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VIDEO: Meet the Croatian Dancer in Justin Timberlake’s Latest Video

Maja Kereš

Croatian dancer Maja Kereš (30), who featured in Fergie’s celeb-studded music video ‘MILF $’, has now joined Justin Timberlake in his latest music video.

Kereš, who was born and raised in Rijeka on Croatia’s coast, moved to pursue a career in Los Angeles. Last year she danced at the Grammy Awards with Busta Rhymes and now she features in Timberlake’s music video for his single ‘Filthy’.

Maja, who dances with a virtual robot in the video, says words can not describe happy she was to get the chance to work with Timberlake, who is her favourite artist in the world.

We caught up with her last year to talk to her about her career.

Maja, when did you first take an interest in dancing?

I was a very curious child interested in a lot of things so my grandmother took me to try different hobbies: gymnastics, piano lessons, singing in a choir, and dance was one of them. So I started with basic ballet in my preschool age. It was more of a ballet workshop for kids. Then I grew to like it and continued with jazz dance. Later, in my early high school days, after 5 years break, I came back to jazz, and I discovered hip-hop, which I fell in love with.

Maja was a dancer in Fergie’s video for MILF $ (screenshot)

Who were some of your idols or dancers you admired?

While I was growing up, there wasn’t yet YouTube, and I didn’t have satellite antenna to watch foreign channels like MTV, so I remember that my former dance school owner would have some MTV dance shows with Wade Robson and music videos filmed on her VCR cassette and I would watch those same cassettes over and over. Music videos by Missy Elliott inspired me the most, also dance movies of that time (Chicago, Honey, You Got Served,…)

How did you turn your hobby into becoming a professional dancer?

I don’t really know how to define being a professional dancer, and when do you become one. I believe that on one hand it is a state of mind, and considering that, I think I have always been a professional dancer because dance was on my mind 24/7, and it was always the most important thing, while everything else came second. Secondly, if it means earning money by dancing, I got my first gigs back then around 2005 with Dance group Flame which I was a member of then. Since then I have had numerous gigs, but honestly, most of my income came from teaching. And even though I love and enjoy teaching, I wanted to earn money mostly as a dancer, performer. That is one of the reasons I moved to the US.

Maja was born and raised in Rijeka

When did you move to America?

When I obtained my artist visa for the USA in 2014, I first moved to NYC. That was (and still is) my favorite city in the world, I lived there for almost a year already as a student in Broadway Dance Center, so it was familiar, I had friends there, I knew the city, and it seemed as a great place to come back to, now being able to work as a dancer. I signed with the agency instantly and started working. However, for a commercial dancer, there are not so many opportunities that happen in New York.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to work as a dancer there, but auditions were pretty seldom. It is pretty much an epicentre for theatre/musical dancers and some commercials and TV work, but I wanted to get more of opportunities to be able to dance on stage, work with top artists, directors, and choreographers, and even though sometimes things do happen in NYC, majority of those artists are based in LA. Also, once in NYC I was in a conversation with one of the top choreographers in the industry and she asked me “So, do you have an artist visa now?”. I said “Yes.” “And you are here to work?”. I said “Yes” again. “So what are you doing here? Come to LA!”. Those words stuck to me so deep and after some time I realized I am in New York because it is comfortable for me to be there, and I decided to take the risk – if I want it, I need to go and get it. So after exactly 1 year of working and living in NYC, my boyfriend and I packed our bags and moved everything to LA. That happened September 17, 2015.

How did you land the dancing role in Fergie’s video for “MILF $”?

There are so many auditions in LA, and this was just one of them. I got the email from my agent the day of the audition, couple of hours before, if I am available to attend. When I saw what it is for and who the choreographer is (Fatima Robinson – one of my favorite choreographers, that by then I just had a chance to work with for AlunaGeorge) I got excited right away. So I went to the audition, which was already really private and invite only, and did my best. After few days I got a call that I booked it.

How was she personally?

I can definitely say that in this short time I was around her she seemed really professional, nice and funny. Since everything with the video shoot was on a pretty tight time schedule, there wasn’t really time for any personal attachments.

What has been the most interesting project you have worked on?

Definitely AlunaGeorge performance set for Coachella because in rehearsals I could see how Fatima and her assistants are coming up with the choreography, where they search for inspiration, and how ideas turn into the moves – it was so inspiring to witness that, since I do love to choreograph as well, and I’ve learned so much.

Maja now resides in LA

Have you worked with any other big names?

I was one of the dancers in Rob Thomas’ music video for “Trust You” and in Keith Urban’s “Wasted Time”. I met Thalia (Mexican actress/singer) when we were filming the commercial for Epura water, and of course Aluna Francis (from AlunaGeorge).

What is the best thing about being a professional dancer? and the worst?

Definitely, the best thing is that in certain jobs you do you just want to pinch yourself and check if it is the reality because you are doing what you love soooo much, AND you are getting paid for it. It is like you are enjoying to the fullest and someone gives you even extra money for that haha. Also travelling the world!

The not so nice thing is all those “NOs” you are gonna get before one “YES”. It is hard to keep your strength (especially mental), motivation and patience when it doesn’t go so well for you in the moment.


What are your plans for the future?

Well, I will need to renew my visa soon so I plan to stay in LA for a few more years, with always making space on my calendar to visit back home from time to time. And after I feel like I have fed my hunger for the stage, performing and knowledge here, I would like to go back to Europe, Croatia and K2K Dance Center in Rijeka that I am a co-owner of as my residency but still working and travelling as a teacher, choreographer, and creative director.

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