When I invited Ida Saki to perform in Tirgan in 2011, I sent her a couple of links to a few pieces from Ney Nava by Hossein Alizadeh and suggested that she should try to choreograph a dance piece on that. She loved the music and agreed.
Before she came to perform, I had an interview with her over skype. I admit that I was taken aback with how mature she was. I think she was still in her teens; so I expected someone less grounded, less together. I was equally surprised at how modest she was, no false modesty but a genuine, sincere, realistic combination of confidence and awareness that can come about only after one has a secure footing, yet fully aware of how far one has to go. She surprised me in a very pleasant way. I had a great time chatting with her about her views on dance, past and future, and much more. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
MSM: As a child, what did you think you wanted to do when you grew up?
Ida: Well, I was constantly changing my mind. As a kid, I had always wanted to do everything. I went from wanting to be a veterinarian to a doctor to a lawyer to a real estate agent. I wanted to do absolutely everything. And dance was actually one of the last things I even thought about doing. It is very interesting; it just goes to show that there are always opportunities, even where you least expect them, so try everything!
MSM: What/when was your first exposure to dance?
Ida: A couple of my friends had danced at our school’s talent show. And so I went to the closest dance studio to me. I started dancing pretty much just for the social aspect. I just wanted an excuse to spend time with my friends, to have fun; nothing more serious than that. It was lucky that it ended up being one of the best dance studios in the nation.
MSM: So how did it get serious?
Ida: My dance teacher got pregnant when I was in eight grade, so she had called a professional dancer friend from New York City and asked him if he recommended anyone to come down to Dallas to teach her students while she was out having her baby. He recommended a woman named Jessica Hendricks who had been dancing professionally across the world, had done so many tours … had done absolutely everything. She came and talked to me privately and asked me if I would ever consider being a professional dancer. I responded by telling her that I had no interest in being a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader. It showed my lack of knowledge on the art form, and she just went off on me and replied, “Are you kidding me? Why would you think that is a dancer?” She sent me videos of professional dancers and talked to me about the endless possibilities. Doing her choreography was what attracted me to the art form itself. Jess’ work was one of the first that allowed me to express myself in an art form rather than showing off tricks. That was just a completely different world and I was completely entranced by it, I have been absolutely in love with it ever since. It was when she came to Dallas and shared her work with my studio that I decided this was exactly what I was going to do.
MSM: Why do you think Jessica took an interest in you?
Ida: I always had a hunger for learning and would try to implement everything she gave to every student, not just myself individually. Because she knew that I had a lack of knowledge of the art form, she had a huge opportunity to fill me with information and develop me as not only a stronger dancer but as a person. She was the first to teach me that life is not all about dance; one’s personal experiences shape them as people and will create depth within your artwork. She really helped me out; she realized how quickly I caught on to things and took me under her wing. Luckily, I have a natural facility for dance, and so she was able to develop it in ways that other teachers didn’t even have the knowledge to do so.
MSM: When did you start training? Where? Whom with?
Ida: I began my dance training whenever I went to the nearby dance studio, Dance Industry Performing Arts Center. We did competitive training in ballet, jazz, lyrical, but it was nothing near arts. It was mainly about how high you could get your leg up, how many turns, how many tricks you can do. I started that when I was about 12, and I learned plenty about my body, placement, and technique through the competitive training. Jessica came when I was fifteen; I was mature enough at that age to implement what the studio had previously taught me with her work and my expression.
MSM: What has been your best experience in dance?
Ida: There are so many. The thing about dance is, it is constantly changing with your mind frame, with your life, and so it really depends on where you are mentally and physically. It wasn’t until this year that I learned to embrace everything that I was feeling, whether it was exhaustion, sadness, excitement, or anxiety, rather than fighting against them. It makes the movement more fulfilling for myself and becomes even more accessible to the audience. I try to find the best within every performance, making them consistently enjoyable, rather than rating them.
MSM: Your worst experience?
Ida: I am the type of a dancer that if something does go wrong, I just laugh about it. There is absolutely nothing else you could do after something goes wrong on stage. I used to do pointe solos every year, you know, when you are dancing on your toes, and I, every single time I stepped on stage, had the worst slip, and I’d literally fall on stage. Everyone always expected me to come off the stage crying and being miserable, but I was always either laughing about it or really excited. There is something about falling on stage or whatever that goes wrong on stage, it creates such a thrill and the adrenaline pumps and you just have to constantly turn on your brain and think, “What is the next step? What can I possibly do?” Improvisation is one of my favorite things to do. So falling would always add another aspect to my dancing. It always came from a realistic place, and allows the audience to relate to the work even more. I don’t really think there was a terrible experience because it is always exciting. There is always a new aspect to every performance, I cannot even think of a bad experience.
MSM: Otherwise it would be hard to survive I guess?
Ida: Exactly. For sure. The thing about dancing is that if you are not going to push yourself but still enjoy it, then what is the use of doing it because it is such a selfish art form. We don’t get a lot of money or exposure, so it is mainly for the individual to release their emotions and also shape the audience’s mind. You want to be accessible to the audience in a way that you uncover their own emotions. What they didn’t even realize they were feeling.
MSM: Have you ever been to Canada?
Ida: I have been there with my family when I was very young. I don’t remember much about it.
MSM: Tell me about the music? Had you ever danced to Persian music? What is your feeling of the music?
Ida: I’ve never done contemporary dance to Persian music, but I had always wanted to. I never thought I would have the opportunity to perform to it and do it justice. I played the song [Neynava by Hossein Alizadeh] for my Dad and my father just went insane. He was so excited. He is going to try to fly out to Canada to see it. He said this is one of his favourite pieces of music. I think it is absolutely beautiful. I grew up with Persian music constantly playing, so I am listening to it all the time, and it is nice to be able to use it to inspire my own work. I hope to be able to fully embody the music through my movement.
MSM: What are your plans for the future?
Ida: I am in school right now. I am going to a three-year-school right now. I am about to enter my second year. There are so many different opportunities I could and want to pursue. I am not exactly sure what I am going to do, but I plan to dabble on everything I can. I have so many opportunities ahead of me that I don’t know which direction I want to go. Ultimately, I think I want to go overseas and dance in a company. Europe possibly. At the same time, I would love to do music videos, movies, Broadway. and all different things not just the company work.