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”The Most Important Thing About Reggaeton Is an Unapologetic Attitude and Pride in Your Own Body”

Interviewing Venla from the office

Who are you and where are you from?

I am Venla Rainio, 32 years, born in Helsinki. Currently I work at the Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki office, as Services and Administration Planner. I graduated from the University of Helsinki in 2013 as MA, majoring in theoretical philosophy.

What are your hobbies?

I do many kinds of sports, varying with interest, work situation and free time. At the moment I dance reaggaeton, salsa and Argentine tango, and train aerial acrobatics at Circus Helsinki. In addition to dancing I cycle, run, watch movies, visit museums, study languages and experiment with different varieties of tea.

How did you become interested in reggaeton?

I first heard about reggaeton while visiting Cuba in 2005, but I started practising it much later. Before starting Reggaeton I danced dancehall reggae, African dance, jazz dance and salsa, so I was already interested in Latin danging with an Afro influence. When I was at university I danced reggaeton every now and then, and I started classes at The Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki in Autumn 2014.

What is the best thing about reggaeton?

I chose this dance modality for its laid-back movements and playful attitude. I have always preferred dances where a good grounding, use of the midriff and a relaxed attitude are essential. I also like reggaeton music (with certain limitations),  even though I don’t really listen to it at home. I also wanted to improve the mobility and coordination of different body parts, but do it while having fun and without any pressure. The best part is when you start to remember the choreographies and you can concentrate in feeling the dance itself.

What are the prerequisites for this hobby?

Reggaeton is a very permissive sport , because I think it suits any body type (unlike for example classical ballet, if you aim to be really good at it). You can always mend shortcomings in technique with your attitude. Of course a sense of rhythm, a mobile midriff and pelvis are a plus, but as a dance modality it is not very disciplined. The most important thing is a correct, unapologetic attitude and a pride of your own body – however flawed you may think it is.

What is the most challenging thing about reggaeton?

The dance demands that you tolerate reggaeton music. The most difficult thing for me personally is to deal with the machismo and sexism, and at its worst, homophobia of the reggaeton scene and lyrics (luckily this is not as prevalent in reggaeton as in Jamaican dancehall). It is not unproblematic to enjoy a dance when its lyrics and video imagery are largely utterly chauvinistic, but despite of this I have managed to develop a surprisingly good relationship to the dancing itself. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet, listen to the songs selectively and focus on the rhythm instead of the text. First and foremost the dance requires a sense of humour and the ability to not to take yourself so seriously. You can also benefit from sense of irony.

Who would you recommend reggaeton to?

As any dance, also reggaeton expands your knowledge and feeling about your own body. A strong element in the dance is the acceptance of your body and enjoying being in the body. I would recommend reggaeton to all who are interested, and want to learn to shake properly, regardless of age and gender. In the international reggaeton scene I would hope to see more diversity, and it would be nice to see more women as actors, and not just in the type-cast role of background babes with model figures in music videos. It would also be wonderful if Finnish men would become inspired to dance reggaeton more.

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Interview by Kristiina Hentunen, The Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki