August 11, 2020
We had the pleasure of chatting with Bonnie Zhou, who works in tech by day and dances by night. Bonnie's movement story takes us through her history and relationship with dance. During her interview, we talk about the communal aspects of dance and how her background influences her movement today; a blend of pole dance and hip-hop styles together that creates mesmerizing exploratory movement.
Exhale Movement: What motivates you to move?
Bonnie Zhou: Music! Sometimes I will be working or doing something totally unrelated but when a song with a vibe comes on I just start moving to it. I really believe that my dance is here to serve the music.
EM: Who has previously or is currently inspiring you in movement? And why?
BZ: Dancers that move with intention. I could watch Caetlyn Watson’s movement all day - she has an amazing flow and attention to detail. Shaun Evaristo is a fantastic teacher who emphasizes the connection between the body and everything else (mind, emotion, spirit) and encourages his students to understand that for themselves. Carmine Black is another fantastic teacher who values unapologetic expression of whatever you’re feeling in that moment. Yvonne Smink is a genius who constantly pushes boundaries with her unconventional style. I’m also inspired by the friends I dance with or used to dance with - nothing in the world makes me happier than dancing together and when I post dance videos, I’m always thinking about them and about making them proud with my growth, like I am of theirs.
EM: Can you tell me about a favorite movement moment you experienced and what made that moment so special?BZ: In 12th grade, my dance team entered a regional high school dance competition. Almost all of us had no formal training and just picked up dancing a year or two earlier, so we definitely saw ourselves as the underdog. When it was announced that we placed 2nd, I looked around at my teammates and felt true euphoria for the first time in my life. I didn’t understand what it meant to cry tears of joy until that moment. Here was where I belonged, with the people who hustled with me every day, getting some kind of acknowledgment for all the hard work we put in.
EM: What training principles do you live your life by?
BZ: Do everything with intention, and listen to your body.
EM: We believe movement is for every body. What does diversity and inclusion in your movement practice mean to you?
BZ: It means not forcing the way someone else moves onto yourself (or vice versa), but also keeping an open mind to new ways of moving. What I’ve noticed in being part of both the pole and urban dance communities is the differences in what they value. This is a sweeping generalization and biased on my personal experience, but the urban community typically places more value on sharpness, musicality and “masculine” movement and the pole community on grace, fluidity, and “feminine” movement. Moreover, pole dance typically values bodies like mine (long and thin) while urban dance values the opposite. When I think about diversity and inclusion in movement, I think it’s important to understand that the same move will look different on each body, to be forgiving of that when translating someone else’s movement to your body or vice versa, and to encourage ways of movement that differ from those generalizations I mentioned above.
EM: What can we expect to see from you soon? Are you working on any personal or business projects right now that you'd like to share?
BZ: No big projects anytime soon! I did a lot of projects, shows, and competitions in 2019 so I consciously decided to pause all that in 2020 in order to take time to learn, practice, grow and reflect. I’m one of the lucky ones whose 2020 goals are aligned with sheltering in place :P
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