- Zhantra Entertainment is a particularly well-known name in the entertainment industry, and it is definitely one of professionalism and great dancing. What would you be able to tell our readers about the company?
Zhantra Chicago has been up and running for five years now in Chicago. Zhantra started in Miami, and that branch has been up and running for close to 12 years. The company exudes professionalism and reliability in all departments. I have worked really hard to build the brand here in Chicago. I want my company to be the best, and I think it is since there are no other companies that really offer what we do. We are growing every year and expanding into different avenues of entertainment. We are evolving in the industry. We service the best night clubs in Chicago, such as Underground, The Mid and Century Room, Godfrey, The Roof at the Wit Hotel, Shay, Cuvee, Prysm, Room 7 and Drink, just to name a few. We also cater lots of corporate events, as well as weddings and birthdays for children and adults. We work with various music festivals and so much more.
- What made you get into dancing as a profession? Was it you that sought out Zhantra Entertainment or did they seek you out?
I knew at a very young age that I would be involved with something that had to do with music. I used to play instruments when I was very young, but because I moved a lot, I couldn’t keep practicing. However, I grew up with MTV and watched music videos ranging from Hip-Hop to Rock and Roll and Pop. I always copied the dance moves in the videos, and music just made me complete. As a very young child, I grew up watching my parents perform in bands on stage, so I was always around music. Then in the 90’s, when I really got into EDM as we call it now… I started to go-go dance in clubs in Baltimore, D.C. and the Virginia area. Most clubs would approach me when I was out and about and ask if I wanted a job. Being 18, of course, I took the jobs, and I would buy some cute outfits and dance my butt off. One night while I was in a club I danced at but wasn’t dancing myself, these performers from Miami did a show. I was so impressed and wanted to be a part of it. They actually saw me dance in the crowd, gave me a business card and told me that if I ever moved to Miami, I should call them and they would let me audition. Well, I held on to that card like it was a get-out-of- jail-free card or something, and one day two years later I did call and to my surprise they remembered me. I moved to Florida, went to an audition and got the job. At first I danced at Club Space in Miami, and it was a dream come true. I began to learn so much about dance and about night-club operations, too. I danced for a top entertainment company at the time and had many great experiences, but I felt that some things were lacking. Bengy Cid, who was the assistant to the owner of this company, decided to open her own company, Zhantra, and I was one of the first Zhantra dancers in Miami. Bengy and I had a great working friendship, and she was one of the top dancers in Miami at the time. I learned so much from her. I danced for Zhantra in Miami for several years. I came out to Chicago six years ago and started going to clubs, and I was just a little confused as to why I didn’t see more production on the entertainment side of things. Go-go dancers were wearing furry boot covers, no wigs and very little makeup… it looked like some had just rolled out of bed. I saw an opportunity and decided I would open Zhantra’s Chicago branch. I had many people tell me it would not work in Chicago, but if you tell me “No,” I am the type of person who gets even more motivated. I was determined to make this work… and, well, six years later, here I am. It wasn’t easy, but it was all worth it.
- What sort of contracts have you been on? What sort of performances have you done? What were the most memorable performances you have done personally? Which of these is your favorite of all time?
Personally, I have so many amazing memories of events I have been privileged to be a part of. I have been a retired dancer for almost 10 years now, but traveling to Cali, Colombia, was very memorable. I met a couple there and I spoke with them about Miami, and about five years later, I ran into them accidentally in Miami at Club Space. They recognized me and said they would never forget me because of how I danced and because of my eyes. So I felt like I had done my job: being a dancer is making people feel something. We can all go to a club and watch a pretty girl in a sexy costume, but when that dancer can suck you in and take you to a place or make you want to dance because of her energy, then that is doing the job right. But I would say that the best memories of being a dancer were just the friends I’ve made along the way, and the amazing artists I got to dance for, like Carl Cox, David Guetta, Tiesto, Erick Morillo and so many more. Also being able to travel outside the country when I was so young and to go to Ibiza , Colombia, Trinidad and Tobago, a few times… it really is amazing to be paid to travel and to get to do what you love. So I can’t even say what was my absolute favorite event because I was very grateful and thankful to have the opportunity to do everything that I ever got to do. But yes, I enjoyed doing Madonna impersonations. Those were a lot of fun. Dancing at Ultra in Miami. Those were my personal experiences as a dancer. If I have to choose my favorite moments here in Chicago, it would be working for Spring Awakening Music Festival for the past five years. That has been such an amazing experience. It’s three days of crazy hours and lots of girls working doubles and costumes and crazy makeup and amazing music. I look forward to it every year. It’s a lot of work, but it’s an amazing feeling being a part of it.
- Zhantra Entertainment has some of the most spectacular outfits for dancers! Are there any of those outfits that you would say would fit almost any performance? Are there any you had to put together yourself, or are they all provided?
As for my collection of elaborate costumes, almost everything is made by designers that I use. I use two from Miami, and I have my own local designer here in Chicago, Jacklyn Woods. I also buy a few things here and there, and my team makes them into our own style to fit our brand. I do not want other people to have access to what we have, so we like to work with exclusive designers who only make particular pieces for my company. I have a huge inventory of all different styles of costumes, and many things can be mixed and matched. I have tons of wigs and head pieces and lots of accessories.
A big part of our brand, and a big reason why my company has the reputation that it has, is because of my creative stylist, Paula De Oliveira Silva. She started as a dancer, she still dances and she is one of the top-requested dancers. But she is very talented with makeup and hair and is super creative. Her passion is makeup. She went to school for special effects, and I am very lucky to have her on my team. She also is the one who prepares the look for every event, and she ensures that the team of girls follow the instructions on how to do makeup and hair so the look is done correctly. She has done makeup for all of our big events and continues to be a huge asset for this company and its growth. She is extremely professional, and her work speaks for itself. I highly recommend her for any type of makeup work. She can do it all.
- How has your experience been with all your coworkers? Do you all treat each other like one big dancing family?
As far as our Zhantra family, I have such an amazing group of girls. We get along great. Now obviously we are girls and there are over 35 of us who work for the company, so it is only natural for us to butt heads from time to time. But we have always been able to talk about any issues and work things out fast. You cannot have things linger that bother girls, otherwise we all just keep talking about them and they will grow like a disease. I can honestly say I am amazed at how mature my girls are, and how we can all get along and help each other out when needed. I am so happy that I have witnessed many new friendships grow within this company and that many of my girls have become best friends. So it shows me that I know what I am doing in choosing the girls.
- How often do you practice and improve your dance abilities? What do you do in your time off when not performing or practicing? Is there something specific you wish you had more time for?
Recently, we have been doing workshops for new members to the team and for any girls who just want to come in and dance. I am lucky to have a few girls on my team who study choreography and can actually teach it. Some new girls who come in have rhythm and can dance but need some guidance and training in stage performance. So it’s nice to offer training. We are starting next week, and we will be doing it once a week. We do offer some choreography sometimes for some clients at their requests, and we will rehearse for those shows. As to free time, there isn’t much of it since an owner of a company can never really turn off her phone or just ignore emails or social media. I always have to reply to my clients and also my employees, so in my time off I am a mother to a 15-month-old and a wife. I do my best to have some time for myself and to have a social life. If I could have more time for stuff, I would love to be able to see my girls dance more. It’s such an amazing feeling to see them under the spot light in their amazing costumes, and there is always that moment each girl has when she is in her zone and feeling the music, and it’s like I get to live through them. It’s a feeling that’s hard to explain. I am also very creative, but it’s hard to find the time to sit for hours and make stuff. I try my best to stay up to date with things and continue to be creative in any way I can.
- Are there any upcoming public performances you would like to tell our readers about? Are there any last comments you would like to add?
As far as public performances coming up, we are doing Freaky Deaky for React Presents again for the second year. It is three days for Halloween, Oct. 28, 29, 30. There will be huge headliners there and of course the Zhantra family. We are super excited to a part of this again. We have many events leading all the way up to next year.
As for additional comments: I have to mention that most people think it’s such an easy job what I do or what my girls do. To an extent, yes, maybe because we love what we do. But in no way is any job easier than the next. The girls have to dedicate a lot of time to maintaining their appearance, meaning skin care and hair care, etc. It’s just like being a model…. They also have to invest in a lot of products they are required to have to work for Zhantra. They have to work crazy hours and deal with many crazy issues, like drunk people or men or women grabbing at them during their shifts. It’s not always easy to explain to parents and or boyfriends what their job entails either. And being a team of all girls can be crazy, too. But at the end of the day, we love what we do, we know what we do is a real job and it’s very professional. Some people get it, and some don’t or never will. I tell my girls one day they will look back on this job and tell their kids and grandkids that these were the best days of their lives.
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Nicole Peteraf: [email protected]
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