,

Meet Maja Kereš – From Croatia to Hollywood with Dancing

Success in Hollywood doesn’t beat the life in the good old Eastern Europe

Photo: @majakeresh / Instagram Author: Mislav Mironovic

She is living her dream. Maja Kereš, born and raised in Rijeka, Croatia, recently moved to the United States where she is working as a professional dancer (and no, we are not talking about the exotic types of dances where it’s more about taking your clothes off, than it is about dancing).

Fergie, Rob Thomas, Keith Urban, AlunaGeorge and Train make just some of the artists in whose music videos Maja appears, currently represented by Clear Talent Group. How does one start in Croatia and move to US without anyone to make that life-changing phone call for you? Well, this is Maja’s story.

Literally – how? When did the idea of going to the USA first appear and how did you carry it out? Croatia still has visa restrictions and you need a hell of a reason for getting an artist visa (or any other besides the tourist one).

The first time that I’ve even heard of the artist visa was when I was doing the dance program in New York in 2011/2012. It came as an advice from few to me important people that I “should do the artist visa”. I then auditioned for Clear Talent Group that was looking for dancers to represent, and the few days after I received a call that they want to sign me, so that was the first time I really started considering it seriously. However, it took me almost a whole year to actually say “yes” to this process, and almost another year to get the visa. It is not easy or cheap to go through this process, but I had a good case to start with, and what is even more important – a strong will.

A lot of kids in Croatia are joining some kid of dance groups and societies from an early age. When did you discover dancing and where?

I started dancing when I was in my preschool age, if I remember correctly. I joined some kind of ballet classes for children in Rijeka, and from there I continued with jazz dance for a good 6 years, I believe. But then, as most teenagers do, I got a bit confused in what I want and got a little bored in dance classes, so I decided to quit. Music school, foreign languages, additional advanced classes in school… My schedule was crazy! But, I put dancing away for a few years, and then came back to it again when I was around 15. I met a few girls (some of whom are my best friends today) on a skiing trip in Italy, and they were all part of dance group Flame at the time. They had taught me one choreography, and I guess it lightened that old flame (no pun intended) in me. After that I decided to join back to dance classes, and haven’t stopped dancing since.

How was your family’s support when you said you wanted to be a professional dancer? Not quite a popular profession in Croatia because “it is not a real job”, as many think.

I am thankful that my family has always supported me in all my decisions, especially when it comes to dance. I was so determined when it comes to dance, whether it was “Mom, Dad, I’m going to Czech Republic to a place we cannot find on the map to a dance camp with my best friend and we are driving!” – or “I started my artist visa process” – they always respected that because they trust me, and trust that I am responsible and smart. I was also always honest with them, telling them how I felt about dance (even though they could see it), and the only thing they asked for was not to become worse in school because of it. That definitely didn’t happen – I was always striving to be excellent!

When it comes to our profession, yes I do agree we are not considered as serious. There is always the following question: “But what is your real job?” and I understand, there is not so many examples of professional dancers who live only out of dancing, unless they are ballerinas in a national theatre, or owners of a dance school. I remember I met a guy from school a long time ago while I was on my way to the dance class, and he asked me what sport I was training because I had a sports bag on. My answer was “Oh, I’m going to my dance class”, and his answer was: “So why do you need a sports bag then, it’s not really training.” While quite often young educated dancers do performances and video shoots which won’t even pay good, or at all, some go-go dancers have their full social security and health insurance paid along with a regular salary. I guess the “not serious” label is the one we have to deal with unless we start showing why we should be taken seriously. People just don’t know what we do and how hard or easy it is. The lack of knowledge leads to the wrong assumptions.

So you live in Los Angeles now, a city most of us consider to be paradise. Come on, makes us feel better, what are the downsides of LA?

Honestly, Los Angeles is definitely not the city of my dreams. I am here mostly because of my job. Tha fact is – it’s the heart of the entertainment industry. And the weather is nice 90% of the time. However, I sometimes miss the four seasons of the year, and the intimacy of a smaller town. I definitely do not like the beaches here, and there is no way I could even enjoy swimming in the ocean. The waves are huge, there is sand everywhere, literally everywhere (in your bikini, ears, under your nails), it is full of seaweed and there is no shade. One other thing that I miss in LA is just walking through the city. It is so huge, that you have to drive everywhere, and even when something is a 15 minute walking distance, you don’t really feel safe walking by night. But the nice weather definitely makes it up for all of this. The Sun just brings out good vibes from everyone.

How do your new colleagues and friends react on Croatia? Are there some phrases and words that just sneak into your English?

If they did hear of Croatia, then they have only nice words to describe it. If they didn’t hear about it (and I get that more than I would have normally expected), I always have only nice words about it, and make it sound like a paradise. As far as phrases and words are concerned, I don’t really mix the two languages up, even though a lot of times it happens that I just can’t remember a certain word in English, or even (much more rare) in Croatian, but I still speak Croatian at home with my boyfriend every day, so there’s no way I could lose it.

For starters Rijeka, now LA, any place you would love to live when you’re old and those dance moves just don’t seem to look as they do now?

I don’t really have a city that I would like to live in, but I would definitely want to visit as many cities as possible. I want to travel the world, get to know different cultures, architectures, habits, food. I love that. Before, the city that I wanted to live in was New York City, and I’ve checked that off my list. For now, I think I want to come home to Croatia after I am done with my dancing days.