo: Would you recommend this career to others?

Olya: Definitely. But it has to be with a real love for what you are doing. There are so many moments when you feel like giving up; you just need to learn how to deal with these feelings. Me, for example, having these moments of weakness sometimes, trying to give myself a little bit of time to relax. The mood comes back by itself. We need to stay positive and keep being passionate.

Thabo: Why did you come to China?

Olya: Well, the country I use to live in is too small for the big things I’m planning to do with my life. I got the opportunity to come to China and I accepted it immediately.

Thabo: What do you think people’s views are of people that work at nightclubs?

Olya: You know, when I arrived in China and I realized that I was going to perform in a nightclub, I was kind of disappointed. I didn’t tell my parents about it because I knew my father was going to be so mad.

A Few years later, and everything changed. It seemed like I started my career on a new page. I created a team of five girls: four dancers with me singing. I started working harder and harder every day. Now I think it really doesn’t matter where you perform, but what really matters, is how far you want to go! I’m not really interested in what people think, I’ve always followed my instincts, my true feelings, and that’s the only thing that matters.

Thabo: What are your future plans?

Olya: Well there is a lot of new stuff coming up! I’m still working on my first album, along with two new music videos, and I’m planning to finish my book at the end of 2016. China is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been. I appreciate every second of being here!

13-2So it seems a life as a performer is just that. Whether it may be in a nightclub, studio, or on a grand stage in front of thousands, you go where your passion takes you. Though dancers in a nightclub rarely get a second glance as a “real” dancer by most, they are just as talented and put in the same amount of work. We all have our nightly fun and seldom spare a thought for how difficult or challenging life may be on the other side of the bar counter or club walkway. The fun you had last night didn’t happen by accident.