Vancouver-based dance artist Lexi Vajda is on a roll. She just received the Emerging Artist component of the Mayor’s Art Award for Dance, selected by Emily Molnar, the honouree of the category, and at only twenty-six, she’s already established herself in the contemporary dance scene, having danced for Out Innerspace Dance Theatre, Amber Funk Barton’s the response., Company 605, Shay Kuebler Dance, Alison Denham, Karissa Barry, Mascall Dance and MOVE: the company.
In light of her recent award, Vajda talks to The Dance Current about her journey and what she would recommend for someone just starting out.
Vajda grew up dancing at several studios in and around Vancouver. She completed a four-year training program in the city with Modus Operandi, at which time she was also an apprentice for MOVE: the company, directed by Josh Beamish. In her pre-professional years, she made defining connections with other dancers.
“You have to do a lot of stuff without being paid as a dance artist,” Vajda says, “especially in the beginning.” But since training with Modus, she’s established herself in the professional community and become a sought-after dancer. To hone her personal repertoire of skills, she has also invested time and energy into dance workshops outside of Vancouver, travelling abroad to Tel Aviv and Brussels.
Though Vajda is working professionally, she still volunteers from time to time for projects she is interested in — passion projects, she calls them — as well as for shows in the community. Vajda also finds time to take courses she is personally interested in at University of British Columbia in philosophy and psychology, gradually working toward an undergraduate degree.
As far as advice, Vajda has three things to share: “Keep choosing it,” “say yes,” and “love the people you work with.” In addition, she recommends finding balance, making sure you make time for the things that make you happy. She recommends showing off your strengths but also being willing to learn, because getting noticed is about both confidence and humility.
But there will be challenges and realities beyond your control as a professional dancer. Vajda notes that a lack of work in Vancouver is an obstacle — she says the community is quite “saturated” with dancers at the moment. Another challenge, she says, is finding time and money to maintain one’s physical practice alongside busy rehearsal periods. Sometimes there are also difficult scheduling conflicts when being involved in more than one creation process at once.
But the best way to overcome these obstacles, according to Vajda, is positive self-talk, and to “keep reminding yourself why it’s worth it.” Equally important is building a community around you to get support from other artists.
How do you establish yourself in this industry? “Keep showing up,” she says. Be committed to the community and don’t be afraid to show what you’re passionate about. Be generous, confident, respectful and humble, and you will be someone others will want to work with.