Venus Pratova scaled the heights of international gymnastics before discovering the healing power of sensual dance. Photos: Oscar Munar.
Venus, where are you from and how did you grow up?
My roots are from Kyrgyzstan but I was born and raised in Siberia, Russia. I grew up in a family where my parents showed me how to be loved. I realized later that it’s the most treasured gift I could ever ask for.
What was early life like for you?
My childhood was very scheduled as a young child. Besides regular school I was doing gymnastics, ballet and music. I remember that I had a special 17 minutes nap to recover. It’s actually a useful tip for workaholics, I still do it if I’m exhausted while working. To be honest I feel like I’m not as busy now as I was at a young age.
Tell us about your gymnastics career, how you got started and where it took you?
One day in kindergarten while all kids were supposed to sleep I found out that some girls were skipping that and going elsewhere, so I followed them carefully. I was amazed that they were playing and having fun at gymnastics class. A coach asked me to join them and later told me to invite my parents as she saw my potential. I came back home full of happiness and told my father that I wanted to be a gymnast. He said: “You’ll be a champion.” My family’s support and belief in me helped me achieve a lot. It was a long journey full of discipline, daily development and, from time to time, tears. But if you ask me would I change it, the answer is no. Rhythmic gymnastics is the most feminine and graceful sport of all. I’ve learned a lot and it has given me an understanding that nothing is impossible . . . but you have to work at it. Since 2006 I have been a Master of Sports of Russia in rhythmic gymnastics; I’ve been a multiple champion at HMAO-Urga, Russia and I’ve won multiple international tournaments.
What kind of training regime did you have at the height of your career?
When I was competing, in the lead up to a competition, I trained twice a day for at least three hours at a time at a sport camp for about two to three weeks. It was all early morning starts, long runs, swimming and training, not to mention planning and choreography. I’m sure you get the picture. No-one competes at the top level without hard work.
Are you still competing?
No, but luckily I’m still capable of doing some advanced gymnastics movement. I’m proud of myself. The healthy lifestyle and the environment helps to keep my body in shape, with a clear mind and harmony in my soul.
We see from your FB stream that dancing has become important to you . . . was it a natural progression to go from gymnastics to the dance studio?
I’m not a professional dancer but I’m enjoying moving and feeling the flow while dancing. Dancing is a connection between soul, body and music. I would recommend all women to start every morning from meditation or dancing in bed. That’s what I do before stretching or working out. Also one of my favourite ways to release stress is ecstatic dancing, which makes me feel alive.
How would you define your dance style, and what do you first teach students who come to learn from you?
I call it sensual dance. It’s a way to express the emotions we tend to hold in. It’s a way to open your heart and start loving yourself. Sensual dance is a therapy for women to discover the beauty of their body and develop graceful movement.
What brought you to Bali in the first place, and what has inspired you since you arrived?
A broken heart brought me here. I was looking for a place to heal. But Bali became much more than that. I went to Vipassana meditation and it changed my life. For the first time ever I totally accepted myself and started loving me. I found the courage to open my heart and to trust the whole world. It may sound unusual but a lot of people live an illusion full of fear and doubt in which they are not satisfied but pretend to be, behind a mask.
It’s mesmerizing to watch you move. How do you feel when you dance?
You are very kind, thank you. I feel like a Goddess when I dance! I hope that inspires other women to get a connection with themselves and start creating a new life full of pleasure, harmony and joy. If you accept who you are and the body you have, the colour of your skin or race, then you can just celebrate life and dance as if nobody is watching you.
What does it mean to be a woman to you?
It is a gift and hard work at the same time. As I know how important it is to be truly happy and honest with myself and the people around me. What I carry inside my heart . . . that’s what I spread. People feel it. I’m conscious that my vibrations may be as much distractive as healing. Self-love, inner beauty, is the key.