What do photography and dance have in common? Not so much, you may say. But someone, somewhere, has fused these two arts to create an exciting mix. Top class, inspiring photography; hip, fun, and body-sculpting dance, you have it all at Swan Lake Studios. And the lady behind it: the multi-talented Ibifaka ben-Kalio.
Ibifaka Ben-Kalio is the owner of Swan Lake Studios, a contemporary dance, photography, and creative arts studio, based in Lagos Nigeria. She is a commercial lawyer, writer, and a professionally trained ballet and Latin ballroom dancer. She currently runs daily Latin dance fitness programs at the Life Quest Gym, 37 Glover Court, Ikoyi, Lagos. Her photography work is focused on Children Portraits, Portraiture, Commercial Photography, and Newborn & Maternity. She recently spoke to Connectnigeria.com on her passion for dance and photography, her admiration for the works of Kelechi Amadi Obi, and the importance of small beginnings.
When did you start Swan Lake Studios, and what made you start it?
Swan Lake Studios is about a year old. An aunt of mine encouraged me to start up a business, after she noticed my passion for dance and photography. According to her “I move like a gazelle”. To motivate me, she bought me a professional camera and registered me at a number of dance classes, including Zumba dance fitness.
Some people say they were dancers before they learned how to walk. Would that be your experience with dance, or did you fall in love with it later in life?
My passion for dance began at age six when my mum registered me at my first ballet class. Before that I had been enrolled in piano, tennis, and swimming lessons, but ballet stuck with me. In secondary school I also built a reputation as a creative choreographer. Again people noticed the graceful nature of my dance moves.
Tell us about your training as a professional dancer.
I trained in Ballet here in Nigeria, and then trained in Latin Ballroom in London by Lauren De Boeck, a professional dancer in the Australian series of Dancing with The Stars.
If I were coming to the Zumba Fitness Dance Class for the first time, what should I expect?
Expect a lot of body movements. A lazy person would not return to my class because such a person cannot survive the 45 minutes duration of the class. Expect some salsa, hip hop, twists, turns, and a lot more. I must mention that you do not need to be an expert dancer to enjoy the class. Just come to have fun and keep fit.
How is the patronage for the dance class, what’s the lowest and the highest number of people that have attended a class?
So far it has been good, but more people need to be aware of the classes.
How do you convince some people who come to your classes for the sole purpose of losing weight that the Zumba dance will work for them?
I let my dance routines do the convincing. To get results, however, one has to be consistent. You have to love your health enough to make it a priority.
Did you choose to learn photography, or was it a natural inclination?
It was a natural inclination. It started with drawing. I drew good paintings as a teenager, that way I learnt to appreciate art. I also loved to create photo concepts, which is why I enjoy themed photo-shoots.
What kind of photography do you specialize in, and why?
I’m more inclined to portrait photography because it allows me control things, plus I’m more able to express my ideas. I also like artistry photography, which is why I admire the works of Kelechi Amadi Obi.
Tell us about your writing?
I have been writing since I was a child. I completed my first novel at age eight. The book was inspired by the Enid Blyton series. I also write poems, and drama scripts.
What are your current writing projects?
I am currently working on publishing a work of fiction which was inspired by the National Youth Service Corps Programme. The book explores the pros and cons of the programme, using narration, as opposed to a critique.
Who is your favourite author?
Currently, I have been reading a lot of Michelle Mckinney Hammond’s books. So I’ll say she is my favourite author at the moment.
What do you do to unwind and relax?
Currently, Zumba helps me relax. I also enjoy surfing the internet, chatting on Blackberry messenger, and working on Adobe Photoshop.
You wear so many hats. How do you balance your personal life, your day job, and your dancing, photography, and writing?
I prioritize. I believe my friends can say that I am principled and that I would not do A when it is time for B. I also have to make some sacrifices when necessary, for example, less sleep hours.
What does the future hold for Swan Lake Studios, any exciting plans and developments?
Currently I’m growing the dance and photography segment of the company. In the future, I hope to establish the film-making segment.
Do you have any advice for young people out there who want to pursue their passions?
We live in a fast-track world, where small beginnings are no longer heard of, and everyone wants it all, right now. I believe in small beginnings because when you eventually get to where you want to be, you would be firmly rooted. My advice is to dream big, write the vision, work hard, and trust God. Like the Word says, though the vision may tarry, it will surely come to pass.
Is there anything else about you, we don’t know?
Hmmm, I once had dreams of becoming a journalist, or a talk show hostess. The talk show hostess dream was surprising because I did not watch such shows on TV, but I would practice interviewing people.