Over the last few months Cafe Sevilla has made a real effort to accomodate new and veteran salsa dancers alike. In particular, the club has hosted its 1st Wednesday of the Month with Meetup.com nights regularly and given all levels of dancers a forum to meet face to face with other dancers BEFORE the dancing begins.
This upcoming June 3rd’s event will have a special twist as the club is asking everyone to come for a DRESS IN RED PARTY.
If you have a red dress, red shirt, red skirts, red shoes, etc. this is the night to wear them!
As always, The San Diego Salsa and Latin Dancing Meetup Group will have a special VIP area set up from 9pm to 10pm before the band begins playing and the dancing commences. This event is simply a great way to meet other dancers, chat a little, and make connections before everyone goes off to the dance floor.
San Diego is known in the salsa world as a place where the dance is really expanding and constantly growing. Much of this expansion is due in large part because of the efforts of a local dance studio, A Time To Dance Studio. The owners of A Time To Dance Studio, Angel and Tulane, have been hard at work bringing great events like the San Diego Salsa Jam and the annual San Diego Salsa Festival here to San Diego. I had a great opportunity to talk with Angel and Tulane about their efforts to spread salsa dancing both locally and worldwide. I hope you all enjoy the interview!
Ritmo Bello: Angel and Tulane Rivera thank you both for taking time out of your schedules to address the Ritmo Bello audience. San Diego is a unique place for salsa dancing as seen by the different types of dance companies here locally. What makes A Time To Dance Studio unique in the San Diego salsa dance scene?
A Time To Dance Studio: Thanks for taking the time to interview us and to your audience for their support and dedication to Latin music and dance. Lets see… What makes us different?… We actually never really thought about what makes us different from other studios and or companies. We make it a point to keep our focus geared on what we have to do and never look to see what others are doing or not doing. We think of new ideas, classes, and programs and if they work and make sense we implement them. We also have a combined 20 + years of experience and are the only studio that we know of in San Diego with 2 locations. We love what we do and our goal is to continue to offer the best instruction and service in San Diego. We go one day at a time and take great pride in customer service and training our instructors to the best of our ability. We try our best to ensure our classes are fun, exciting, and technique orientated. We also offer drop in courses as well as 6 week progressive courses in salsa to increase learning curves and consistency for students (The salsa courses have been amazing success for us). We also host studio parties, promote salsa clubs and special events to give our students a place to practice and socially interact with others in the salsa scene. Beyond salsa we offer Belly Dance, Burlesque Jazz, Samba, Afro-Cuban, and Fitness based classes taught by other highly trained dance instructors. Our studio is a friendly, relaxed, cozy but professional family atmosphere that can easily be felt the moment you walk in. We have great plans for the future and God willing we’ll be able to see them through… whether or not it’s in dance is up to HIM…
Ritmo Bello: I always like to learn how people first find and become involved in salsa dancing. Can you tell me each a little about how you each began dancing salsa?
A Time To Dance Studio:I began dancing salsa in 2001 (I was 20 at the time with absolutely no dance experience) and Tulane started dancing at the early age of 7 (She trained in International Ballroom) in London England. I started dancing to actually meet new people since I was new to San Diego (Navy for 4 years). Tulane started dancing as a creative outlet and to stay out of trouble : ) . She left London at 15 and I left Chicago when I was 18. At 20 I decided to take private dance lessons at a downtown dance studio, then named Dance With Me Academy (This is probably the place where everyone that’s a veteran now started – Good times). Thats when I met Tulane… She was assigned as my dance instructor… I wanted to learn salsa but somehow got temporarily converted to ballroom for about 3 months. Although it was great training we started to focus on Salsa more as time went on. Through the months I got better (Tulane has always been a phenomenal dancer and choreographer) and before I knew it we formed Salsa Suave Dance Company, then San Diego’s 2nd dance company. We danced together socially and I began to get approached by students asking me if I taught. I decided to drop out of an officer program through the navy to pursue a new life… Thats pretty much how we both started in a nutshell. 2 people from 2 different countries that left home at an early age seeking something new. Salsa dance brought us together and we haven’t stopped since : )
Ritmo Bello:That is a great story! What motivated you to create A Time To Dance Studio?
A Time To Dance Studio:As we got busier and busier we had to move from studio to studio to accommodate the demand of students. It was a headache at times… moving always meant losing clients no matter how good you were… That was one of the determining factors of why we started our own studio. However our main motivation came out of a dance ministry that Tulane started at our church. It was a fun hip hop / salsa youth ministry called “A Time To Dance. The name was inspired from the Bible… Ecclesiastes 3:4… our pastor had always encouraged us and instilled the vision that we would one day own our own studio. Long story short… an opportunity arose to open a dance studio and we followed our faith and dreams to what we have today. We decided to keep A Time To Dance since it was originally inspired through our ministry and our Faith. Owning a dance studio has always been one of Tulane’s goals & dreams… I’m grateful that I was able to be a part of it… I never really thought I’d be dancing, teaching, and an owner of dance studios, ( I always wanted to fly Fighter Jets ) but its been great! Owning studios has taught us so much… Great sacrifice, huge responsibilities and a lot of character building trials and tribulations… Well worth it.
Ritmo Bello: I understand that you have 15 professional dancers, choreographers, and teachers that work with you at A Time to Dance Studios? Do they all focus on salsa dance?
A Time To Dance Studio:Not all… We hire instructors that are professionals at their genre of dance. We try to focus on what we are good at and offer classes that help inspire health, fitness & a good time. We do however train our in house dancers in salsa, cha cha, and ballroom for our different array of clients and invite guest instructors/coaches to give their expertise and advice on specific dances at times. We are also a certified ISTD dance studio and assist our instructors to certify once a year as well. We offer hip hop, belly dance, afro cuban, samba, and fitness class such as Zumba, Dance Fitness, and some pilates classes. We do our best to offer great, energetic, & fun classes throughout the week and offer competitive prices to keep people coming back for more… We also started our own student salsa dance team… Doing very well… They should be ready to perform again in a couple of months.
Ritmo Bello:I’ve heard from your students that you employ a unique teaching method called “inter-related system” instruction. What is that all about and how does this impact your student’s learning of the dance?
A Time To Dance Studio: It allows our students to learn dances that relate to one another. Our goal is to interchangeably relate dances which in turn allows the student to remember the mechanics easier. This system has allowed our students to advance much quicker, learn various dances faster, and retain the material more effectively. It’s a style that we have incorporated over the years that has worked wonders when applied. We’re still working on some other teaching methods and will be instituted once we decide to open more studios in the future.
A Time To Dance Studio: Ya… Our desire to organize events started to happen after 2005. This was the year Tulane and I traveled to 4 different countries performing, teaching, and choreographing. Although it was fun traveling, teaching abroad, and seeing different countries, it really didn’t stick with us. We didn’t really see the benefit of traveling all the time and from a business standpoint at the time it didn’t make sense for us. Tulane and I like business… Running, creating, and being behind the scenes. My analogy is like an actor becoming a director… Why act forever when you can direct… A lot harder work, more sacrifice, extremely high risk both financially and physically but the benefits are far greater in the long run. It’s not for everyone but it was for us… Being in the drivers seat allows us to offer events, workshops, and festivals with our vision in mind. Our goal is to continue to offer excellent events for the new dancer and the veteran alike… Many venues come and go so we’re always on the look out… Our goal with events that we produce is to offer fun, exciting, and professional atmospheres with the best latin music and dancing around… Local clubs and events also give new dancers a chance to see what they potentially can obtain… Gives them a visual goal and motivates students to get better. Check us out online… www.sandiegosalsajam.com- www.atimetodance.com – www.sandiegosalsafestival.com to join us at our next class and or event.
Ritmo Bello:The San Diego Salsa Festival is coming up again in September of this year and I know that you are hard at work preparing for this great event with Albert Torres. Can you explain who Albert Torres is and what the San Diego Salsa Festival is all about to those new to salsa dancing?
A Time To Dance Studio:Albert Torres is the world’s most successful and foremost recognized promoter of Latin Music and Dance. He also promotes and produces the WORLD SALSA CONGRESS in Los Angeles, coming up in May. The San Diego Salsa Festival/Congress is an event that brings talent from across the country and abroad to San Diego, Ca. The goal is to give the San Diego community a taste of the talented instructors and performers outside of the San Diego salsa community. Its now in its 3rd year and getting better. This year’s event is going to showcase great dancers and Live Music ( Something we’ve been trying to emphasize at our Salsa Jams) like never before. The event will consist of Workshops all day Saturday and Sunday, Live Professional Dance Shows each night, and social dancing Thursday thru Sunday til 3-4 in the morning. Pretty much a salsa dancer and latin music lovers dream. We’ll have vendors selling shoes, and dance apparel as well as live music on Friday and Saturday night. Check us out online www.sandiegosalsafestival.com- you can purchase your tickets and make hotel reservations online today!
Ritmo Bello: In your opinions, what makes salsa dancing such a great activity to pursue?
A Time To Dance Studio: It’s the only form of dance in our experience that we’ve found in every city and country we’ve visited. It’s a great way to meet new people, get into shape, and has no cultural or racial barriers. Everyone dances salsa even if they can’t understand the words… The music just pulsates through the dancers and moves us… It’s a great way to pursue a healthy social life and have fun. Who knows… You may even find your life partner as I did : ) …. Maybe not…
Ritmo Bello:The San Diego salsa scene has seen many changes over the years. What trends do you see taking hold for the future of salsa dancing in San Diego?
A Time To Dance Studio: Like anything else… it takes many years to cultivate the ground for longevity… San Diego has come a long way and is still growing… Still has a lot of room to grow and develop which is great & exciting. Our last Salsa Jam is an example of that growth… Not a lot of veteran dancers or instructors out… but wow… There were a lot of new faces that I have never seen before… So many newbies to the salsa scene that love salsa and especially live music. This is what we see as being the next trend… A new wave of dancers and live music. Live music is something that has room for tremendous growth… I’m talking about live concerts with big names – Cheo Feliciano, Spanish Harlem, El Gran Combo, etc… I just hope San Diego and the scene can support these events no matter who promotes them… Without the music and supporting the musicians we wouldn’t have the music we love today!
Ritmo Bello: Is there anything else you’d like to share with dance community?
A Time To Dance Studio:Try to support as many venues as possible… Whoever promotes them… It’s hard work and high risk promoting live events, clubs, and festivals. Keep dancing and always have fun doing it…
Ritmo Bello:The Ritmo Bello audience may want to contact you regarding some of the topics discussed here. How can members reach you for further information?
Ritmo Bello:Angel and Tulane, on behalf of Ritmo Bello and the San Diego salsa community thank you for all you do to promote salsa here in San Diego and around the world. A Time To Dance Studio:It was our pleasure… And thank you for interviewing us… You do an outstanding job keeping the latin music and dance scene informed and going strong…
I wanted to let you all know about an upcoming film that will hopefully be screening here in San Diego.
El Duque de la Bachatais the story of Joan Soriano, a Bachata Musician from the Dominican Republic. The documentary follows his struggles to reach his goal of a releasing a hit CD and success as a musician. The story is also unique as it shows how his family is affected and involved in this musician’s life.
The film documents Joan’s bachata and merengue career, giving us all an in depth look at what rising artists must go through to make it big. Joan has been featured on theRough Guide to the Bachataand on the documentarySanto Domingo Bluesas well as performed and recorded with big name bachata musicians such as Joe Veras and Zacarias Ferreira. However, at 35 he still has not had his own hit and is feeling the pressure now to make it big more than ever. Within the last few years, a music producer named Benjamin de Menil fromIASO Records has begun recording a CD of Joan’s music and is now moving toward the CD’s completion with high hopes that it will be a hit. El Duque de la Bachatais full of great music, Dominican culture, and intimate portraits.
The film is produced and directed by Adam Taub. Mr. Taub is looking to screen the film here in San Diego from June 17th to the 27th and is looking for venues to host a question and answer session, screening, and possible bachata dancing event.If you can help you can contact Mr. Taub here.Thanks to Mr. Taub for producing this great film!
San Diego has a new dance venue for salsa dancers!
Mambo Nights at Pasquale Del Mar opened recently and offers to San Diego dancers a new North County option. The club received rave reviews from all who attended it’s grand opening and the buzz is still going regarding this beautiful venue .
As with most Salsa venues there are lessons early on in the night and our friends over at Salsa Inferno are instructing at this new locale. Below is a video of Tony and his group performing at another San Diego Salsa and Latin Dancing Meetup.com event:
Lessons start early at 8:30pm but the club opens at 7:30 and stays open late!
I love listening to live salsa music when I go out to dance. I especially love being able to listen to salsa bands that have women as the lead singers since there seems to be a dearth of these bands. Indeed, it seems like there are not many salsa bands that feature singers similar to those like the late Celia Cruz.
You can imagine how happy I was to find out about Choco Orta. Choco Orta, an established salsa “Sonera” from Puerto Rico, has been gaining in popularity for her unique salsa compositions and great performance energy. I recently sat down with Choco Orta to find out more about her music and how she is keeping women salsa singers at the forefront of the music genre. Enjoy!
Ritmo Bello: Choco Orta, thank you for taking time to let the Ritmo Bello audience learn more about you and your music. I wanted to start out with a basic question that I ask anyone I interview, namely what is the main focus of your music?
Choco Orta: First of all Mr. Bello, thank you so much for interviewing me. I appreciate your supporting my latest musical project which is titled “Ahora Mismo…Choco Orta“. I love to sing from the heart, to touch the essence of my audience’s soul. That’s really what motivates me.
Ritmo Bello: When and how did you begin your singing career?
Choco Orta: I took singing classes with Darisabel Isales, non-professionally when I was in the sixth grade.I sang at my graduation in 1973, and later in 1980 with the Salsa Fever Orchestra. In 2001, I was asked to be part of the Banco Popular Raices CD which featured Willie Sotelo & La Mundial Orchestra, Willie Rosario and Mr.Gilberto Santarosa.
Ritmo Bello: How did you get the nickname “Choco Orta” for your professional stage name?
Choco Orta: When I was studying dance, a student asked me if it was okay for him to call me Chocolate for the color of my skin, and I agreed.
Ritmo Bello: I understand that you are often compared to Celia Cruz and her style of singing. For those unfamiliar with Celia can you explain how you might be similar and different to her legacy?
Choco Orta: Because of her commitment to Latin music, her feelings about the Salsa genre, her strong and mesmerizing impact on stage. Because, like her, I would love to live the rest of my life as a sonera and die singing.
Ritmo Bello: What types of influences have impacted how you’ve created your salsa music?
Choco Orta: Coming from a family of humble means who lived in a barrio located in Santurce, Puerto Rico, gave me the opportunity to express through music what I was living everyday. I was literally surrounded by music, and this environment gave me the chance to practice everyday — everywhere. Be it on a neighborhood street corner where my friends and I sang our hearts out to the seductive beats of typical percussion instruments like the congas, bongos, clave and guiro; or in the privacy of my parent’s living room where I would continue to sing daily with passion and pride.
Ritmo Bello: I’ve heard the term “Sonera” used to describe you. For those unfamiliar with this term can you explain what this means?
Choco Orta: As I understand it, a Sonera is someone who improvises verses to tell a story through singing. Soneando, as it is commonly called, is a creative vehicle used to embellish the message of a story without compromising its essence. This type of singing is as old as the hills. It’s a beautiful component of the Latino culture which will never go out of style, and it holds a very special place in my heart. For it allows me to reach my audience on yet another level.
Ritmo Bello: How and where do you find inspiration for creating new salsa songs?
Choco Orta: Life gives me the inspiration I need to compose songs. I am inspired by its beauty and challenges. Life is the motivational force behind my creativity, for it is a song in and of itself. Breathing, walking, talking. It all plays a role in what I say and how I say it.
Ritmo Bello: Where have you performed?
Choco Orta: I have performed in many places around the world. For example, at the Center of Fine Arts in Puerto Rico; The National Theater in the Dominican Republic; more than 12 cities in Colombia, including Cali, Buena Ventura, Tulua, Manizalez. I have also performed in France at a Club called Hammou as well as in Nice and in Spain in Leganes, Madrid and Castellón de la Plana. I have also shared a stage with Oscar de Leon, Celia Cruz, Pete el Conde and José Alberto “El Canario” at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. At S.O.B.’s, El Copacabana, the Latin Quarter, Hostos Community College, Lehman College, Orchard Beach in New York, Virginia Beach, Houston, Albany, St Thomas, and now in September of this year I will perform in the UK.
Ritmo Bello: Can you tell me a little about the albums that you’ve released to date?
Choco Orta: I have recorded with Salsa Fever, Tony Mapeye, Tribute to Vieques, El Chino, Willie Sotelo, Willie Rosario, Choco Sentimiento y Sabor, Choco La Reina del Sabor, and my recent cd that Mr. Gilberto Santarosa has produced for me and is titled “Ahora Mismo….Choco Orta”.
“Ahora Mismo..Choco Orta” is comprised of several very danceable tunes. It is a great piece or art which pays tribute to the female Salsa singers of the past four decades: Celia Cruz, La Lupe and Graciela.
Ritmo Bello: Are there current plans for new CD releases coming up soon?
Choco Orta: At the moment I am working on promoting my new CD. I have a media tour in Puerto Rico that I will be doing the first two weeks in May. I am also planning to promote my cd in Miami, and it is being promoted in New York and other parts of the country as we speak. On the 22nd of May in Los Angeles, California, I will be performing at the Radisson Hotel at the biggest Salsa Congress in the United States, with Gilberto Santarosa and Jose El Canario. Albert Torres and Tito Ortos are producing the event.
Ritmo Bello: I know that you have collaborated and performed with many notable artists in the salsa world. What was your most memorable performance that you’ve had over the course of your career?
Choco Orta: Singing with Andy Montañez, Sammy Ayala, Yomo Toro, La India, Tommy Olivencia’s Orchestra, Cheo Feliciano, Victor Manuelle, Tite Curet Alonso. Once I was in a jam session with Mr. Tito Puente, Nick Marrero, Chocolate Armenteros and Joe Santiago which was awesome. I also performed with Mr. Gilberto Santarosa at a Salsa Congress in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The opportunity to perform with all of these wonderful artists has truly been unforgettable. However, singing with La Reina de la Salsa, Ms. Celia Cruz, as well as Oscar de Leon, and Jose Alberto El Canario at Madison Square Garden was another experience that will stay with me forever.
Ritmo Bello: Do you have any plans to travel to the West Coast soon, possibly San Diego?
Choco Orta: Yes. As I mentioned earlier, I will be in LA for the Salsa Congress on the 22nd of May, sharing a stage with Gilberto Santarosa and Jose Alberto El Canario. Another dream come true for me. I hope to perform in San Diego before the end of the year.
Ritmo Bello: Do you have contact information in case anyone from the Ritmo Bello audience wants to contact you?
Choco Orta: Yes. They can contact me at my MySpace Page, or by dialing my office number during business hours which is 917-334-6481.
Ritmo Bello: Choco Orta, thank you for your time today. I hope I can attend one of your performances in the near future.
Choco Orta: Looking forward to it. Thank you once again for your time Mr. Bello. It was an absolute pleasure.