It’s easy to get into a pattern of finding a cool song, reaching out to the artist, and then scheduling an interview. Music journalists will often get into autopilot mode and only write about what’s easy or what gets thrown their way. When you dig deeper, you’d be surprised at what you find out there.
We stumbled upon Zarina’s work on our Twitter feed. Just seeing somebody who has encompassed “rock-metal” into a style of dance is eye-catching enough, but once we watched her videos, we were captivated and couldn’t help but want to learn more. We reached out to Zarina to find out more about her background and pioneering the style of “Rock-Metal Dance” and she enlightened us.
1.) What was your first love – dance or rock/metal music?
Dance was my first love, although I have always been listening to rock-metal music since I started to dance. As a dancer, I think you should dance the music that you love the most. Your lifetime (and thus, your dance time) is too short to spend it on doing something in which you don’t completely love.
2.) You mentioned having roots in tribal fusion, ATS, and gothic dance? Can you explain the history a little more? Did you make up the style “rock metal dance?”
I began to take belly-dancing lessons and l was evolving, as belly dance did. ATS, Tribal Fusion and Gothic Dance were born and, due to the highly creative freedom that I have experienced being part of this dance fusion world. In 2009, I decided to merge my dance knowledge with the music I loved. For me, it is hard to believe that heavy metal was born in the 70s and after 40 years and great variations, no dance style has been created. Other music genres (i.e. hip hop, which also was born in the 70s) have their corresponding dance styles.
Regarding to the term “Rock & Metal Dance”, yes, I have put these words together, so we could say I named this new style. I wanted to create a self-explained label. When you listen to the terms Tribal Fusion and Gothic Dance, you don’t know what you should expect from it. I want to name a dance style based specifically on this musical genre. In Tribal Fusion or Gothic Dance the music is not always the engine of your choreography.
When creating a repertoire of dance movements and the guidelines for choreographing, you learn that this is not a task for only one person. A dance style is created by a social community. Even though some artists can be influencers, all rock-metal dancers will be contributors.
3.) Was there a specific event that inspired you to take the plunge and open your own studio?
Yes, there was. I moved to Madrid in fall 2010 and I spent several months trying to discover how to start working on spreading the idea of a rock-metal dance style. One day, I visited my friend Leo Jimenez (a well-known Spanish metal singer) at Rockland (rehearsal studios & music school located in Madrid). That time, Leo was giving his singing lessons at Rockland and he encouraged me to offer also dance lessons there. I started with them in January 2012. Four years later, I struck a balance and counted only a few students in Madrid during the previous courses. All of them were rock-metal lovers who wanted to dance, fantastic students but… just a few! This is normal: the rock-metal music scene in Madrid is great, but not mainstream at all. So I realized that in my city there is not huge interest about it. However, some people from other cities and even from other countries often wrote to me asking about my lessons. What is now clear to me is that the potential rock-metal dancers are all around the world and that’s why I decided to translate my dance program into an online studio, which I will open very soon.
4.) Is it easier to work with those have prior formal dance training or those new to dance who just love rock/metal?
I have worked with both of them. Technically, it is easier to work with people who have previous formal dance training, of course. But most of these dancers like the music but they do not love it. They are open-minded people and have an eclectic work, so a rock-metal song can perfectly suit in their creations, but they don’t want to devote all their dance careers to this musical genre. One “metallic” choreography every two years doesn’t make you a rock-metal dancer or a choreographer. Despite this fact, I think every piece of work counts and I have learned a lot from them. The more, the merrier.
The lack of regularity of non-rock-metal-lovers is the reason why I prefer to work with people who love the music, even if they are beginners. In the future, if they become dancers, I think they will usually choose rock-metal songs and they will contribute to the style evolution with their own ideas.
5.) Have you noticed any differences in reception between the US and Spain? Does one seem to take to the style a little better than the other?
Nowadays, rock-metal dance has only a few followers around the world, so it is not possible for me to answer this question. There are some dancers in Turkey, UK, USA, Spain, Russia… but not even a small real community in any of these countries. Most of them are metal belly dancers or tribal fusion dancers. Related to your question, what I could say is that I feel that people in the US are more open-minded than in Spain about new artistic proposals, so I may guess rock-metal dance community will grow faster there. Just to give you but one example, very close to me: she is an American dancer, Shajara, who came to live to Madrid and decided to start BellyRock, displaying a monthly show for dancing rock & metal music. After three years and a half, this show is still alive. Last year, Shajara left the project in the hands of a small group of Spanish dancers. Now we organize the event, but she was the one who lit the fuse.
In addition to this, the US has also an enormous influence on the rest of the countries within the rock-metal world. If an American big metal band introduces rock-metal dancers in its show, I am sure the dance style will evolve much faster. Notice that when I say dancers, I mean dancers: professional, semi-professional, beginners, extras… Whoever they are, but dancers.
6.) What’s has been the most unique/challenging project you’ve ever been a part of?
Undoubtedly, my project of defining my own idea about rock-metal dance while encouraging other people to make the same. Sometimes I feel my whole artistic life won’t be enough to say all I want to about rock-metal dance! It is such a huge work and my financial resources are on the average. I am also an engineer and I have to work in this field to finance all my artistic projects, so I don’t have all my time to create, as many other alternative artists have. For me, this is the worst problem: having enough time. You can create amazing things with a short budget but time… time flies and never comes back! Recently I have discovered Patreon, a crowd-funding platform for artists that allows you to get sustainable income from art patrons, and I am trying luck on it.
7.) What are some of your favorite rock/metal groups?
I prefer to talk about songs and not about groups. As a dancer, you listen to a song for weeks or months, during which you analyze it, choreography it, think about the perfect costume for it… Unfortunately, I have little time to listen to a lot of music. I choose a song and I work on it for a very long time. I am a dancer, not a musician or a journalist: this is the nature of my work.
With regard to the songs, some examples that I danced to could be Cowboys From Hell (Pantera), While your lips are still red (Nightwish), In the end (Linkin Park), S.O.S. (Apocalyptica), Nothing else matters (Metallica), Sympathy for the Devil (Guns N’ Roses), My immortal (Evanescence)… Now I am choreographing to Painkiller (Judas Priest) and Master of Puppets (Metallica). When I started to dance to rock-metal music some years ago, I preferred symphonic/gothic styles and ballads. Now, I choose more aggressive songs.
I would like to say that I like both rock-metal bands from my country and abroad. I specifically love listening to music in my mother tongue: I feel the song deeper inside me and it gives to me the opportunity of working with Spanish musicians in their tours and music videos. Some of them are good friends of mine and they also face the challenge of taking part in my dance shows performing their own music! I want to mention to Pepe Herrero (Spanish musician and compositor, cofounder of metal band Stravaganzza), who participated with me in Gothla Spain (the Spanish edition of an international alternative dance show), not playing his own song but performing a little dance-theater combo!
8.) Like anything, dance takes practice and dedication, especially if you want to do it on a professional level. What advice would you give anyone who wants to take the plunge into professional dance?
First of all, I would say to her/him that I don’t believe in the label “professional”, especially in an alternative and underground art with no regulations. Many people think there is no place for them in the dance/theater world and it is not true. If you think there is no place, create it! People have prejudices about their age, body, previous knowledge, everything! And they reduce “dance” to “ballet”, which is the most non-inclusive dance style among all. My advice would be: find the right dance style for you and start working on it developing your own skills. And I want to remark that you don’t have to be the best dancer ever to dance, you only have to be a person who wants to dance and wants to work hard enough to offer a good choreography.
Of course, if you want to improve your technique you should take dance lessons and practice a lot; if you want to work with a metal band, it would be good for you to know some guidelines that will help you to understand each other; if you want to create a show, you will have to learn about lighting, staging, marketing, funding… and an endless list of things if you follow the DIY philosophy ☺
Remember also that, if you are part of a dance group, your choreography director can work to include you in the show. She/he can always design a role for you.
I mentioned Pepe Herrero before: he has not taken a dance lesson in his whole life and I designed something for him according to his previous knowledge and potential capabilities. He is a musician, so he understands perfectly how to follow the music and he has also a lot of experience on stage. We took advantage of it. After some rehearsals, you can see that the result is not bad at all! This is the inclusive and collaborative line I like to work.
9.) Anything else you want to add and tell us?
I have also created the research project “Women in Metal” which tries to shed light on the causes of the gender gap in the rock-metal scene. I try to figure out why the number of female artists or entrepreneurs is so low in relation to men. Taking into account that in the dance schools there are more women than men, if there is no rock-metal female artists, logically it can’t be any rock-metal dancer either. I would like also to encourage men to open their horizon to dance and theater to offer a full show, but considering this idea not very likely at present, I am now concentrated on working with women.
Thank you for your interview! ☺
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCysyTTHcjWwE5R1Q3AJHgZQ