IF you like dancing, you certainly can do it for fun as a hobby. But if you happen to be serious about it, you can try to make a profession out of it. This is what Fiona Jane Gomez believes and she’s living proof that it can be done. A dance performer and teacher, she’s also an entrepreneur who runs her own dance studio, Talent Hub.
HOW DID THE IDEA FOR TALENT HUB COME TO YOU?
At university, I studied marketing and communications, so after graduating, I started applying for public relations jobs while teaching dance. During this transitional phase, a friend offered me a place to run my own dance studio. This wasn’t something I had even considered but once this opportunity cropped up, I had to make a big choice: Do I go for a PR job or do I take the plunge and become my own boss? I decided to start a dance studio and here I am — still running the place 13 years later.
YOU WERE FRESH OUT OF UNIVERSITY WHEN YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?
It was pretty difficult as I had to learn everything very quickly without much guidance. Running a business with limited funds and limited business knowledge was definitely a challenge, but it was a baptism by fire and perhaps the fastest way to learn. As I started with very little capital, any money we made had to be pumped back into the business so we’d have capital to grow the business. It was very stressful but some friends who were entrepreneurs themselves told me that the first two years would always be the hardest.
WHAT WERE SOME OF THE UNIQUE CHALLENGES YOU FACED WITH DANCE AS A BUSINESS?
When I started the business, I was 22 years old, which is considered quite young. I had to gain the trust of parents so they could trust me with their children.
ARE YOUR STUDENTS MAINLY KIDS?
Actually, when we started, Talent Hub was mainly geared towards children but as the years went by, our clientele base changed. Most of our students are now adults although we still offer children’s classes.
YOU’VE LIKED DANCING SINCE YOU WERE SMALL. WHAT IS IT ABOUT DANCING THAT APPEALED TO YOU?
When you dance, you get lost in a different world. You can express yourself and tell a story through movement. It ignites such joy from within. I still find it amazing that you can take two dancers from different parts of the world — they don’t even have to speak the same language — yet they can dance together because on the dance floor, a different kind of communication happens.
DID YOU HAVE A PARTICULAR FAVOURITE TYPE OF DANCING STYLE AND HAS THIS CHANGED OVER THE YEARS?
I’m trained in Latin American and ballroom dancing but I’ve also dabbled in all sorts of other dance genres from ballet and jazz to hip hop and everything in between. Latin dances remain my personal favourite.
CAN ANYBODY DANCE OR DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE SOME NATURAL TALENT TO BE A REALLY GOOD DANCER?
Anybody can dance. Some people have natural rhythm and may be able to pick up dancing faster. Others need longer training. I’ve had people who came to my studio with low self-confidence and zero dancing experience but they were able to learn how to execute choreographies flawlessly.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF DANCING STYLES TAUGHT IN MALAYSIA?
There are so many; it would be impossible to name them all! But at Talent Hub we teach Salsa, Jazz, Contemporary, Lyrical, Belly Dancing, Zumba, Hip Hop, K-Pop, Pole Dancing, Burlesque, and Bollywood.
ARE THERE A LOT OF LOCAL DANCE COMPETITIONS?
There are plenty of dance competitions within Malaysia. However, Talent Hub doesn’t join any of them. I want Talent Hub to be a very casual and stress-free environment where people can come and just dance for fun. Exams and competitions can be stressful. A lot of people are just not interested to do either one and they want to take dance classes purely for social and leisure reasons. That’s what we’re here for.
IF SOMEBODY WANTED TO DO DANCING PROFESSIONALLY, ARE THERE OPTIONS FOR THEM TO MAKE A LIVING IN MALAYSIA?
Besides being an instructor, they could also be a choreographer or performer. This could be on stage for theatre and musicals, or for commercial events such as corporate functions, launches, commercials, etc.
DO YOU STILL TEACH OR ARE YOU MORE FOCUSED ON MANAGING THE BUSINESS?
I don’t teach anymore and only handle the business part of Talent Hub. I genuinely love teaching but it takes up a lot of time. While a dance class might be only one hour long, for the instructor, it involves many more hours preparing for the class. Planning the lesson and choreographing takes up a lot of time and is not easy.
Everyone runs out of creative juice sometimes, and when that happens, even choreographing something simple can take hours and days. I have struggled to find a balance in my time as a teacher and a business person. I decided to let my capable instructors do the teaching while I tend to the business side of things.
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST MISTAKE YOU’VE MADE?
Leaving out a big chunk of payment in an invoice I sent to a client and only realising this after everything was over. I’m sure I’ve made bigger mistakes in the last decade, but this happened just last year so it’s still fresh in my mind. I now check my invoices 10 times before sending them out!
WHAT’S THE BEST BUSINESS DECISION YOU’VE MADE?
Not taking on a 9-to-5 job and starting Talent Hub!
DO YOU STILL PERFORM AT ALL?
No, but I manage my dancers for performances at corporate events, launches, etc. These dancers consist of instructors and other professional dancers. Sometimes if I spot a particular student who has tremendous talent, I invite him/her to join the performance team.