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Photos © 2,4 and 5 Konstanze Winkler, alle others with kindly permission from Nika Mlakar
Graphics/WebDesign: Konstanze Winkler

Interview with Nika Mlakar

- by Marcel Bieger

When we saw you at Leyla's for the first time, you won a first prize as a cabaret dancer and a 1st prize as a tribal dancer (albeit with a troupe), which is quite unusual. Rarely somebody is that excellent in both worlds. What kind of dance training do you have, which styles do you prefer, and is there any belly dance style you would never do?

In my opinion, it is very important to try as many things as possible. Life has given me an opportunity to try myself in many arts such as dancing, acting, singing, and playing an instrument. But now I will probably be seen on stage just as a dancer. Since the age of three I took classes of ballet, hip hop, show dance, jazz, modern and contemporary. I cannot just erase my dance background and that is why I involve them in my dancing for sure. I like mixing different styles and I always leave my body freedom to try some new things. I will always stay a student at everything. My motto is GO FOR IT! I believe in hard working and to have passion with what you are doing. So with this combination you will always satisfy yourself and consequently the audience, too. I'm pretty much very open for every kind of style, but I want to keep dance on a high level. I think, if you know how to express yourself and have a good classical technique you are able to be very good in every dance style. Once you have a good base, you just have to practice the movements that you can feel them.
When you dance, you do this very intense and with a passion, which seems to come from deep within. Your moves are perfectly female and you capture the attention of the audience immediately. What did you do to develop such a dance and performing style?

If you want to develop yourself as a dancer you have to develop yourself as a person. It is important to understand your body and your mind to know what suits you. I believe that if the audience feels your passion, you have to feel it even stronger. It is true that I'm definitely in love with dance, but sometimes it is just not a moment for me to perform. It doesn't matter if it is because of physical or mental exhaustion. In that case I push myself to forget everything and go over it.
I think in that moment I truly come into another world,
I cannot describe, and I perform from my heart even deeper. You will be unique if you come out of your 'box' (which is in many cases a mental source, I believe) and just leave your body to express your soul, your life. Be natural, do not do something just because it is attractive.

Also taking classes from different dancers is always more than welcome. I think you come faster out of your 'box' with trying some new movements. On every class you take, you get something new, even if you don't think this way. It is not necessary that you learn some new moves but there is so much more what you can get from one person. I understand dancing in much deeper way than just a nice dress, good technique and attractive movements.

That way people will be able to really feel you. Of course we also need very good technique if we want to express our feelings. I like to illustrate that with the speaking of a foreign language. If you do not master the language you will never be able to express what you meant in its full meaning.

We have seen you many times at Leyla's, and meanwhile you are not only to be seen on the stage but also in the jury. How does it feel to be on "both sides", so to speak?

I was very surprised that Leyla gave me this opportunity. First I didn't know, if I want to have such responsibility, I was thinking a lot about it. Because I've been on many competitions, I always wanted that judges respect my dance but also to be honest. So I felt I have to do the same when I'll be judging. For me it is always a very hard job. I am very happy that I can always share my opinion with Leyla. She is always helping me so much! I am aware that if you go to competition it is not just about the amazing prizes you can get but is also of course self satisfaction.
Is there a Slovenian dance community, and if so, do you see yourself as part of it?

Well, we have many great dancers in Slovenia. But sadly there are more small groups rather than a community. I wish we would connect ourselves much more. Sometimes I feel that many friendships are just a fake. And I really hate that. But yes, I work with many dancers also from different styles not only bellydancers, so I see myself as part of the Slovenian dance community.
Every year there are a lot of dance stars with very useful workshops. I really admire Leyla and Roland how can they work 10 days/24hours and make everything so perfect. Everything is on time and you can always ask the staff anything you need. It was the first time for me to see that someone, who doesn't know you, will do so much for you, this is very rare. And especially because of that I keep coming to the festival every year. I have also been attending the competition every time I came. Because I won the competition three times in a row, Leyla gave me an opportunity to teach and to judge at her festival. This was a huge success for me! I couldn't even imagine that I will be teaching on such a world famous festival with so many dance stars and also share the stage with them. This was a giant leap forward in my career! Festival has a lot of attendees so you have a chance to show yourself. Leyla’s festival is on a very high professional level, so it means a lot if you have won there, competitors are very professional. Because of that I got many new contact and workshops.

Leyla is like my 'dance mom'. I turn to her many times, when I have some questions. She is a great dancer but her personality is even more amazing. She is always so nice to me. Although she is a dance star she doesn't act like a diva and you never fell bad around her. I really care that she sometimes gives me critics. Of course I like it, when people admire my dance. But I know Leyla is honest and she wants what is best for me and with constructive critics I can always develop myself. I will be thankful to her all my life!


I heard many times that I know how to impress people.
I actually don't know why (laughs), but maybe because
I always think of them during my performance, they are surely a part of it.
It is also important to fill the whole space (stage and audience part) with your energy.
In 2012 you have been "People's Choice" with Jillina's BDE "Dark Side of the Crown", would you care to comment on that, how was it to be on tour with all these stars?

It was an amazing experience! First I was a little bit afraid how it is going to be. And I was also chosen as “people’s choice” so it was even harder to perform solo on such an event.

Of course it is a wonderful feeling when you have a chance to work with so many worldwide known stars. But I was also very interested in working process. I really liked it that Jillina was very friendly to all the dancers but at the same time she was the boss, when we had to work. I think this is an amazing skill but sometimes very hard to develop. I learned new interesting ways how to make a show as big as this was. And I met so many new dancers, who were very great to work with.
How did you get in touch with Leyla Jouvana, and what does she and her festival mean for you and your career?

Actually Sharon Kihara (one of BDE’s resident dancers) was the first one, who told me about Leyla’s festival. After she recommended me also going on competition I decided to do just that. I was very amazed with the organization, with Leyla’s kindness and of course with all the workshops.
We see ourselves as regulars at the Oriental Festival Europe in Duisburg, perfectly organised by Leyla and Roland Jouvana. About as long as we are coming, Nika Mlakar from Slovenia is also there. We saw her for first time as very young debutante at the contest “Bellydancer Of the World”, where she made first prize (not only in one, but in two categories), later in the gala shows and in the contest jury, at last.
A dancer, who makes it into the evening gala of this festival, must be at the top of the bellydance world and without any doubt Nika is one of the most exiting dance performances of our time. For a long time we would have loved to interview her and now we are very proud that she was so kind as to make this happen.
Look forward with us to see her again in Duisburg
… and check out her interview it is worth reading.
Nika Mlakar is guest at Leyla Jouvana & Roland's 22nd Oriental Festival of Europe, gives workshops and performs on both
evening galas on 29th and 30th November 2014, more informations:
Nika (2nd from the left) with Jillina's Bellydance Evolution troupe in 2012