13 Aug Interview with House Dancer Gunnar
How did your dance career start? What was it that made you know Dance was your career path?
“When I started, dance was more like a hobby. The 90’s band boy era was the biggest influence for me. Back in the day, I was a big fan of Nsync because of their crazy performances. I watched Nsync and decided that I wanted to do more dance than anything else. A dance concept workshop called Rostock was organized in my small hometown in northern Germany by an artist from Switzerland called Dj Bobo. My mother brought me there when I was about 12 years old and ever since that day, I began to take dance classes regularly. The lessons I took in school were what sparked my dance career. I had a lot of crazy teachers for different stuff teaching me a lot about creativity, musicality, and expression. One of my mentors, Dave Taylor, specialized in the creative side which definitely suited him. I met my former teacher and now mentor Salvatore Grillo who specializes in the LA Style of dance like that of Marty from Justin Timberlake. He taught me a lot about dance itself. He saw that I had a talent in easily being able to pick up whatever choreography was taught to me. I had the opportunity to travel to Berlin in order to perform his choreography for my first real big show. That was the moment I realized that dance is what I want to do in my life”.
If nothing could go wrong, what would you like to accomplish in your career?
“I really want to grow as a dancer, which is something every dancer wants to accomplish. I am working in different fields such as leading dance schools, performing at shows, and teaching workshops. I want to grow as a choreographer as well. One of my main goals in life is to build up a dance education, especially for urban dancers. An education that is recognized by the German government, where dancers can have qualifications like a bachelors of arts, after graduating.”
What is your biggest annoyance when it comes to teaching dance?
“What sometimes annoys me is how the mentality of the dancers change when it comes to teaching. It is difficult to explain to dancers and their crews that learning dance skills is not as fast-paced as they think. You need to put passion, hard work, and constant training into it every day. It is annoying when students pay for 90 minutes and expect to be a professional at the end of the class. It’s difficult to get them to understand that that is not how that works,” he said.
If you could go back in time, any age of your choice, what advice would you give your young dance self and why?
“I would tell my young self to go for an education in contemporary dance. I feel like I am quite good at performing now, but I think I lack certain techniques. I would advise myself to work on understanding dance on another level and finding myself more, before translating that emotion to body movements.
What is the biggest advice you have ever given someone?
“The biggest advice I have ever given was to be patient and to focus. On the other hand, to be mindful. I try to not only give people some steps and grooves, but also a certain mindset so that they believe that they can make any move happen. Sometimes, there is fear in losing, which keeps people from chasing their dreams. I try to chase that fear away,”
What was the biggest hurdle you’ve encountered and how did you overcome it?
“Taxes. Making a living out of a dancing career is quite difficult. Earning enough to have insurance, a safe future and maybe even plan for a family is a hurdle. These kinds of things, for a normal life and to live my passion, was rough at first. I remember falling into deep problems where I did not have housing or even money. But I made it,”.
Do you have any rituals during the morning, or before a show? If yes, what are they?
“When a new project or big moments arise, I take a minute to realize that it is happening. I tell myself that I am aware that the big moment is happening. At my last show, I was standing in front of 60,000 people and I told myself, ‘Ok, it’s real. I just made this happen because of dancing.’ I try to hold on to these moments by being very aware of it. Sometimes, its in being at a specific point and appreciating that it happened, not just planning for the next gig or the next project for the future”.
What is the most difficult thing to master or that needs the most work? (This could be anything from dance skills to people skills or business.)
“I think every part of this can be difficult to master. For dance, some people can be lazy when it comes to training their dance skills. They tend to tell others that it is their “style” when most of the time it’s because they did not practice nor train to execute another type of style. For me, I’ve tried to work in different dance scenes, from breakdance to house to locking to popping. This is difficult to do. Those who are good urban dancers know that it takes time to really catch a groove, to have the right mindset, and to do those tactics”.
What are the biggest mistakes and/or myths you see in the dance industry? What do you consider a waste of time in the dance industry?
“In terms of people skills, I try to improve my communication towards others in a way that suits my personality. I think everyone should improve on this in life, not just dancers”.
“In terms of business, it can be difficult to deliver the ‘whole package’. The ‘whole package’ can be anything from working on your website to promoting yourself to doing choreographies to planning shows and so on. For example, constantly posting videos on social media can be difficult for me because I don’t have the motivation for it and there is no real purpose for me. This is because dancing takes a lot of expression to create an art form. Doing it constantly in order to post daily is difficult for me”.
“Everyone thinks they are great teachers because they are great dancers. Some teachers put three steps together and think they are choreographers. Some people don’t care about improving little kids’ potentials to become great dance professionals. On the other hand, some teachers may act too nice which can sometimes takes away discipline from the sessions. In my opinion, I think social media for some people can be a waste of time. Dropping a lot of videos on social media to show your skills is not important in the beginning. It shouldn’t be your start”.
If you were to train a beginner for four weeks in order to prepare for a 30-minute dance performance that puts a million dollars on the line, what would the training look like?
“I would need to see the person and their skills first in order to answer this question. I cannot say that the student will have a strict training of say like 8 hours every day consistently just by being given a name. Some people need breaks in between, which also depends on who is teaching. I would spend time analyzing who this person is, what the performance would look like, and what they would want to learn”.
What are the biggest mistakes novices make when they teach or choreograph?
“I have seen that some novices make choreography with no meaning in them. Only assign steps based on the beat. This only shows grooves and nothing else. They do express something with this, but it has no depth to it. Only shows the surface of the dance”.
What is your favourite gadget, software, or tool you use in your career?
“I use a lot of photoshop, sony vegas, Instagram, and Facebook”.
How important is it to network and use promotional strategies for you?
“It is super important to me even though I am bad at it. I need to improve on this”.
What are your 5 favourite songs?
“This is super hard to answer. It’s as though someone were to ask you what your favorite feeling is or which sibling do you like the most. I can love different things for different reasons and in a field like music, it depends a lot on my mood, my age, and the experiences pertaining to each song. If I have to answer though, I would choose Frank Sinatra – My Way, Led Zeppelin – Stairway to Heaven, Eminem – Lose Yourself, Psy – Gangnam Style, and Denez Prigent – Gortoz A Ran (from Black Hawk Down).