By Abi Salas
Vancouver - Being an immigrant in Canada, Teresa would never have imagined that she could dance her way out of every difficulty and challenge she has gone through.
Tereza Paraschivescu has been dancing and singing since she was 5. She was encouraged to sing and dance only for fun, as her father did not consider it a viable career option then so he never supported her fully. The whole family was also not interested in dance. Her mother, on the other hand, was her number one fan and did her best to nurture Teresa’s passion.
“I was born in Romania before my family fled to Germany in 1990, then to Canada in 1994. Unfortunately, being immigrants in a new country then, my parents didn’t have the means to send me to a proper dance class. So in the absence of family support and ample financing, I could only develop my love for dance in the after school dance program which was not very well run and lacked resources to truly offer students a good experience,” shares Teresa.
But that program, Teresa’s “happy place,” developed her craft and exposed her to a variety of cultures through the years.
In the tough suburb of Montreal, schools were extremely multi-ethnic – making them a true gold mine when it comes to diversity in dance.
The after school dance program remained a huge part of Teresa’s teenage years, but she also became attracted by street dancers.
“I was fascinated by how they evolved and perfected their craft despite living in troubled households and being short-changed by society. That is where I first encountered dances originating from the Caribbean and the African diaspora. Our community of immigrants kids would come together often and use dance as a getaway to escape the hardships of difficult family situations and integration into a new country. You could say dance not only made us stronger but deeply connected us in ways we would otherwise never have experienced,” recalls Teresa.
With icons Michael Jackson and Madonna as her inspiration, Teresa pursued singing and dancing and dreamed of someday performing live on stage. Marianne Bah Tahé, a young and brilliant choreographer three 3 years her senior, introduced Teresa to the structured aspect of dance.
“She was in charge of the after school dance program when I was 13 years old and truly shaped my style at that age. Grungy, urban, powerful yet fragile. I learned a lot from that dancer!” exclaimed Teresa.
Since Teresa was 15, she has dreamed of opening her own dance studio. But the realization of that dream came unexpectedly and quite earlier than she expected.
In January 2016, Teresa was invited to go on a teaching trip to the Bahamas but could not find anyone to go with. So she asked Jamie Hartwell to come with her, with the deal that they would teach Zumba at a resort twice a day in exchange for free accommodation. Half way into the trip, Jamie confessed that she was thinking of shutting down her company DanZa Fitness, which offers Zumba classes three times at the Boogaloo Dance Academy where she was renting space. At the time, Teresa was one of her instructors.
“I convinced her otherwise. After much thought and many conversations, we agreed to partner up and take DanZa to the next level. When we returned to Canada, we drew up the new offerings we would have, and started seeking out potential locations to open up our own space. All of this coincided with a difficult breakup I was going through at the time which hurt me deeply. Everything was happening so fast and I barely had the time to truly process what was going on. But before I knew it, Jamie found the perfect spot, I moved out on my own and here we were, opening up our own studio!” Teresa says.
Teresa admits that starting the studio scared her. She was not only afraid of the cost and the financial implications, but also felt limited because of the break-up she went through.
“I didn’t think I could achieve this big feat on my own, without my ex. It was a constant battle in my heart and in my mind because I felt guilty for putting all this time and effort into my business rather than trying to mend my relationship. At times, I even felt like I was using my business as an excuse to justify my breakup. It was a very troubled time for me, while also being an eye opener. I slowly realized that this was what I was meant to do and no fear or limiting belief would stop me from reaching my goal,” she adds.
In January 2017, DanZa Productions was reopened, with new programs such as performances and workshops, specialized dance classes, wedding choreography and both amateur and professional performance teams. When Teresa and Jamie first saw the space after the renovations, they both cried!
DanZa Productions developed a new concept in Vancouver: the studio is the sister company of Hartwell Therapy and Wellness, a multidisciplinary clinic owned by Jamie Hartwell. On one side, people can get treated in physiotherapy, massage therapy, kinesiology and infrared sauna, while on the other, they can benefit from dance classes and workshops.
“The dance studio component is particularly unique because it completely breaks the conventions of the classic dance studio. When you visit DanZa, you are never judged, evaluated, or made to feel inadequate because of your level or lack of experience in dance. Quite on the contrary, our environment is extremely inclusive and open to all. There are no '’divas’, there is no drama and there are no limitations, other than the ones you set for yourself. We don’t work with a levels system but rather adjust the class curriculum based on who is attending. Our level of difficulty is very ‘fluid’, meaning that we cater to our participants,” beams Teresa.
While being hands-on in the studio, Teresa is also managing Aritzia’s Translation Services at their Support Office in Railtown. She works 9 hours a day, then rushes to the studio to teach, rehearse or audition people almost every night and perform over the weekends. She also attends to admin work such as drafting contracts, social media planning, video and photo editing – which she does very early in the morning, before going to the office.
Teresa is truly a people person. She treats her dancers, instructors and participants as human beings first, rather than employees and clients. She likes connecting with people and finding out about their goals, hopes and dreams. She truly cares about how they feel and what they’re going through on a daily basis, so she tries to make their experience with DanZa as blissful as possible.
“If I can teach even one thing to someone on any given day or make someone smile and feel included, I have done my job. I like to think I’m also quite accessible; I always open the door to communication and try to give as many up and coming instructors and artists a chance to teach at our studio or collaborate with us. I especially love hosting workshops with foreign guest instructors!” she says.
Lastly, Teresa believes in this: Quality beyond measure makes for a fine experience. To be proud of the output, you need a thoughtful input. Run your business with 50% of your heart and 50% of your head.
DanZa Productions is at 6468 Main Street (@ 49th Ave), inside its sister company, Hartwell Therapy & Wellness. You can find information about our classes and offerings here: http://danzaproductionsvancouver.com. For more information on Hartwell Therapy & Wellness, visit: https://hartwelltherapy.com/.