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A new dance craze hit the streets of Cyprus to break world records. NAOMI LEACH spoke to the sport’s founders
The next time you see someone clad in a multi-coloured lycra one-piece, energetically rocking out to music pumping out of their headphones, don’t assume you’ve stumbled on to the set of a music video or a flash dance. You could instead be witnessing a new sport and even an attempt to break a world record. Ikanoka fever has recently reached Cyprus, with its founder staging a continuous dance and strut which stretched a distance of 12km from Paralimni to Ayia Napa. It was the first time the sport has taken place in the Mediterranean and Cyprus has just become the first Ikanoka island.
It’s 9am when I speak to the Ikanoka inventor and pioneer Gosha Van der Vader and he has already been for his early morning shimmy along the coastline, body popping through the tourist resort towns and waltzing back to his hotel. The 39 year old Russian athlete is holidaying here with his new wife Svetlana Spasskaya Van der Vader and their young son. Days after marrying in Ayia Napa, the couple decided to raise the sport’s profile by treating locals and visiting tourists to a record attempt.
Gosha developed Ikanoka in early 2011 while dancing in Amsterdam. “Ikanoka is about evolution. For many years people are just walking so the new way of walking is dancing. You can work and dance, cook food and dance, pick up the kids from school and dance. It’s a new idea of lifestyle. We walk also but it’s an evolution of movement in space. It’s a bit too boring just to walk,” explains Svetlana.
The word, Ikanoka, has no meaning but was created as Gosha’s alternative persona when he was a child. He has invented two-way headphones which have a speaker on the outside to ensure that those watching him perform can also listen to the music he is dancing to. It is mostly his favourite jazz and soul songs or those that his rock group, also called Ikanoka, have composed. Gosha stresses that anyone can do Ikanoka, there are no rules and no set routines. He just moves with the music along a distance.
“It’s an individual dance; you can dance your dance. We treat it mostly like a sport, any person can do it. Our eight-year-old son does it too. All the family can do it or you can do it as an individual. I don’t dance well but Gosha and my son do dance perfectly. Ikanoka everyone can do it and many people do it. It’s most important not to be shy of yourself, of your body,” enthuses Svetlana.
The couple and their team of professional Ikanokers are in the process of getting the sport officially recognised. They have spent the past year travelling to Russia, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Paris and Luxemburg, sharing the movement and leaving behind a trail of enthusiasts who have captured the rhythm and vibrancy of the sport while developing their own signature moves. In their hometown, Ekaterinburg in Russia, more than 100 students from a local university danced Ikanoka on the main street. There was also a competition with participants from Russia, France, Serbia and Kazakhstan.
“In Russia people are more reserved. We were dancing in -30 degrees centigrade and ended up on TV stations there. Here, it’s a sunny and bright island. We really like Cyprus. People come to dance here so that’s what we expect tonight,” says Gosha.
When Gosha and his fellow Ikanoka dancer John Music take to the streets they are usually greeted with staring, people waving and taking photographs of them. Despite the vibrant costumes, the dancers insist they are committed to Ikanoka as a serious sport. Gosha trains every day - boxing, running and cycling for hours on end to be at optimum fitness for dancing the Ikanoka distances.
“Some people may think this is part of a nightclub culture sometimes when people go dancing in a bar they have to take alcohol or drugs to feel relaxed, for us it’s about fitness. Whether it’s 6am or 6pm it’s about sport and fitness. It’s healthy and we don’t need anything else. It is mostly a lifestyle for us. We like this way and we want others to enjoy it too,” adds Svetlana.
Each time the team enter a new country they try to break the previous record. Ikanoka is next heading to Belgium where John will compete for the 14/15km title. England is scheduled for August, Holland for November and the United States after that. The Ikanoka crew has recorded rock songs in French, Italian, Russian, Hebrew and Dutch for competitions. Rhythm is after all universal.