Dancer in ZIEL: Pedro Ricardo Henry

Posted: Tue 30 Jan 2024

Pedro Ricardo Henry is one of the dancers in the new performance ZIEL by Conny Janssen Danst, which premiered in January 2024 and is currently touring Dutch theaters. During the creation process of ZIEL, we had a conversation with Pedro about who he is and what ‘soul’ means to him.
Text & portrait: Anouk van Drunen

Pedro takes a moment to rest in the dressing room before we meet. As soon as I see Pedro I can relax thanks to his calm appearance. During our interview it quickly becomes clear that Pedro is a special, spiritual and sensitive person. Beautiful qualities for a dancer.

With music you come alive and you are together. It starts and ends with music.


Pedro (33) grew up in a village in the south of Cuba, together with a twin sister, father and mother. The memories of that time are mainly filled with color: togetherness, music and dance are leading in how he grows up. He has been involved in dance since he was three years old; Dancing together with his sister is their shared dream. As a duo they already won prizes at the age of ten.

They participate in various auditions together to become artists: piano, violin, singing and dance. However, their talents are a bit apart: his sister Naya is accepted after auditions for everything except dance and Pedro is accepted for dance. Their bond is very strong and they do not want to continue apart. Ultimately, both follow their own paths and Pedro chooses dance. When he was ten years old, he moved to Holguin, the capital of the province of the same name in Cuba.

When I ask where Pedro comes from, it is not so clear to him. Yes, he grew up in Cuba, but for him Africa is his motherland. Pedro sees himself as African because he has African ancestors: after a DNA test it turned out that he is 50 percent of African descent. He also has a grandmother from Spain, his father is Cuban and somewhere a little Jamaican blood flows through his veins. Where he comes from is important to him.

In 2013 he made a two-month tour through Europe with ‘Ballet TV Cuba’. Then he feels: “This is where I need to be, Europe!”. He auditions and is given an opportunity by Ivan Cavallari, a director in France, allowing him to make his dream come true. In 2013 he started his career in France with ‘Ballet de la Opera du Rhin’. A year later he leaves to Freiburg in Germany to dance in Theater Aachen. And in 2017 he finally ended up in the Netherlands.

Pedro’s Dutch adventure starts at ‘Sally Dance Company Maastricht’. And he finds his home in the Netherlands. He finds family at his dance company in Maastricht and they have great times together. But in 2022 he eventually moved to Rotterdam, after auditioning with Conny Janssen Danst. Conny says: “I thought Pedro was a very beautiful dancer with enormous earthiness in his dancing and in his body, and also sensitive, modest and with enormous physical potential and talent.

He finds his place in Rotterdam: he makes contact with others easily, is surrounded by water – which he loves – and finds a dance company where people are central.

Because that is important to Pedro: people and humanity in this world. He also finds this among Dutch people; he finds this open and receptive. It is not surprising that humanity is a great asset for Pedro: he experienced a very difficult time when his twin sister was in prison in America for two years because she did not have a visa. This was a very emotional and difficult time for him and his family who still live in Cuba.

Foto © Anouk van Drunen


Missing home, and by that he means Cuba, is one of the biggest challenges in life for Pedro. He misses the music of his home country. When he wakes up there he sees the sun. He says: “Then I hear someone clapping, rhythmically, and life starts with music, right away, and it makes life easier. When people come together they dance, they sing, they sweat it out.” He tries to keep that feeling alive here in the Netherlands.

You can quickly feel alone in another country and that is why you need to seek out and connect with people. He also does that when he dances with others. For example, he organizes meetings between Dutch and Cubans (‘Cuba meet the Netherlands’). He sees this as a retreat, a way to recharge. The energy between everyone is shared and connects with each other. A symphony of different instruments.

So Pedro likes to use his body to experience positive feelings, that is in his roots, but over time he has discovered that he also needs to talk about his feelings and that these two things go hand in hand. Sharing your feelings also helps you feel free and that can be difficult. You may experience shame about your feelings. But it is important to be honest, even when rehearsing, he says. That has been a challenge for Pedro, but it is necessary to experience the freedom to dance from your soul in this piece. Fortunately, he feels free to do that at Conny Janssen Danst.

Another challenge in his life is his orientation; In Cuba it is like this: you are male or female, there is nothing in between. In Europe everything was more open-minded: here he can be who he is, without judgement, in freedom. There is more acceptance of homosexuality here, although he feels that you have to be careful here too.

ZIEL behind the scenes © Pien Düthmann
If you find the connection with your own soul and what this means to you, you must believe in it.


Pedro believes that everything has an energy; when you have a positive energy, you protect yourself from negative energy. That’s why he always looks for positive energy.

We discuss what exactly ‘soul’ means to Pedro. Soul for him is: his ancestors. Connected to this is the ground, the earth. He also wants to feel this connection and therefore prefers to dance barefoot. For him, dancing is also a connection with his ancestors, a dialogue with them. The energy also comes from the earth, like a fire that then spreads. That is also the inspiration for him to dance. Pedro is very connected to nature.

Even though we are all individuals with our own souls, says Pedro, he also believes in an overarching connecting soul between us all. You need to give love to this soul, just like a baby, it is fragile, sensitive, so you need to listen to it carefully and take good care of it. If you find the connection with your own soul and what this means for you, you must believe in it.

Pedro thinks that the soul in the piece is starting to emerge. The dancers are very diverse, all with their own interpretation of soul. The soul also means joy. And the goal is to find that joy together in this piece and embrace that zest for life.

He says: “Fighting together against darkness, war, bad feelings, negativity, ego, and thus bringing unity as a group. Bringing love together to make the negative energy disappear. I want you to get to know me as a person, share emotions, care about others and give love.” That is Pedro’s goal as a dancer. So go see this special and spiritual person in SOUL!

This article is part of a series for which photographer Anouk van Drunen talked to three dancers from ZIEL and based on this he portrayed the dancers in words and images. View the portrait of Yashasvi Shrotriya here. The next portrait from this series will appear soon.

Curious to see ZIEL?

The perfromance is touring until April 7, 2024 to Dutch theaters.

Check tourdates of ZIEL here
Pedro (rechts) tijdens repetities ZIEL © Edgar Wetzel


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