Behind every movement should be feeling and intention

My heart is with Oriental dance, but I really enjoy watching ballet and Irish dance, ballroom is absolutely magical too.

Interview with Katya Kiipli
Writer: Amanda Bro
Posted in Ofelia 2022

Why did you start bellydancing? 

When I was about 15-16, there was a Brazilian TV series called ‘O Clone’. I was mesmerised with the Arabic culture, dance, music shown there. So – I started copying those moves in front of the mirror. 

“I believe that behind every movement should be feeling and intention.”

— Katya Kiipli

Are you telling a story or a message with your dance? 

Yes of course! I believe that behind every movement should be feeling and intention. One single movement of the arm can mean a lot of different feelings: despair, happiness, hopelessness, joy, pain etc,. We, dancers, use our bodies as instruments to show those feelings.

When I choose my repertoire, for example a song which has lyrics, I try to choose something that resonates with my own feelings. I always think about what bothers me and what I want to show to my audience, and if my audience feels what I feel, I think I did a great job. 

Do you have any advice for beginner dancers? 

Believe in yourself and don’t give up. It’s not easy, and no one was born a professional dancer. Sometimes you might feel that you are not progressing, that someone is always better than you, but please don’t get discouraged. Enjoy and appreciate your dance journey. And of course find a good teacher, someone who not only knows how to explain, whose dance style is close to your heart, but also someone who truly wants you to become a better dancer. 

Do you have any advice for dancers participating in competitions? 

First of all don’t hesitate and go for it. Don’t wait “til you’re ready”, as this time will never come. Competitions are the fastest way of growing professionally, as you have a strict deadline, no excuses to not practice. And of course the more you participate, the broader your dance repertoire will become, which means your movement vocabulary will also expand.

Secondly, invest in a good quality professional costume. It’s better to have 1 good quality and properly fitting costume rather than 10 cheap ones, no matter which category you dance in (beginner or a pro). And finally, don’t underestimate the power of a good choreography.

If you don’t know how to choreograph yourself, find someone who can create a dance piece for you or perform the piece learned from the workshop (with the permission of the choreographer of course).

Picture of Katya Kiipli

What’s the best advice you have ever gotten?

To always be myself, not trying to copy anyone. The deeper you look into yourself, the more you’ll understand in which direction you want to move your dance style. Explore your strengths and learn how to show them.

How do you see bellydance as a community?

Each time I come to Denmark, I’m amazed by how supportive all the dancers are, it’s truly a sisterhood, and I’m so honoured to be part of it even for just a 2-3 days. 

In Ireland I find it’s very challenging to get a good amount of people to attend the workshops at the festivals, or get enough audience at the shows to cover the rent of the performance space. That’s why we can’t really afford to invite a famous dancer. I hope this will improve and I’ll keep organising my festival Raqs Ireland to keep bellydance alive.

What can we do to strengthen that community?

Respect, be kind to each other, and support each others events when possible. Keep each other in mind when planning events and setting the dates. Invite local teachers to teach or judge at your festivals, and offer a payment even if it’s just to cover travel expenses.

What’s your main learnings from your dance education?

If I talk about my 4 years in University, then I can say that contemporary dance techniques have really impacted my Oriental dance practice. From breathing to improvisation and creating choreographies.

The best thing I ever learned from contemporary classes was that “The floor is your best friend”- it’s my little secret ever since. It brought a lot of confidence into my dance and every time I’m about to perform, I try to feel the floor even for just a couple of seconds. If I can, I try to run through my dance, otherwise I just walk around the space for a moment. When I perform and start to get nervous, I just remind myself about the floor and it works like magic.

Picture of Katya Kiipli

What’s your focus while teaching?

Generally my main goal is to explain that way, that everything looks easy and understandable. I try to be very detailed and clear when it comes to choreographies and combinations. 

When we learn technical elements, my main goal is correct and efficient execution of each movement. I don’t want anyone to hurt themselves. 

Apart from technique and teaching methods I believe every teacher should motivate and encourage the students to become better, set an example that they want to follow. True teacher is not someone who thinks they know everything, it’s someone who aims to know more, who keeps on learning to give even more knowledge to their own students.

What’s your favorite dance style?

My heart is with Oriental dance, but I really enjoy watching ballet and Irish dance, ballroom is absolutely magical too. 

Within the Oriental dance, I’d say I’m closer to the modern Oriental style. I love being elegant and emotional in my dance and I’m still learning how to bring out the best of my dance.

Katya Kiipli on stage at Danish Open Bellydance
november 12, 2022