[Women’s Month 2023] Interview with Petra Jeričević of Ladies Latin Zagreb

Ladies Latin 6

PUBLISHED: 6.3.2023.

Petra Jeričević is a professional dancer and the owner of the company Ladies Latin Zagreb. Ladies Latin holds recreational dance programs for women with a focus on Latin American dances. Trainings are open to everyone – from beginners to dancers of various styles and former and active competitors of sports dance.

As part of our Women’s Month campaign, female-owned businesses and women in leadership in Croatia were nominated for recognition by YOU – our audience. Our independent panel of Croatian professionals selected 4 extraordinary businesses to be interviewed and featured on expatincroatia.com. Ladies Latin Zagreb was selected as the winner in the Innovation category, deservedly so.

I spoke with Petra on February 14, 2023, during which we talked about…

Read the full interview below…

Interview with Petra Jeričević of Ladies Latin Zagreb

Ladies Latin 3

Sara: Let’s start at the very beginning, Petra. Your business is based in Zagreb. Were you born in Zagreb and did you grow up there?

Petra: Yes, I was born in Zagreb. My parents are also from Zagreb. My grandparents are from a little island, Korčula, which I really like to say that I have origins from.

Sara: When you tell somebody about Ladies Latin Zagreb, how do you explain it to them?

Petra: My style is ballroom Latin dancing, which was mainly for couples. [A lot of people] really like Latin dancing but they didn’t know that you can dance if you don’t have a partner.

I started to do some groups, probably 10 years ago. The first of them were in Samobor. I tried to have a course of Latin dancing in a couple, but there were [never enough men].

So, I just said, “Okay, let’s start with women only”. For a few years, I was working in Samobor with a small group of women that grew with me. There I saw the benefits and what I can do.

A lot of people saw it in Samobor and on my Instagram. They were always asking me, “Can you please do it in Zagreb?”. I was working every day in Samobor, I didn’t have so much time. And then I had a lot of time because it was COVID, the sports clubs couldn’t work.

So, I said, “Let’s go, I will do it in Zagreb”. And it hit, BOOM. I had 70 girls [that] wanted to come, so immediately, I booked three groups. I didn’t expect this. Also, one of my best friends is a popular influencer. She came to one of my trainings and filmed one story of 15 seconds and put it on Instagram. Then a lot of people started to ask me if they can join, and this is how it started. If the program is good, people tell their friends it’s good, so the friends come.

Now, I don’t have to explain a lot. When you see a video, you can immediately see what it is. It is based on Latin dancing, but it is adjusted to dancing solo or in a group of friends.

Sara: Did you grow up dancing?

Petra: When I started dancing when I was a kid, we [would] go on these little ballet groups or rhythmics. I was dancing in one popular group, Tihana Škrinjarić. This was women’s jazz classes all around Zagreb, it was really popular.

In school, they started a course of Latin dancing. My sister started to do this Latin course – ballroom dancing.

When I heard that she started something without me, I wanted to go on that course, of course, just to see what she’s doing. We were talented, both of us.

I had the luck that I got a partner [quickly]. It was a boy from school. I started to do competitions in two or three months. I was good at it, so my career from the start had a clean slate. A lot of girls cannot find a partner. For example, my sister was dancing for five years alone. You could only compete in a couple. I had a partner immediately, so I had a bit of luck.

From then on, I’ve been in Latin or ballroom dancing. I did Croatian Dancing with the Stars. I had 21 years, and I won it. After that, I stopped competing because I never liked competitions. I really like the show part and choreographing. I just went in the other direction. From when I was 9 until now, I’m 31, I’m seriously in the dancing world.

woman in a hall
Ladies Latin training

Sara: You observed that to compete in ballroom, you have to have a partner. One of the unique aspects of your business is the fact that you can do this kind of dancing without a partner. Right?

Petra: This was why my business started to grow – because you didn’t have this limitation. It depends on you, not the other person. My whole career was depending on the other person, it doesn’t matter if I was the best one. If you have a partner, then you go to competitions, and then you can dance.

I’ve been doing this for 10 years, so I was all the time balancing between recreation and sport. I took all the parts from sports and my experience from choreographing for little kids and put it in my Latin program for recreation for girls.

Now you have a lot of options. Before, it was just a couple. I think this is the most beautiful part. There is always a problem of missing guys. This is what I did in my business – I just stopped relying on boys.

Sara: I hear that. Do you have a favorite style that you like to dance in particular?

Petra: Ballroom dancing is divided into Latin and ballroom. Ballroom dancing [includes] Waltz, Tango, Slow fox, Quickstep, and all this in couples. In Latin dancing, you have more open positions. This is Samba, Cha Cha, Rumba, Paso doble and Jive. So, this is my base. I do a lot of things out of this, but these five dances are the law of Latin dancing.

My favorite is Samba. It is natural to me, it has this movement, this bounce, and a lot of rhythm. I can hear it and do it with my body. If I need to choose one dance to dance all my life, it would be Samba for sure.

When I teach, my groups prefer Samba. I think this is about my teaching method because I have a lot of enthusiasm for Samba. The second dance would be Rumba. This is the mother of Latin dancing because you do everything in Rumba. If you grow your quality in Rumba, you will become a quality dancer in every dance.

All the principles of Latin dancing in the body that you do, you can practice on Rumba because it’s slow. This is a romantic dance. Rumba is the best in a couple. For me, Rumba is art. Like Samba, this is joy and happiness. These are my two favorite dances.

Sara: You started your business during the pandemic, and it just exploded. Do you think that you got a little bit of an extra push because of the pandemic? Because so many people were yearning to get out of the house and do something and be around others? Do you think that played any role in the early success?

Petra: I think a little bit, yes. When I look back, I think I did good marketing on Instagram when it was the heart of the pandemic. I said to my sister, “Let’s go film a video”. We never did professional video dancing.

In Croatia, people are a little bit divided about this because there are people that like this Serbian music and people that don’t. Actually, a lot of people are feeling the beat, you know? So, I said, “Let’s go, it’s corona, we will do one choreography on this Serbian music.”

I found a version [of Bella Ciao] that Bregović did – that is one Serbian artist that has a funeral orchestra. We filmed it and put it on Instagram. People got crazy about it.

During the pandemic, we couldn’t go out, everybody was in the house. I said to my sister, “We cannot go out, let’s do Instagram Live and teach people how to dance this choreography that we made”. I included a lot of influencers, I called them to my live, would share a screen, and their followers would see my live.

It was one hour and a half. I think 20.000 people were watching it. So, it was a really, really big number, which we didn’t expect, we were just having fun.

Three months later, they reopened gyms. You could go to a gym. But, for example, you couldn’t work if you were working as a club because sports were forbidden. It was stupid rules that [the government] was applying on some things.

So, I rented the place in a gym and started to do my company – Ladies Latin Zagreb.

Sara: Where do you want to go with this company? Do you want to grow it to have different studios around the country? Do you want to keep it where it is right now? What are you thinking in terms of where you go next?

Petra: Actually, this depends on what my private life is going to be. Now I’m 31. When I did this big growth with Ladies Latin, this was the reaction to me working all day and all night.

I would like to have a child, and if I will have a child, I don’t want to work so much. In my business, I want to do it because I like it, but I don’t want to depend on it.

In Croatia, also in this dancing world, you need to be in all the time. You need to be present; they need to see you; they need to remember your name. You always need to produce something because it is a specific business, ahh ‘područje’. You really need to do a lot.

So, I was working hard and using all the privileges that came with a lot of girls, going to the other studios, meeting a lot of people. It exploded in one year, and I wanted to use it wisely.

I am now in a period of life that I need to see what I will do next because I can do whatever I want. I can expand my business wherever I want and can live wherever I want. For example, I would like to live in Dubrovnik, Dubrovnik is my favorite city. I think the quality of life is much better there. I think if you’re doing dancing, you don’t need to be tied to one place.

The thing that I learned is that I don’t need to grow my business, I need to grow my name because a lot of people are coming because of me and the way I teach and give energy to them. This is why they keep themselves on my training, you know? So, if I build my name, I think in 10 years, I can work wherever, and I will always have a lot of people that I can rely on. I’m not strictly relying on Ladies Latin or Samobor.

I just want to do what I like and that it builds me as a person. And where I will end up, in which city, or what I will do, we will see.

women dancing
Petra Jeričević and Ladies Latin Zagreb

Sara: You travel a lot outside of Croatia. There are many young Croatians who are leaving Croatia to go move abroad. Did you ever consider that? And if you did, why did you decide to stay?

Petra: In my student days, I considered it. Dancing with the Stars was a big breaking point in my life because I was young, I had 21 years. I only thought that you can do dancing, competitive dancing, as a sport because never, nobody ever showed me that you can do something else.

This was the system, you start the course, you dance, and then you go to competitions. You go around the world and dance, but they never showed me this [other] part – you can do choreographies, theatre, show business, and all these things that feel really good.

When I came to Dancing with the Stars, and I won, it was like a good click because I said, “aha, okay, this is what I want to do”. I don’t want to compete anymore. I want to do THIS.

I wanted to send my audition tape for dancing for Burn the Floor. Burn the Floor is a dancing show that is going around the world on cruises and in theaters. So, you’re practically living on the road.

But, I had a boyfriend that said to me that “this is bullshit”. So, I never sent an application. He was my dance partner. And, I never did it because I love Croatia. I love Zagreb, I love my family, and I feel good here. But you know, if you want to do this, then somebody should push you, and I didn’t have that push.

When I look back, if you asked me, I would do it because a lot of dancers from Burn the Floor went on the American Dancing with the Stars. If I would become a dancer there, I think my life would go differently. Home you can always go.

[Recently], I was traveling all around the world, and this is the first time that I started to see the world differently. Now I have the courage and finances that I can go somewhere and say, “okay, let’s just try it”. You have so many opportunities because in Croatia you don’t have so many.

In Croatia, if somebody is choreographing, you know who it is, if somebody is doing shows, you know who it is because we are a small country where we don’t have a lot of films or a lot of shows. Basically, the people that are doing this for years are doing it all the time. So, you don’t have so many opportunities to get new work and to grow as individuals.

Now in this period, I think I can live somewhere [else]. When you see that you can live, that you can get used to anywhere where you go, and you can find friends and some new habits, maybe, I got the courage to do it. I don’t know what life will bring, but I’m open to it. It’s not like I need to be in Zagreb, but if I stay in Zagreb, or in Croatia, I would be happy also.

Sara: I’d love to switch gears and talk about what it’s like to run a business and be an entrepreneur. What are the typical challenges that you have with running a business running dance classes?

Petra: It’s not complicated at all. I have employment in Samobor. So, this employer pays my ‘zdravstveno’, you know this that you need to give to the government. This obrt that I have, it’s simple. I need to do a bill, I send it to the girls, they pay it, and that’s it. It’s not so much work. I don’t even have to have a person that is managing bills for me because it’s really easy. Until I go to this PDV…

I encourage a lot of people to open [obrt] because a lot of people in dancing, they don’t have anything legally. They do a lesson, and people give them money. This is a normal procedure in dancing. This is really bullshit because, like this, you cannot grow your business. You need to have some system that has a start and end.

[Read: How to open and close an obrt in Croatia]

If you’re making money from your business, it’s okay to give it also to the government.

A lot of people in Croatia – we always look how to fuck the system. We are like this, but I do it legally right and feel good about it. This is an important thing to do to make your business serious.

It’s really easy to start because you can ask the government to give you some start money that can pay this basic stuff that you need to pay to the country. I don’t know how to say this, ‘davanja’, we call it davanja (contributions). You know, your tax and your, for your health, and for your retirement.

If you get bigger and [pay more] taxes, that means that you’re doing a good job. You can employ somebody to do all the stuff that you don’t want to do. I am not good with numbers, because of that, I dance.

women training
Ladies Latin training

Sara: What is your biggest business fear with operating the company?

Petra: I don’t have it because I don’t think that I’m doing so much. I make a good living as one person who is living in Croatia. I know it depends on how much I work. But if I learned something in the last 10 years, it is that every risk that I took gets me something back. Even if it was a failure, it was just one way to open some other doors. I don’t feel fear.

Sara: In terms of becoming an entrepreneur, how did you learn how to do it? Did you just kind of dive in headfirst and figure it out as you went along? Did you have a mentor? Did you do research, how did you go about it?

Petra: I’m a person who can do a lot of things. I don’t have things in life that I do badly, I do things right, I have a feeling for it. But if I’m not interested in something that I do, I will never do it. I learned this when I was in my 20s. I’m not the person that can say okay to average stuff. I don’t want average life. I am always like this, in relationships, in my friendships, in my business. I’m just not satisfied with average, you know.

I don’t take compromise to do less if I know I can do more.

Nobody taught me, I just started to work, and everything just clicked. I have parts of my work that I don’t like. I don’t like to make bills, I don’t like to pay taxes, I don’t like some stuff with numbers. I like to be in the ballroom. I like to dance. I like to meet people. I like to give energy and receive feedback. But I do marketing, Instagram, also calculations, and some things that maybe I don’t like, but I know I need to do it.

When I sum it all, I just feel happy. I don’t work for money; I work for my inner feeling, and money comes because I’m doing it well. I’m doing it well because I like what I do.

I think a lot of people maybe don’t have the privilege of knowing what they like, and maybe this is the part where it fails. When you don’t know what you like or what you want to do. Then you need to research it until you find it, and that’s it.

Sara: Exactly. I also feel very lucky that I know what it is that I enjoy doing. What is your advice to someone who has always wanted to learn how to dance but is too intimidated to get started?

Petra: This depends a lot on the person that is coming. I don’t like to say, “come, come, come”. I give you a space that you can dance, and I give you my energy, I give you my knowledge.

If they make this first step, then I just tell them that everything is normal. Sometimes, I’m a beginner. When you’re a beginner, maybe you don’t like this feeling because you forget how it is to be a beginner. It’s not that you’re bad, you’re just a beginner.

You need to do some hours, work, and effort to become better. So, I always start to explain like this to the girls, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a beginner. In two or three months, you will be intermediate, then you will be advanced, then maybe you will be a professional dancer, maybe you will stop there… doesn’t matter.”

If you are feeling good, if dancing is for you, and if it makes you happy when you’re there, it doesn’t matter. I have girls that are in my advanced classes that cannot do anything. They’re not for the advanced group, but they’re feeling good.

This is a recreational program, it’s not a sport. I don’t need to do elimination. If you’re feeling good, and it doesn’t bother you that you don’t know the right steps, then you’re doing the right thing.

I have a lot of girls that are in this good energy so, when you come there, you feel it. It is a safe place. It is a good girl’s energy. You need to come. When I will be in Split, you will come to my class.

Sara: Yes, I will! I have some colleagues I know that are really excited to join too. The last question I have is, is there anything else that we didn’t talk about that you would really love for our audience to know?

Petra: The main part about any successful thing in life, in a relationship or friendship or business or in anything, is that you feel right.

I know it’s difficult because for me it was easy. I had a good family that gave me everything. I was never missing anything. So I’m not damaged person by my parents. I grew up in a place of a lot of love and lots of good energy, and they were giving me everything. I know that I’m privileged.

I would like to encourage. I’m encouraging my kids and my colleagues, and everybody. I always try to tell them that you really can do anything. You just need to open your eyes. That’s it, and you will do it. It’s not that difficult.

Sara: That’s beautiful. Thank you so much, Petra.

women dancing
Petra Jeričević and Ladies Latin Zagreb

How to support Ladies Latin Zagreb

  • View web site here
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View the full list of Women’s Month 2023 winners here. We will publish a new female entrepreneur interview every week during March. Stay tuned…

Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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