Pachelle Wallace is a Zumba, street dance and dance hall teacher working in London, UK, with an absolutely incredible work ethic that has seen her enjoy sell-out shows, TV appearances and teach all over the city.
Mandy News sat down to talk to Pachelle about how she got to where she is today, how dancers can avoid injuries and dancing underwater.
Pachelle, tell us where you’re from, what kind of dancing you do and when you first decided you wanted to dance professionally.
I am from London, England and I teach street dance, dancehall and Zumba. I first decided I wanted to dance professionally at around 18 after studying Law, English Lit and Performing Arts A-Levels.
How did you go about learning your craft?
As my college and most dance companies were fixated on ballet and contemporary, street dance was self-taught until I had the opportunity to work and collaborate with other street dancers.
What was your first job? How was it?
My first job was an after school street dance class at a local primary school which I thoroughly enjoyed. The kids seemed to love it and I'm assuming it was memorable as they still recognise me now from 15 years ago.
How did you then go on to get further work?
I continued doing work within the community at my local arts centre which after applying for funding saw me put on my first production Rhythm, Life and Roots – a 90-minute show (part dance, part documentary) exploring the Afro-Caribbean culture in dance throughout various ages. It ran for three nights to a sold out audience and received great feedback which was quite the achievement at 24.
I sought work through various agencies during and beyond this period and auditioned for a few choreographic and performer jobs too.
Tell us about any TV, stage, workshop work you’ve done and how those experiences differ.
I was involved in a stage show called Land of the Apes which ran for three nights in a theatre in Hammersmith. As odd as it sounds, I thoroughly enjoyed my role as a hip hop dancing ape who intimidated salsa dancing humans. There was a cross over of styles. The choreographer and director was the UK Salsa Champion and I gained a lot in learning a new dance style, the importance of versatility, working with others and having a creative license.
I have found this far more interesting and beneficial to my development than when I have choreographed and directed dance sequences in videos and for TV. There is a superficial element to TV and Videos that I don't always connect with well and the job essentially becomes something I do not enjoy.
What have been your most interesting and challenging productions? Any interesting stories? Travelled much for work?
The most challenging production for me to date was the aforementioned Rhythm, Life and Roots simply because I created, choreographed, performed directed and was the lead on the documented content.
I have not travelled much for my dance related jobs but I have travelled a lot for Zumba. This, however, is for my pleasure in participating in events held in different places which allows me to keep learning and up-skill. I now teach Zumba Step, Aqua Zumba and Strong By Zumba, qualifications I achieved at ZinCon in Orlando, Florida in US.
In addition, I have travelled to Germany, Portugal and Spain for Zumba and the list will go on as long as I'm practicing it.
Are there any dancing myths that people believe starting out that you can reveal aren’t true?
That being of a certain image, height, weight and skillset will make you the most successful. Times have changed (thank God) and the short, the curvy, the urban, the unconventionally pretty can also succeed in the industry. It does however, take a lot of hard work and resilience.
How much practice is too much and how much is not enough – for physical endurance?
This is really hard question in that it depends on the person, the context, the goal and their physical abilities and health. I will practice longer for dance shows than I practice routines to teach Zumba as I find Zumba a lot easier.
Some people pick up some terrible injuries. How do you take care of yourself and avoid this?
I've had injuries to my knees on different occasions which has seen me take a break from work. It is just the worst thing ever if you're passionate about what you do. I ensure that I wear a knee strap if I feel weak or if there is potential for me to aggravate them during a session and R.I.C.E (rest, ice, compression and elevation) is always something that follows alternating the use of cold and hot compression.
What advice can you give to somebody wanting to be a professional dancer?
Be as versatile as you possibly can, still study and train in ballet and contemporary no matter how the times change as they serve as a good foundation. Attend classes where you have the time and can afford them as we never stop learning and the industry will always remain. Take the audition experience as a free class if you do not get it.
Tell us what you’ve got coming up and what you’re up to at the moment. And about your workshops
At the moment I'm currently just doing my regular classes but I have a Zumba Masterclass planned for February 2018 with myself and an international presenter.
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