Dance College Tutor Spotlight: Vassia Bouchagiar
In this new series, we’re interviewing our amazing dance tutors… We’re proud to have such a wealth of experience available from some of the most highly-skilled, qualified and respected dance professionals working in the dance industry today.
Every single member of staff is dedicated to imparting their extensive knowledge, techniques and artistry, nurturing each college student with the rigorous dance training needed for a long and successful professional dance career.
Today we focus the spotlight on Vassia Bouchagiar. Vassia has been teaching Contemporary Dance on our full-time dance college course for three years now. She has 16 years of teaching and choreographing experience in various styles. She has worked closely with Corfu’s Municipal Theatre, delivering dance and kinesiology workshops to actors on an annual basis and choreographed numerous productions over the years such as The Nutcracker, The Snow Queen, Annie the Musical, The Pink Floyd Project and Cosmogenesis – in collaboration with the Astronomical Society of Corfu.
Your parents are dancers and owned a dance school in Corfu – what was that like growing up in that environment?
Obviously, my love of dance and teaching has sprung from my childhood experiences, growing up in a dance school and within a family dedicated to spreading knowledge and love for the art of dance.
I have very fond memories of my parents teaching in class or rehearsing in the theatre, while I was an infant and was playing in a corner of the classroom or stage only a few feet away.
Most of my time – when not in school – my childhood was spent observing or taking part in dance classes, as my parents didn’t believe that they needed to leave me at home in order to go to work. Instead, they took me everywhere with them whether it was the dance school, the theatre or tours.
Even to this day, I clearly remember not being able to distinguish between ‘home’ and ‘dance school’. For me, both places carried the same significance and felt the same. However, I think what’s stayed with me throughout my life from having grown up surrounded by dance and music is the unwavering belief that anyone can achieve anything.
As a child, I saw hundreds of children and adults flourish and come into their own through dance, with my parents’ support and guidance but also with their passionate belief in their students’ abilities.
As a dance artist and teacher today, I believe I have been deeply influenced by my parents’ attitude towards success and what that means to a person as an individual.
Success doesn’t mean the same thing to all, so as a tutor my personal mission is not only to teach dance technique but also to support and guide my students to find their own personal success.
You’ve recently completed your MSc Dance Science and Education with Edinburgh University – congratulations on graduating with distinction!
Can you sum up in a few words what the experience was like and how it’s enhanced your dance practice as both an artist and a teacher?
Thank you! The experience was very intense and demanding, as is every good course out there that deserves devoting a large part of your time to. Academically speaking I had the chance to research many topics that interest me regarding my dance and teaching practice.
I have acquired a better understanding of current issues that dancers and dance practitioners face today, as well as the progress being made in dance science and teaching through research.
In addition, I had the chance to enrich my teaching practice by undertaking placements in Scottish primary and secondary schools, teaching curriculum dance, an aspect of dance teaching I was not very familiar with beforehand, as the public education system in Greece sadly still excludes dance from the art forms being taught in public education contexts.
This experience was invaluable to me as a dance artist and teacher, mostly because it was so challenging and forced me to adapt, improve and expand my practice in order to see it through.
How long have you been teaching at DFA and what do you love about teaching contemporary dance here?
I have been a part of the DFA family for three years now. What I love most about DFA is that it truly is a family and you can tell from the very first minute you step through the door.
With its welcoming and student-centred approach towards dance tuition, this college creates a warm and supportive atmosphere for students and tutors alike, which can only be surpassed by the top quality of education it provides.
It is a strange but wonderful feeling for me as it feels like a home away from home, which I didn’t think I could find anywhere else other than my family’s dance school in Corfu.
Why is contemporary dance important for professional dancers to learn?
I believe that in the last few years the dance styles that come under the “umbrella” of the term contemporary dance have expanded. Sometimes different styles of dance – or even kinds of exercise in some cases – fuse together to create new styles.
Take gymnastics and acrobatics for example. In the last few years, we’ve seen a dramatic rise of choreography described as contemporary dance that consists of a mix between lyrical, acro and gymnastics, jazz and ballet technique.
Of course, dance as any other art, is continuously evolving and contemporary dance’s evolution is necessary so that it remains relevant to performers and audiences as the times change.
In my opinion, it’s imperative that all professional dancers are well-trained in traditional as well as surfacing contemporary dance techniques so that they can be versatile in their performance and relevant to the demands of the current dance scene and industry.
Born into a dancing family, with both parents being dance teachers and owning their own dance school on the island of Corfu in Greece, Vassia Bouchagiar literally took her first steps in a dance studio. She completed her professional training (BA in Dance and Dance Instruction) at “Rallou Manou” Professional Dance School in Athens, Greece and went on to further her professional skills by attending numerous accredited workshops and seminars in ballet, contemporary dance and contact improvisation throughout her career. Vassia has 17 years of teaching and choreographing experience in various styles. She has worked closely with Corfu’s Municipal Theatre, delivering dance and kinesiology workshops to actors on an annual basis and choreographed numerous productions over the years such as The Nutcracker, The Snow Queen, Annie the Musical, The Pink Floyd Project and Cosmogenesis – in collaboration with the Astronomical Society of Corfu.
Since relocating to Edinburgh, Vassia has collaborated with Edinburgh International Festival, Akram Khan Company and Danns-ed Company as a dance artist and choreographer. She has also worked within the public education sector as a GTCS registered teacher, delivering curriculum dance in various primary and secondary schools across Edinburgh, as well as with Active Schools Scotland. After completing her studies with Edinburgh University, graduating with distinction from the MSc Dance Science and Education with Teaching Qualification pathway program, she has recently taken up the role of Associate Tutor in the MSc Dance Science and Education course.
Who are your all-time favourite choreographers/performers/dancers?
Alvin Ailey, Dimitris Papaioannou, Wim Vandekeybus, Aurelie Dupont, Hugh Jackman.
What music videos/albums/singles are you loving or listening to on repeat right now?
I have my favourites and classics such as Nina Simone and Pearl Jam, but I usually become obsessed with whatever I’m working on at any given time. I love cinematic music, it’s one of my favourite genres to choreograph. At the moment I listen to Ruelle, Valerie Broussard and 2WEI a lot.
What do you enjoy most about the choreography process?
The feeling I get when I hear a piece of music that inspires me. It’s a tingling mixture of anticipation, restlessness and excitement. Also the way that the story unfolds through the process of making and breaking choreography until I get to the final version of it.
Our Summer Dance Intensive is ideal for serious young dancers (14-19yrs approx) and we’re thrilled you’ll be teaching! What techniques will you be covering?
In the Summer Intensive, I will be teaching a combination of Limon and Release techniques at a professional training level.
In these pre-vocational college-level workshops, we’ll be covering Jazz, Contemporary and Commercial Dance. I’m joined by my colleagues Beverley Moreland who’ll be leading the Commercial Dance workshops, and Beth Manderson who’ll be leading the Jazz Dance workshops.
Our Award-Winning Professional Dance Training Course gets better every year. What makes DFA’s course so different/special?
Students are offered a wide range of training in many different styles, thus becoming versatile dancers which is an essential trait in the dance industry. Furthermore, students are also offered training and access to exams for teaching qualifications at the same time. Students are supported by the warm and welcoming environment of the college and our outstanding tutors and staff.
Why should dancers audition for DFA’s full-time course?
Anyone who is considering a dance career should audition for DFA’s full-time course as it is one of the best they will find.
What qualities are you looking for in your students?
Drive, passion and perseverance. A dance career is not for the light-hearted!
Apart from talent, what skills/abilities does it take to succeed as a professional dancer?
Perseverance is the most important attribute a dancer must have, in my opinion. Everything else can be learned and practiced except for the innate drive and passion that will never allow you to quit. Also the will to learn new things throughout their career and an open mind will help dancers become versatile and able to always progress and better themselves even after graduating from college.
Thanks so much, Vassia!
Find out more about life here at DFA… Meet our inspiring faculty, find out more about professional dance course, read our graduates’ success stories or audition & apply for DFA’s full-time dance course.