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Weiyi Zhou: Translating the Magic of Dance into Writing

Weiyi has loved dancing from a young age. Her Chinese background and being raised in the Netherlands prepped her for a life of learning how other cultures move and express themselves. She believes you can rediscover, move energy and rebalance your life with dancing. From learning Tai-chi to house, breakdance, street dance, and now Zouk, Weiyi has translated her lessons from dancing into her own self-help book, ‘Manifest Your Secret Self’. Here she lists nine lessons she’s learnt from dance that helped her reach her happy, authentic self.

“A dancer always finds their way back through the basic steps. Discovering and manifesting your authentic self is the most beautiful thing you can do.” 

What impact or influence did your Asian background have on your career? What are the cultural differences between China and Holland?

My parents came to the Netherlands in their 30s and had me, the last child of six. Even though I was born in the Netherlands, my upbringing was traditionally Chinese. Speaking two languages, eating Chinese food, learning about Tai-Chi, Feng-shui, and our culture was my childhood. Above this, one of the most important missions in life was “saving face”, to make your parents proud and look good in the external world.

It made me an overachiever, I always felt a need to be the best and validate myself based on achievements. This drive pushed me to work harder and be independent. Even though my parents could not give me advice on my career as they were not familiar with the Dutch education and career development systems, they gave me this entrepreneurial spirit, and the belief in myself that I could achieve anything. I just had to find a way. This is what I see in a lot of Chinese people living in the Netherlands. They don’t overthink, they just start their businesses and projects with no fear. They make it happen. This is what I admire most – there are no limiting beliefs holding them back.

I learned to listen to my intuition, and I chose a career in Marketing which was not the safest option eight years ago, but it felt right to me. After achieving a Masters in the UK in Marketing, I ended up with a career in top Blue chip companies and with Blue chip clients. It was a great choice in the end. With the rise of digital advertising, I could build a good career in a field I have a strong affinity for.

The Chinese and Dutch cultures are very different. The Dutch culture is very open and expressive, you are encouraged to speak up and give your opinion. Whereas Chinese culture is more reserved, you don’t openly speak about sensitive topics.

The Dutch culture is very much about balance, working hard but also enjoying the moment. This allowed me to ease myself to do things that I love without the pressure to please and always have an agenda to be the best.

Where did your love for dancing begin? Do you still dance professionally? 

It started with Janet Jackson’s, “All for you”. I watched the music video, and it was the joy and expression that I wanted to experience. My first dance class was in high school. It was the  first time I felt I could be myself, and I felt confident expressing myself. I felt free. 

I danced many styles, from house, breakdance to street dance, and I performed from time to time. 

I started to see dance differently, as much more magical than movement, when I got involved in Salsa. It was a community, a place to take on a different persona and leave your 1000 worries behind. It was the moment, the music, the people and the dance.

It was not the performance I enjoyed but the freedom to express and challenge myself without feeling pressured. I then discovered Zouk. A beautiful partner dance that gives you so much freedom to express, be in flow and experience yourself and your body. 

Dance is love for me – I love to dance without feeling the need to achieve. That is what I found in Zouk. Currently, I am teaching beginners Zouk class once a week as I love the ability to express myself, see people transform and completely let go. I would not want it any other way. I see dance as a happy place that you can tap into and learn so much from.

What have been your biggest achievements in your dancing career?

My book “Manifest Your Secret Self” has been my biggest achievement. I created this book to translate the magic from dance into our daily busy life. To get closer to what makes us happy and who we really are. A dancer is confident, grounded, and moves like nobody else. If we applied this to our daily life, how differently would we experience life? 

Finding pieces of yourself, embracing them, answering more questions about who you are, and making decisions easily, make you aligned with who you really are, the person you are always meant to be.

How does dancing create  balance in your life? What are the positive effects that come from dancing?

You dance with your body and not your mind. This is something that my great teacher taught me. When you involve the mind, you complicate things, and you lose track of being in the moment. As a Marketing professional, I used my brain all the time. Sometimes life feels overwhelming and overloaded. When you breathe and make space in the brain and let your body feel, you let go of the tension outside of the body. 

Just like in Tai-chi, you can heal your body by moving energy and Chi. The tension you are feeling in your mind, it’s stuck qi. By dancing and letting the body move freely, you can move chi (energy) into happy endorphins. That is what dance does to you. You let go of your day and stress, to rebalance in your natural state of bliss. If you do this often enough, you are allowing yourself to ease into the happier and healthier version of yourself.

What is the inspiration behind your book ‘Manifest Your Secret Self’?

I have always felt an uncertainty with what I wanted and who I was. This impacted my decisions in life and direction. Within dance, I never felt this way, because what dance taught me is to ground myself and go back to my basics. By following the basics, I was able to  find myself because that was the foundation of everything I had learnt.  By following a dancer’s  journey, you can really discover your true self. During the pandemic, dancing Zouk kept me sane. It gave me direction, peace, and happiness. If I apply the dancer’s Zouk mindset to my everyday life, so many experiences would have more meaning and I would not have felt lost. A dancer always finds their way back through the basic steps. Discovering and manifesting your authentic self is the most beautiful thing you can do. Everything you will do will be in alignment with your purpose and path.

How was the writing process?

This was a real journey; it was a healing process for me. Applying what I know in a chronological way. It changed many times because I changed, grew and discovered more. This book was mainly for me, a path to find myself, however, I wanted to reach those that needed direction in their lives.

Can you share with our readers an important step from your book? 

To discover yourself and find answers or direction, it is important to go back to your basics. Chapter 2 focuses on building a strong foundation. In dance, we always go back to the basic steps when we are lost and when we want to pick up movement again. This same principle can be applied to our life. What are your values, your culture, every part of it?  How can these foundations help to redefine your (dance) direction in life?

For me, I always wanted to be accepted and be part of the wider community. I wanted to be everything other than Chinese. The neglect of such an important part of me, made me feel constantly lost. But embracing that this is my culture, my basic foundations made me find myself in different ways. I could embrace my Chinese side, talking about feng shui and only curing my health-based teas. Embracing this and not being afraid of that neglected part gave me so much more meaning and I found a missing piece. This knowledge gave me so much insight into what I want to achieve next.

My most important step is discovering yourself, who you are and what influences you. Make that your strength. My book is a self-discovery guide with exercises that help to discover your authentic self.

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