Sharing their Love of Dance: A Ritmo Bello Interview with Alma Latina Dance Company

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Although San Diego has many different dance companies, each one shines in their own special way.  A good example of this is Alma Latina Dance company.  Directed by Gabriela Equiz and Sergio Jasso, their dance company is known in San Diego and throughout the world as one of the best around (they are currently ranked #5 in the world in the On 1 division of the ESPN World Salsa Championships).

Apart from world class salsa dancing, Alma Latina is also known for its great work with dancers of all levels, including kids.  I recently sat down with Gaby and Sergio to discuss their dancing, what motivates them, and what they have in store for San Diego salsa dancers.  I hope you enjoy the interview!

John ;-)  @RitmoBello

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Ritmo Bello: Sergio and Gaby, thanks for taking the time to address the Ritmo Bello dance community. Let’s begin. What would you say is the main focus of Alma Latina Dance Company?

Alma Latina Dance Company: We focus on helping salseros dance better than they ever thought they could and even helping them get to competitive levels while enjoying the process.  Many people have told us that they really enjoy our sabor and the attitude that our dancers project on stage!

Ritmo Bello: What are the origins of your dance company? Why did you choose Alma Latina Dance Company for your name?

Alma Latina Dance Company: As a child, I went to a performing art school in Mexico City and loved it- all I wanted to do everyday was sing and dance.  I realized that Tijuana didn’t offer anything like that, so I decided to start a performing art school in the summer of 2005.  Later, I asked Sergio to come and help me instruct the boys in salsa dancing and we became partners. Then we expanded into teaching salsa to adults in 2006 in Tijuana and in San Diego in January 2008. We just started teaching in Los Angeles as well.

Ritmo Bello: What type of salsa dancing does Alma Latina perform? What types of influences have impacted how you both dance salsa?

Alma Latina Dance Company: Unlike other salsa companies, our dance teams aren’t exclusively On 1 or On 2- we focus on the musicality and that means we train our dancers to easily switch into whatever timing the music calls for.  You’ll see that our salsa choreographies usually incorporate many other dance influences: hip hop, ballroom, modern, flamenco, ballet and tap- it gives our routines their distinct style.  On top of that, both Sergio and I contribute different aspects of what makes us so strong:  Sergio has a strong sense of musicality ( & humor) and that comes through in our choreography and I have a good eye for lines and details and tend to polish and perfect things.

Ritmo Bello: Does Alma Latina Dance Company have a particular focus on teaching certain age groups to perform?

Alma Latina Dance Company: We don’t like to limit ourselves to any age group: We have people 3 years to 70 years old. But we do earn a lot of attention for the accomplishments of our young dancers: Our kids couples took 1st and 2nd place in three age divisions in the first Annual Kids Salsa Convention in LA, and Albert Torres has invited our kids to be featured in a showcase at the 2009 World Salsa Championships in December!  We’ve recently decided to form a non-profit around our kids dance troupe.  Our Mission statement is to connect kids to culture using Latin music and dance to promote discipline, pride, health, and the history of Latin culture all while having fun.  If you or someone you know would like to make a donation, please contact us at Info@AlmaLatinaDanceCompany.com

Ritmo Bello: Are you taking on new dancers now? How does someone audition to be a part of your salsa performance team?

Alma Latina Dance Company: YES!!! We are always taking new dancers for our Amateur & Intermediate teams.  We also have Semi pro and Professional levels that do require a private audition- but we can do that anytime- just send us an email:  Info@AlmaLatinaDanceCompany.com.  In addition, we have members of each team learn the routine of the team above them so they are always challenged and so they can get ready to step up a level.

Ritmo Bello: I understand that your dance company operates out of Tijuana , Mexico as well as San Diego, California . How has this impacted the types of dancers you train?

Alma Latina Dance Company: I think it has made all our students really happy and inspired- there is such diversity in the dancers!  The San Diego students always comment how they love the warmth of our Tijuana studio culture (we all kiss hello and goodbye to everyone at our TJ Studio).  And our Tijuana students love the enthusiasm of our San Diego dancers!  Also, a big plus is that all our dancers can come to the Tijuana studio and practice for free whenever, and there is always a Social going on at Alma Latina … I am not joking, there is a party every night…. And then TACOS at a stand by our studio  :)  We’re working to bring that same atmosphere to San Diego- starting on November 14th, we’ll have a monthly Social in San Diego too.  Our new studio, The Woodroom, is in Northpark, which has a big neighborhood party called Ray At Night.  As part of that event, we’ll be offering a free beginner lesson from 7:30-8:15 and free social dancing open to the public from 8:15-10:00 (just in time to head out to the other salsa clubs and socials)!

Ritmo Bello: Where has Alma Latina Dance Company performed?

Alma Latina Dance Company: We love to perform locally as well as at all the big West Coast Congress events like San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Palm Springs, Arizona and San Francisco.  We have also regularly traveled to the Acapulco Congress, the Mexico National Championships in Mexico City, and the World Salsa Championships.  We recently performed at the Mayan Team Competition and WON- we are so excited to have earned that distinction!  We are also really pleased to have been invited to headline the Seattle Salsa Congress over Thanksgiving weekend.  We are hoping to add Europe to our list of performance destinations in the next year!

Ritmo Bello: In many of those performances and competitions you’ve won a number of awards. Can you share with us some of your best memories involving winning those awards?

Alma Latina Dance Company: Yes- we are so proud of our many dancers who have done so well in competition! Just this year we have claimed 6 first places and 6 second places in competitions Nationally and Internationally.

Competing is really hard work but we love it- it is the best learning experience. Competing takes all the challenges of performing and adds judges into the mix!  You learn to cope with your nerves and the pressure– and dance regardless.  The challenge is doing it like it is a show even when you see the judges just in front of you.  You want to think that they are going to be entertained!

Admittedly the competitions add pressure, but they also push us to grow as dancers and be the best performers we can be. That’s where the great memories come from: working together towards a goal and achieving it- and traveling as a group to perform for very appreciative audiences!

Ritmo Bello: Is is true that you’ve been ranked within the top 10 salsa dancers in the world according to the ESPN World Salsa Championships?

Alma Latina Dance Company: Yes, we are currently ranked 5th in the world and this year we want to go back and rank higher if possible!  It is really hard because you compete with the best in the world and everybody is improving and getting ready- there’s no way to get an advantage…so imagine!!! But I think we could do something good this year…

Ritmo Bello: How was your experience at the San Diego Salsa Festival this year?

Alma Latina Dance Company: Great! We closed the show on Friday and performed the 2nd to last number on both Saturday and Sunday- just before Yamulee from NYC closed the show- and after great dancers like Adolfo Indacochea, Hacha y Machete etc.- what a compliment!  We were incredibly flattered by the fact that we got standing ovations on Friday and Sunday.

Ritmo Bello: In your opinion, what is the best thing about dancing salsa in San Diego ?

Alma Latina Dance Company: Everything!  The people are genuine and nice, there is a huge number of incredible dancers, and everyone has a good attitude.

Ritmo Bello: I’ve noticed that there are a number of videos on YouTube showcasing your salsa dancing. How do you feel about being a virtual salsa celebrity for the YouTube crowd?

Alma Latina Dance Company: I think that YouTube has helped us a lot.  We find a lot of people who have never seen us in person but they follow us on YouTube.  We have even had people hire us based on that- can you believe it?  We hardly can!

Ritmo Bello: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Ritmo Bello readers about your dance company and yourselves that we haven’t covered yet?

Alma Latina Dance Company: We want to thank you and all of the San Diego salsa community for your support!  We feel really blessed to be teaching here where people really believe in us.

Ritmo Bello: Do you have contact information in case anyone from the Ritmo Bello audience wants to contact you?

Alma Latina Dance Company: Yes- please contact us- we are still growing and want to serve the needs of the San Diego Community!

Alma Latina Dance Company

www.AlmaLatinaDanceCompany.com

Info@AlmaLatinaDanceCompany.com

619-600-5536

Ritmo Bello: Sergio and Gaby, Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to seeing you at one of your events.

Alma Latina Dance Company: Thank you so much- we look forward to seeing you and all your readers at our free social on November 14th!

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You can contact John ;-) on Twitter at @RitmoBello

John F. Bello

Meet John ;-)

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