This is the second part of Zouk The World's extensive interview with Pasty Pieternelle - one of the most charismatic dancers in the world of Brazilian zouk.
In the first part we talked to Pasty about how he got into Brazilian zouk in the first place, how he decided to make the dance better, the reasons for his less conventional teaching methods and how he is actively working to improve the dance community with his 'alterego', Pastycho "Your Dance Teacher Online".
Read the first part:
Moving onto more hot topics, we continue talking to Pasty about what advice he would give to a person starting to teach Brazilian zouk, how he keeps himself inspired after all the years of dancing professionally and what in his opinion makes up the best social dancing experience?
Zouk The World: Brazilian zouk is a new & growing dance - many new dancers are starting to teach zouk all over the world. Is there a particular advice you’d give to a person planning to have a career in zouk?
Pasty Pieternelle: I can contradict myself very easily here, but first of all; start from the beginning! Learn the basics! There is no shortcut to Brazilian zouk. Keep practicing the basic with its variations, going out of balance and using the whole body and arms 'til you master your own movements and ability to carry your own weight without a dance partner. It is a couple dance, but the mistake is thinking that in couple dance we don’t need to be at our best individually.
Sing the basic as 'tum chic chic tum'. Stretch out the 'tuuummmm' and the 'chiiiccc' with bigger steps to train your muscles and center to have more balance and control, and to get the feeling of the music. Big movements you can always make small, small movements are more difficult to make big. When you have the feeling of the music, it is easier to fit your dance and your style to the music even if you don’t listen to the lyrics of the song.
With contradicting myself I mean I just backed up what they say, “master the rules of the dance first and then break them” - for me this can also be a limitation in my dance or creations. Sometimes I like to start with where I’d like to see the dance go to and slowly make the way back to the basic. Or maybe even not go back to the basic at all. Create something else, new or different. But for Brazilian zouk this is not the case. You should start from the beginning.
When I started doing the basic of Brazilian zouk I realised there is a nice feeling and energy to it that nobody was teaching me. This made me wonder what more is possible in this dance. The first 10 minutes doing the steps I said to myself that “I’m gonna change this dance”.
At that time Brazilian zouk was danced a bit harder. It's understandable when we know it is coming from the energetic dance, lambada, while the focus was more on hitting the breaks with the hair movements and cambrés. With a lot of stops in the dance and uncontrolled movements and leading in a circle I felt that this dance needed more flow and more lines to make it easier to teach. My salsa background made me also think more in lines.
I wanted to make the dance flow more without breaks, without going up and down and no hard leads, using minimalistic energy. But to be able to feel and understand this, I had to start from the beginning and know the history of the dance. Every movement and dance transmits a certain kind of energy - if you are able to change this energy you can change the dance.
This is why I also wrote one post about being almost the only one nowadays teaching about this energy at the zouk congresses while most of the other teachers focus more on teaching only patterns and routines. This caused some commotion in the scene, but I still back it up, because energy is more than contact improvisation, breathing, walking with each other with eyes closed etc. This is why I take this opportunity to invite all dancers, also in different scenes, to come check out our classes. To make to scene grow we need dancers. To have good dancers we need good teachers. The problem is that we don’t have a lot of teachers in every city like the other dances.
So my advice is also to the people who want to have a career in zouk; Search for the good teachers, not only the ones that teach patterns and routines. Take a lot of classes with them until you understand their philosophy, and start teaching in your city keeping in mind that you can make or brake this dance. People are going to like it or hate it.
ZTW: You were among the first zouk teachers in Europe and have already had a long and successful history of dancing Brazilian zouk. After all these years how do you keep zouk interesting to you and how do you keep yourself inspired?
Pasty: Like I said before, I don’t like to dance, but I love music. So the music is what keeps me inspired to dance. Sometimes I am just waiting for new music to drop to get different inspiration again. When you reach that level that you can listen to the lyrics of the song and use the music and zouk related movements to tell the story, that is what keep me interested in Brazilian zouk. It is a therapy for my muscles and soul. Brazilian zouk really makes you use your whole body instead of only your extremities and your brains to count the music.
What also inspires me is to go to a party and focus only on what people are doing not in a good way in my eyes. The aim is to get inspired to find a formula how they and I can improve this dance. Because looking at good dancers or good dance videos are not the only ones that are going to make you better. If you look at bad videos and can think of ways how to do something better or different - that is what inspires me the most. Looking at the good dancing videos makes you copy somebody, looking at the bad dancing videos makes you create something nice “out of nothing”, yourself.
What also inspires me in this dance are my dance partners and that there’s still no other or very little other couple dances that can be compared to Brazilian zouk. With never-ending movements and educated contemporary, ballet and jazz dancers loving zouk, there is so much more to explore and create with every dance partner something different.
ZTW: To close this, I wanted a ask a bit about your social dancing experiences. I was in fact earlier in the blog asking the Zouk The World readers about their best social dancing experiences. So I wanted to ask if you have in your mind your best social dancing experience; where was it, and what made it the best?
Pasty: Best social dancing experience - wow. I think I’ve had more of them in the past. And they fall into a few different categories... One is dancing without feeling, but you go for the extreme, exploring with your dance partner all the moves and possibilities of the body in one dance together. When I was younger and got introduced to new things, I had that fire in me that would make it happen more often. Now it feels like the dancers are more programmed to follow and lead the things that they know already are accepted. There is less dare to explore and to be different.
Another category is when the feeling is there and both souls happen to connect to each other - everything around you seems to be standing still. Moments like this can take time or can happen very fast if the person you are dancing with knows how to drag this feeling out of you or you know how to drag it out of him/her. You need to able to let yourself be led deeper in this certain kind of energy of this person you’re dancing with.
But every couple dance is a good social dance experience when both of you have creative input in the dance and can follow and lead at the same time improvising on the dance floor. This is what I call dancing.
Pasty social dancing
If you'd like to see Pasty social dancing, you can take a look at this video clip from the 2015 AfroLatin Flow after party.
Pasty Pieternelle Bio
Dancing with a style as only he can, Pasty brings a new flavour into the Caribbean dances. Starting on the Caribbean island of Curaçao, Pasty’s dancing career involves a wide array of different dances. From the local Tambu, Ritmo Kombina and Tumba, to Merengue, Bachata, Cha Cha, Salsa, Kizomba to the Brazilian Zouk on which he now focuses his main attention. In his years of professional dance experience Pasty has worked with the most respected Salsa and Brazilian zouk artists and developed a unique dancing and teaching style.
Currently Pasty teaches and performs, beside his career as a Skin Therapist, under his own name Pasty Dance Creations & Partners and for different big dance schools in the Netherlands, where Pasty is a famous face both in the Salsa and the Zouk scene. He performed at the 1st Brazilian Dance Congress in Amsterdam and won the 2nd place at the 2nd Lambada/Zouk Dance Competition in 2005. Furthermore he has performed and taught at numerous national, international congresses and parties over the world.
Annually Pasty is on tour teaching and performing in The Netherlands, Curaçao, Bonaire, Aruba, Romania, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Spain, Finland, England, Germany, Poland, Suriname, Australia, New Zealand, Belgium, Sweden, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, Belarus, Russia, India, Turkey, Croatia, Norway, Estonia and more coming up the list. As a member of Cath the Mix, Pasty is also the artistic director and one of the leaders of this dance group mixing all styles together.
As an artist Pasty values emotion, technique, innovation, body movement and musicality, both in his shows and his classes. His classes are full of energy, so his students have to be prepared to work it! In his shows he always aims to add something new to the dance and create a mixture between the traditional Caribbean dance and his own interpretation of what the dance could be. Pasty is very well known for his innovative style and supple movements. He keeps surprising his students and audiences.
Read Pasty's dance posts: Pastycho “Your Dance Teacher Online”