As his name implies, Dahrio Wonder is an admirable person who is doing amazing things in the world of music and dance. Zumba® enthusiasts already know Dahrio as half of one of the hottest duos in the program: he and fiancé Gina Grant (a Zumba Education Specialist) travel the globe together, training current and future Zumba superstars. But this guy was getting his dance on long before Zumba came into the picture. Ever wonder how it all began? Read on to get to know him just a little bit more.
ZLife: How did you fall in love with music and dance?
Dahrio: My mother is a West-African dancer so as a child, I would attend all of her rehearsals and shows. I’d memorize her routines and practice them off to the side of the room until the director of the company started putting me in all the performances. I was only 10 years old. When I was a senior in high school, I joined a hip-hop dance company in the Bay Area called the New Style Motherlode. The directors – Corey Action and Teela Shine – were monumental in grooming me as a performer and teaching me to be dynamic as both a dancer and singer. Since then, I’ve worked with some of the biggest stars in music, like Britney Spears, Madonna, and Celia Cruz. And my best friend and I started our own choreography and production company called Neopolitan.
ZLIfe: Was there a defining moment where you thought ‘this is for me’?
Dahrio: In high school, I went to an Usher concert and was completely blown away. The lights, the sound, the excitement, and the way that Usher captivated the crowd really inspired me. I wanted to be in that same position. I wanted to perform and feel that same feeling. From that moment, I knew I wanted to be an entertainer.
ZLife: Do you think dancing goes hand in hand with your music career?
Dahrio: Dancing has helped me tremendously as a singer and performer. Dancers embody so many emotions and dynamics in their delivery of the choreography. A good dancer will take his or her audience through a roller coaster of emotions. When I make music or perform it live, I want people to feel all types of emotion. I want people to stand up and dance. I want people to feel sexy and intrigued. I want them to feel amazing in that moment.
ZLife: Talk to us a little bit about your creative process. For example, how did ‘Give It To Me’ come to life?
Dahrio: It differs with each song. A lot of the time I will be driving in the car, or flying on the plane and a particular line or phrase will come to me and I will write it in my phone or notepad. Later on, I will refer back to those notes and get inspiration from what I have already written down. With ‘Give It To Me’’, I got the body of music – the foundation of the beat – from my friend and longtime collaborator Sim Styles. From listening to that beat, the phrase I started chanting was “give it to me, give it to me, give it to me” and I kind of built the concept and vibe of the song around that. I wanted to create something that had a line that would stick in people’s head, but still was sexy, funky and easy to dance to. Once I had written all of the lyrics and had arranged the vocals and harmonies, I got back with Sim and he finished the full body of music around the dynamics of the lyrics and melodies of my voice.
ZLife: Who inspires you in life?
Dahrio: My mother, my fiancée, my brothers and sisters, my kids, my cousins, all of my family, my friends, my dog. LOL! They are the reason this train keeps rolling down the track. From a business side, people like Prince, P. Diddy, Kevin Hart, Pharrell, Madonna, Lebron James, Jay Z, Beyoncé, Missy Elliott, and Beto Perez really inspire. I really respect their stories, their mindset, their work ethic, their charisma and their ability to always reinvent themselves in an industry that always wants the ‘next big thing’. They are truly timeless people.
ZLife: Who do you dream of collaborating with?
Dahrio: Prince, Pharrell, Missy Elliott, Timbaland, Dr. Dre.
ZLife: What has been your biggest career highlight to date?
Dahrio: Performing on the national mall in Washington DC with Britney Spears in front of 100,000+ fans was absolutely insane. Also performing with Celia Cruz at the Latin Grammy’s was a special moment for me as well because it was my first big job I landed when I moved to LA and it was one of her last performances, so I felt completely honored to have worked with such a pioneering icon before she passed on.
ZLife: Tell us about your involvement with the Zumba program. How did that happen?
Dahrio: I was introduced to the Zumba world by my fiancée, Gina. I fell in love with the program immediately. I was totally inspired by how it changes people’s lives and how the family-like community is felt everywhere you go. I wanted to create some music that I could see people dancing to in a Zumba class. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to work with Beto to create ‘Came Here To Party’ which ended up being a staple song in classes around the world. As an independent artist, your biggest wish is to have your music be accessible to people around the world, which Zumba has made possible. In 2014, Gina and I created the HIP HOP TURN UP session for Convention and it has been a lot of fun being able to tap into my hip hop dance roots and present the Zumba world with something awesome [link to Turn Up video].
ZLife: What’s the number one piece of advice you’d give to your fans?
Dahrio: Work hard, but always be smart. In building and sustaining a successful career, smart work is always better than hard work. Never say you can’t do something… and if you seek a goal, do everything you can to conquer that goal no matter what obstacles may present itself in your journey.
ZLife: What do you think the next big thing in music/dance is?
Dahrio: Dahrio Wonder J and Adrian Marcel
ZLife: If you were on a deserted island and could only bring 1 album with you, which would you choose?
Dahrio: I have 3 answers: If I was deserted on an island as a kid it would be Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’. If I was deserted on an island 10 years ago, it would be Musiq Souldchild’s ‘Soulstar’. If I was deserted on an island right now, it would be Ty Dolla $ign’s ‘Free TC’.
ZLife: Last question: Who is your favorite dancer of all time?
Dahrio: My mother. She is a bad ass. STILL!
Everybody repeat after us: awwwwww!!!!
Keep in touch with this world-wonder (pun intended) by following him on social media @dahriowonder.