Being a self-taught dancer, Surrey’s Devanshi Vyas says it can be intimidating when competing against professionally trained dancers, but her passion for dance is what has been her constant motivator.
Vyas competed in the advanced adult open category for ages 20 to 29, performing an afro jazz routine, and going on to win gold at the Dance World Cup June 28 to July 4.
This was Vyas third time competing at Dance World Cup, previously placing third and fourth in 2017 and 2015, respectively.
In 2015, Vyas said she was two points away from gold. Then in 2017, she was 0.75 points away from gold.
“That made more eager and curious to be like what it would feel like if I actually got a gold. So I trained. I trained immensely hard for two years,” she said.
Vyas said the first two years she competed at Dance World Cup, she fused a classical dance style from India with Bollywood. However, she said India started dancing at the competition and she wanted to pick a different dance genre.
“I wanted to do something that would make me stand out, so that’s why I picked afro jazz.”
Vyas said she is a self-taught dancer, learning everything from watching YouTube videos.
“It’s hard. I would have to play back the video so many times, pause it to see how their poses look like, how their posture is,” she said.
Over the years, Vyas said she’s taken the odd master class.
“My flexibility and everything, I got it through training myself and I think it’s my passion that drives me to this point. I think for somebody to be this passionate about dance, that’s what motivates them. That’s what’s keeping me motivated.”
But, she said, not having years of professional training was a bit intimidating the first year she competed at Dance World Cup.
“Definitely, I was intimidated. I would see dancers practicing, and I would be like, ‘Am I good enough to go on that stage,’ and I think that thought cost me, at least a bronze or something (the first year) because I did get nervous. When I see the video now, you can tell on my face that I’m super nervous, super scared.”
With each year, Vyas said she’s become more confident and last year, she was selected to go to London, England with a troupe of dancers. During her time in London, Vyas said she was scouted and received a “golden ticket” for the U.K.’s dance elite championships, Move It.
“I think that was the breaking point where… I think my stage fright or nervousness is gone because I’m good at what I do, I don’t need to be scared of or intimidated by anybody,” she said. “If I get a gold, yay. If I don’t, then it’s OK.”
Vyas, who was born in India and has also lived in Dubai, Toronto, said she and her family moved to B.C. from Toronto in 2008. She said her parents have been supportive of her dancing throughout her life, but there was a period where she stopped dancing because of bullying.
“There was actually a point in my life where I had given up dance because this family member of mine made a comment that because I’m South Asian, I shouldn’t be dancing,” said Vyas, adding that the family member said that because of her dancing she wouldn’t “get married into a good family.”
“When he said that, I’m like, ‘Should I even dance? Should I even pursue dancing? Will I even get anything out of it?’”
She said because of her parents’ support, she was able to go back to dance in 2015 – the first year she competed at Dance World Cup.
“My emotions come out. I think that’s also why contemporary is also close to my heart because I can really feel the music, really convey what I want to say through dance.”
Looking forward, Vyas said she would one day like to compete for Canada in the Olympics, if dance is one day included as an official sport.
Breakdancing is currently being considered for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. A final decision is expected in December 2020.
“If they do that, that’s my next goal,” Vyas said. “Dance is a sport to me, and I think it should be in the Olympics.”