KOI-CHAMPIONS:
CATERINA DANZICO AND LEA OROŽ

Another instalment in our KOI-Champions series, we chat to two professional dancers.

WORDS BY REBECCA RHYS-EVANS

Think you have the moves like Jagger? Think again. If anyone is going to show you real dance moves, it’s our recent KOI-Champions, Caterina Danzico and Lea Orož. Having moved to London to pursue dance as a profession, the pair work on various projects from choreography and teaching, to music videos and TV. For KOIBIRD Breaks a Sweat, they showcase some of the edit’s styles as well as their skills. Playing on the conventional interpretations of dance, Caterina and Lea offer an androgynous variation of contemporary that we simply can’t stop watching. Chatting to them we discover how they’ve harnessed their craft, how dance has evolved their relationship with their body, and representation within the dance community.  

I’m fascinated by how people find their talent – how did you both discover your talent? Were you born with the ability to just move to the rhythm?
Lea:
For me there’s no such thing as natural born talent, because if you really love something you can learn it. I grew up in a tiny village in Slovenia where there wasn’t much choice, but I just loved to move. I started with ballet when I was 6 and never felt like it fulfilled me, so I tried lots of types of dance until I found contemporary when I was 14. Because I didn’t really enjoy the idea of a body of people judging my dancing and personal style, contemporary worked for me as it was freer of restriction and competition.

Caterina: Well, I didn’t have a choice! My mother ran a dance school in the town I’m from in Italy, and my grandmother, my uncle, nearly everyone in my family worked in dance. Nobody ever asked me if I ever wanted to do anything else, it was just expected that this is what I would do. It was a very intense childhood, I did everything – ballet, modern, jazz, hip hop – and it was all done on top of normal school time. Like Lea, it all changed when I found contemporary. Discovering contemporary dance comes with a lot of healing. It frees you from the judgement you have on yourself as a mover because it is so open, so you can just be yourself and embrace who you are. 

Do you think you’ll make your children dance also?
C:
No, I will ask them! That’s something I know for sure. I will encourage them to try everything and let them make their own choice. 

“IT FEELS ALMOST VERY MEDITATIVE FOR US WHEN WE IMPROVISE, WE ARE FREE OF THE RESTRICTIONS OF A ROUTINE, SO OUR MINDS SWITCH OFF AND OUR BODIES JUST MOVE HOWEVER THEY WISH.”

How do you guys know each other, do you often work as a pair?
C:
We met on a job in 2019 and do often work together, it adds another element to our offering to come as a pair. I think Lea has more capability to be a dancer in a company that tours, whereas I’m more interested in directing. If there was one major difference in our styles it would be that Lea has a very metamorphic quality to her dance, she is able to completely transform into animals through movement, which I find very beautiful.

L:
I think we like to explore our differences together. We’re two different humans that have a lot of similar ideas and concepts that we like to share and show through movement.

Do you rehearse a routine, or are you more freestyle?
C:
I think it’s one of the reasons we connected so quickly. We do rehearse but we both heavily rely on improvisation and the freedom that gives when we dance. Not everyone is like that.

L: It feels almost very meditative for us when we improvise, we are free of the restrictions of a routine, so our minds completely switch off and our bodies just move however they wish.

Your mind and body must be so intrinsically in tune, how has dance allowed you to have that connectivity with your body?
C:
For me, just so much. I was always very shy as a child, I didn’t speak a lot, so dance was a form of expression that easy for me.

And what is your work mainly made up of – your day to day?
C:
Every day is completely different, and of course with the pandemic, a lot of work disappeared. I have been doing a lot of online classes, which if I look at the positives, it’s enabled me to have a much better connection to Italy and the schools there. I also do a lot of photoshoots and music videos, the two of us are currently working with a brilliant choreographer at the minute for a TV series. Lots of different projects, sometimes commercial, sometimes our own, and at the minute we’re applying for residencies for things we want to do together.

Talking to you both you seem very creative but you’re also athletes, would you consider dance an artform, or a sport?
L:
We speak about this a lot, actually. I think it’s definitely an artform, we both think that, but I do believe that we have amazing physical bodies that are not compared enough to generic sportsmen and women. It’s something that really frustrates us! 

What’s the typical gender balance like within dance?
C: Something I would often ask myself when I started studying was ‘who is at the top of the pyramid?’ Women do dominate the dance industry at a lower level, so men naturally are in more demand, but it’s usually white heterosexual men taking the top tier positions.

And this balance of gender affects us in the very way we move, we consciously dance in a very androgynous formation. We feel like we don’t sit in any particular gender, we just want to express who we are for how we move, not necessarily as females.

Absolutely. And have you experienced the same with the representation of colour within the industry? I went to a few Ballet Black performances and it was the only time in my entire life that I had gone to see anything in the performing arts and was – as a white woman – in the minority in the audience. It made me realise that more people of colour would attend these cultural and artistic forums if they felt they were represented.
C:
Definitely. Whilst studying I met a dancer who had experienced instances where white dancers were selected for black roles and then had their skin coloured with black paint. It’s so shocking, it makes me so mad!

"FOR ME THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS NATURAL BORN TALENT, BECAUSE IF YOU REALLY LOVE SOMETHING YOU CAN LEARN IT."

I’d love to know what you’re like as dancers when it comes to dancing outside of your profession. On a night out with friends, at a wedding or a festival… Are you shy, do you go all out, do you a have any particular moves you like to do?!
C:
I’m in a very particular situation in that I don’t drink. I used to! I would drink a lot, go out, dance and jump around with my best friend. But since moving to the UK and giving up drink, I like my personal space and am not bothered about dancing in big groups.

L: Ha, this is one of the other ways that we are very different people because I am the total opposite! I LOVE to go out and dance and let go! Sometimes to my detriment, but I’m learning from Caterina to say no to people sometimes!

C:
I do love to see people who aren’t dancers move to music. I am fascinated to watch people, not to judge, but just to just see how they move when they are free from having had training. I often think to myself; ‘how would I move if I hadn’t had the training?’ 

And are there any songs that when you hear them, you simply have to move to it?
L:
I have this obsession with Kerala Dust, I love them so much! Their music is like a drug to me… I go into this zone and have to dance whenever I hear them. It’s funny, I don’t usually listen to electronic music, I listen to everything… genuinely, EVERYTHING. I listen to reggae, jazz, blues, soul… but Kerala Dust has had me vibing the most recently!

And are there any songs that when you hear them, you simply have to move to it?
L:
I have this obsession with Kerala Dust, I love them so much! Their music is like a drug to me… I go into this zone and have to dance whenever I hear them. It’s funny, I don’t usually listen to electronic music, I listen to everything… genuinely, EVERYTHING. I listen to reggae, jazz, blues, soul… but Kerala Dust has had me vibing the most recently!

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