Rasa Pauzaite has always had a passion for dance, but it was through a broken heart and a chance encounter at pub that she reignited this passion, and eventually turned her hobby into a career. We wanted to find out more about this Lithuanian dance instructor…

Tell us a bit more about Salsa with Rasa – where you are originally from, where you are based and your preferred style of dance?

I am originally from Lithuania, but have been living in England since 2007. I started out in Bradford, but then moved to Leeds and am now finally settled in London.

I currently run my business on my own but I am looking to expand. I provide different services, teaching dance classes in Latin clubs and at private events. In addition, I travel around the world offering dance holidays where I teach and entertain. I also do a lot of private classes (one on one) and provide shows for various events, as well as the occasional competition.

My favourite dance styles are Salsa and Bachata – I honestly could not choose one over the other!

How long have you been dancing? And how long have you been working as a dance instructor and running your own dance company?

I started dancing ballroom back in Lithuania when I was 5 years old. I danced for 6 years until I had to stop as my parents wanted me to focus on studies. When I came to the UK I discovered Salsa and have been dancing this style for around 7 years, teaching for 6 years. I started my own company probably about 5 years ago.

What was the inspiration to make dance a permanent feature in your life, and to eventually become and instructor?

All my life all I wanted to do was dance, however in Lithuania this was never encouraged. So I thought that I had to let go of that dream, but when I came to the UK and found salsa by chance it was no surprise that my dreams of being a dancer were immediately rekindled – and this time I decided not to let go of my dreams!

At the time I was living in Bradford and after a bad breakup my friend took me and my heartbreak out drinking to drown my sorrows. There happened to be a Salsa party happening at the pub and from my dark corner where I was drinking, I couldn’t keep my eyes off them. The following week I signed up – and have been dancing Salsa ever since!

Salsa with Rasa_startup2

You mentioned a childhood in Lithuania. Tell us a bit more about your background. Do you have anyone from your family who influenced what you are doing now?

My childhood was great. My family didn’t have a lot of money, but I was very happy, even through my rebellious teenage years, which in the end brought me even closer to my family!

As I mentioned, my parents weren’t rich but my mother was extremely intelligent and business orientated. All she wanted in life was to cut hair and ultimately get her own beauty salon. With hard work and her intelligence and my father’s full support she managed to accomplish her dream… she is my number one inspiration of how you can build something from nothing as long as you love what you do and work hard!

My father spent all his life as a volleyball coach, with a few extra jobs now and then thrown in to help my mother to start the business. Sometimes I think his purpose in life was always to make her happy.

So even though neither of my parents are dancers, I think they are a huge influence in my decision making. I didn’t inherit the love for music, I just always had it. But the determination to go for my dreams no matter what other people say definitely comes from my parents – even though they always encouraged me to study to have an easier life, the saw that in fact I am the same as them!

What were you doing before – how did dance become a career rather than a hobby?

I was studying a marketing degree as it sounded good on paper but it was a complete waste of time. I was still studying when I started salsa. I got good very quickly and started assisting the teacher at the time, Nicolai V, and by the time I had finished my degree I had already started teaching on my own in Leeds.

So I called my mother and said look, I really want to be a dancer. At this point she already knew how unhappy I was with Bradford, with marketing and with the way my boyfriend had left me. So she came to terms with it and just said, well, if you can earn money from it, go for it!

I struggled financially at first – even rationing a packet of rice! But this was still the happiest time of my life as I was finally doing what I loved! I then decided to move to London, and was fortunate enough to find a dance partner immediately who gave me amazing training – Phillip Langlais.

We used to practise 6 hours every day just spinning, I literally used to be sick after! I would call my mum and say how tired I was but also how happy! And things gradually developed from there.

Tell us what has been the most exciting or inspirational moment to date since you started working as a dance instructor and running your own dance company?

I have a lot of exciting moments like competitions, travels and accomplishments, but the moments I really remember are simply when I’m dancing with some random guy, to a song I really like… I swear those moments I really feel what it is like to be alive. There is nothing like it.

What about the toughest moment? Was there ever a moment since you started this journey, that you felt overwhelmed, like you were failing or even thinking about quitting? What kept you going?

I never felt like quitting. Even in the beginning when I made no money and did not have any support I was still very happy because I was doing what I love. And for some reason I always knew it was going be okay.

The only difficult thing with dance is that you have to keep progressing nonstop because otherwise you might feel like you are stuck doing the same thing over and over again. You need to constantly look for new challenges and new projects to keep your fuel running. Also the more you push yourself the more damage you do to your body, so it’s hard to find balance when you are trying to compensate for all the lost time. But I don’t mind a bit of pain! 

Have you made any “bad” decision or mistakes along the way?

I have not made any bad decisions. All the decisions I made were right for me at that particular time. Sometimes I am guilty of letting others use me in a work place a bit longer than necessary but there comes a time then when you move on from the place where you are not appreciated and find another place which embraces you. You do everything you can to make it work, if it does not you move on with no regrets.

Was there ever a strange moment happen in your life where you felt that you were just destined to do this?

Yes, yes, and yes! I always wanted to dance, but I never thought that I was meant to do it. It was at my first salsa night after the classes when I realised that for me, dance is more than just for fun, it is who I am.

What is your dance ambition for the next couple of years?

My biggest dream is to open my own dance school. I am currently working towards that direction.

And finally, for someone who’s thinking of working for him or herself, what would be the one piece of advice you can offer?

I can say it is scary, because you have to get used to relying only on yourself in the beginning. But if you know that you are very good at what you do and you are not lazy to actually put work in, there is no reason you shouldn’t go for it.

I always say to my mother, all I need is an opportunity and I will not let it go. So watch out because life always provides us with opportunities. Grab them and don’t let go.

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About The Author

Director

Born and raised in China, Sean came to the UK in 2004, he spent a number of years working in the digital marketing field. Being somewhat of an entrepreneur himself, Sean started his own small digital marketing agency in 2013, where he experienced the excitement (and trials) of his own startup, and so the seed for Startup Empire was planted. He aims for entrepreneurs to not only find inspiration from the stories on Startup Empire, but for VCs and Angels to also find potential Startups with whom to broaden their investment portfolios. When not at his desk Sean can be found tickling the ivories, writing his own piano melodies or relaxing with a book. When he’s feeling energetic he indulges in his passion for Latin dancing with a spin around the dance floor!

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