Roya Pishvaei reflects on how SFU’s dance program helped her grow

Pishvaei shares what she loves about the artform

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Portrait of Roya at the beach with her eyes closed and head tilted up
Pishvaei’s passion for dance is all-encompassing. PHOTO: Mikela Vuorensivu Photography

By: Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer

For Roya Pishvaei, dance is more than a hobby; it’s a lifestyle. In an interview with The Peak, the vice-president of SFU’s Dance Student Union discussed her passion for dance and her dedication to the SFU community.

Pishvaei has loved dance for as long as she can remember. She’s tried various dance genres, ranging from Bollywood to ballet to street jazz. Her interest in SFU’s dance program was piqued at one of their shows, where she was blown away by the creativity of the performers. 

“I went to a dance show when I was in grade 12 for a field trip. And it was one of the most odd and engaging performances I’ve ever seen,” said Pishvaei.

The showcase pushed her to audition for SFU’s dance program. 

“I still had a lot of self-doubts though, and I think this really hindered my ability to perform to my full potential. Unfortunately, I did not get in, but I re-auditioned a year later having much more experience and training,” said Pishvaei.

After taking additional classes, she felt more prepared for the second audition and believes her determination helped her through the process.

“There was an interview, and I remember saying to the professors, ‘If you don’t accept me into the program, I’ll just keep auditioning until you do,’” said Pishvaei. “Ultimately, I think confidence is the key because nobody is going to be the perfect dancer. We’re all auditioning for this program because we want to learn and grow.”

Pishvaei’s commitment to dance goes beyond her classes. Her work with the Dance Student Union helps create community. 

“My interest started with wanting to bring people together through a really hard time,” said Pishvaei, referring to the ongoing pandemic. “I think dance is so much more than just performing. And it’s really up to us as dancers to inspire, and to cultivate very safe, engaging, positive environments for self-expression.” 

Hoping to help create these environments, Pishvaei wants to become an instructor. “I think that’s what motivates me; knowing that I can spread happiness through movement,” Pishvaei said. She wants dance classes to be a welcoming environment “where people can feel really free to not be judged and just enjoy dance for the sake of enjoying it and not feeling pressured.”

Her advice to new students is to be flexible with their choreography because it might change from its original design.

“You can always go back and change it. Creating a base for yourself, just like how you would write the intro and thesis to your essay. You create that base, but then you go back and edit it after you finish the rest of your essay,” she said.

According to Pishvaei, dancers are lifelong learners. All the time and dedication put into different styles at SFU helped her grow as a dancer. 

“I was thrown into the deep end, but in a way that pushed me to become so much better. And I think after four years, I’m a completely new dancer with a different understanding of my body,” said Pishvaei.