San Diego’s Ooh La La Dance Company Nominated for 2010 RAW Performing Artists of the Year Award

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ritmo Bello congratulates Salsa Susie’s Ooh La La Dance Company for being nominated for the 2010 RAW Performing Artists of the Year Award!  For those of you unfamiliar with RAW, it is an independent arts organization, for artists, by artists with its mission to provide resources and exposure to inspire creativity.   RAW educates emerging artists through seminars, workshops and insight to further the knowledge of their industry.

If Ooh La La Dance Company wins they will receive:

– Year-long feature on as the 2010 Performing Artist of the Year

– Private Theatre Date for a performance at the Art Theatre in Long Beach

– Profile Performance Video by Def Films

– Professional Studio Photo Shoot by Def Films

– FREE Featured Performance Showcase in a 2011 RAW Showcase

– Featured Story on

– $100.00 Grant from RAW:natural born artists organization

– Hand-painted Trophy by the Boys & Girls Club of Burbank

– 2010 RAW: Performing Artist of the Year Accolade and official seal

The winner is decided on December 17, 2010 and we wish Ooh La La Dance Company the best of luck in this competition!

John ;-)


A Constant Beat in the San Diego Salsa Scene: Ritmo Bello Interview with’s Valerie Ortiz Wallace

Saturday, November 20, 2010

If you’ve ever gone out salsa dancing here in San Diego in the last 20 years, chances are you know Valerie.  Cafe Sevilla’s own salsa evangelist, she’s continuously introduced new dancers to salsa dancing in a way that focuses on the social aspects of the dance.  Believe it or not, she was my first salsa instructor and helped to instill the love for the music and dance that I still enjoy today.  Recently I sat down with Valerie to talk about her long history here in San Diego and to discuss the future of the dance in our community.  I hope you enjoy this short interview as much as I did.

John ;-)



Ritmo Bello:  Valerie, thanks for taking the time to address the Ritmo Bello dance community.  Let’s begin. What are some of the reasons you began to dance and later teach salsa dancing here in San Diego?

Valerie:   I’ve been dancing since I was a child, my mom being Puerto Rican influenced my interest in Salsa but I have explored other dance areas such as swing, ballroom, and country western as well.    The music just kept bringing me back to Salsa. I was a dance major at Indiana University and when I was approached to teach salsa at Pachangas (a night club in the Gaslamp) in the late 80’s I decided to try it.   I found that I really enjoyed the social aspects of dancing and sharing that with people.

Ritmo Bello:   San Diego has seen many transitions in the salsa dance scene over the last 20 years. What are some of the main changes you’ve experienced since you began to dance here in San Diego?

Valerie:   When I first started dancing Salsa in San Diego the clubs were totally Latin.   The dancers were a small and pretty exclusive group.   It was unusual to see non Latinos in the clubs. As Salsa has gained an international music and dance audience; the clubs have changed to show that diversity.  It’s really great that you can go anywhere in the world these days and have a place to dance. It crosses language barriers!

Ritmo Bello:   Most folks here in San Diego recognize you from your many years of teaching salsa at Café Sevilla in the Gaslamp Quarter.   What has this experience meant to you and what are some of your fondest memories teaching there?

Valerie:  I have always thought of Cafe Sevilla as my home, even though I have worked at more clubs than I want to mention, lol. I think my favorite memories include Sevilla’s support of my designing a unique (at the time) salsa club format for their Club Salsa. Exposing San Diego to LA and big name bands in an intimate setting, starting a variety of dance contest (the first club contests) and designing a smooth format which (for the first time in San Diego) included the combination of dance instruction, DJ and live music. I know it sounds crazy but the San Diego Salsa club scene was quite different when we started at Sevilla.

Ritmo Bello:   Although the old Café Sevilla location is currently closed, we are all excited for the re-opening in early 2011. What types of things specific to Latin dancing can we expect to see at the new Café Sevilla once it re-opens on Fifth Avenue?

Valerie:  Oh boy, get ready! The dance floor is going to be bigger and won’t have ruts.   There is going to be a real beautiful stage.  The bar will run the length of the club and is going to be stunning,  A sound system to die for, all placed within the ceiling.  Brand new inside and out, Sevilla is going to raise the bar for salsa clubs in San Diego.

Ritmo Bello:   Why do you think Downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is so popular for dancing salsa?

Valerie:   Probably, because Salsa has been there longer than in any other area of San Diego and people are used to going down to the Gaslamp.

Ritmo Bello:   While Café Sevilla is closed are there any salsa venues that you’d like to share and recommend to the San Diego dance community?

Valerie:   Thank you John.  Here are some:

*Sundays you can find us at Tio Leo’s 5302 Nappa Street for our $5.00 Salsa Sundays. Its a great central location with ample free parking and a great Sunday Hang out. We start at 7:30PM with and Salsa class followed by 2 DJs “New Yo Rican” and DJ Andre.

*We have taken Sevilla’s Tropical Tuesdays (Bachata and Merengue) to Club U31 in North Park with dance class at 9:00 followed by DJ Israel and Alex el Heavy. Cover only $5.00.

*No Cover Thursday Salsa at La Fiesta 628 5th Ave in the Gaslamp is the best! Dance class at 8:30PM and DJ New Yo Rican at 9:30PM.  Entrance and class is free and La Fiesta offers drink specials and appetizers.

Upcoming events include:

Our Annual Holiday Party Saturday Dec 4 at Tio Leo’s featuring Charlie Chavez y su Afro Truko!

APotluck and Dance for David’s Birthday at Dancing Unlimited 4569 30th St on Sat Dec 25th

Our Signature New Year’s Eve con Salsa which will be held this year at Tio Leo’s. Our New Years Party is the San Diego’s longest running Salsa NY Party. Dance class/mixer, DJ, JD Salsa All Star Orchestra, NY celebration w/ champagne toast and followed by lite buffet with coffee! For more information check

Finally in March we are hosting a group trip to Puerto Rico. We go every year to take in the sights and the Dia Nacional de la Salsa. More information stay tuned to

Ritmo Bello:   What direction do you see salsa dancing going in San Diego’s dance scene? Do you think interest in bachata and other Latin dances will ever eclipse salsa dancing here in San Diego?

Valerie: I really enjoy bachata and hope it is here to stay.  I have watched other “flashes” come and go but this is different. It reminds me of cha cha cha in the sense that no one used to play it and no one would dance it and now it is a part of the salsa dance format.  I think bachata will be incorporated into the group of dances considered salsa.  Personally I think it will give more musical variety to the music and dance in salsa clubs.  However there is the possibility that bachata may take off as an off shoot developing new clubs specializing in bachata and merengue.  It will be interesting to see how it goes.

Ritmo Bello:   With so many new dance teams, instructors and groups now in San Diego how do you explain the great continued success you’ve experienced over so many years?

Valerie:   That’s a rough one, John. You know I don’t want to give away any of my secrets! I guess I attribute it to the fact that I really love people and salsa. For me, whether it be promotion, booking, consulting, managing, teaching or publishing my funky newsletter; my involvement in the salsa community is more of an obsession than a vocation.

Ritmo Bello: What advice can you give to new people that find salsa dancing and want to learn?

Valerie: Enjoy the process! Take some club classes, laugh and if you enjoy it, consider taking a group private class to fine tune your dance skills.   Get some of this music and listen to it as much as you can. If you can get comfortable with the music, I think you will find the learning process will be easier.

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

Valerie: I think after traveling around, I find that San Diego’s salsa community is made up of a really friendly group of people.    No problems, they just want to dance and have a good time!

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

Valerie:  My website is, email, phone (619) 516 4466

Ritmo Bello: Valerie, Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to seeing you at the new Cafe Sevilla!

Valerie:  See you soon!

VIDEO: Sinai Ajuria, Brian Sforzo & Kris Babao Performing LIVE at Blue Agave Nightclub San Diego, CA

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

This is just a quick Ritmo Bello YouTube video from Blue Agave’s Jerry Rivera concert.  Before Jerry took the stage Sanai Ajuria, Brian Sforzo and Kris Babao all prepared the crowd for what ended up being a great night of salsa dancing in San Diego.

Blue Agave’s next event is the Invaders concert on Wednesday November 10 and you can find out more info about here on Ritmo Bello.

See you all tomorrow night for Victor Manuelle and friends at the Invaders concert!

John ;-)


Thoughts About the San Diego Flamenco Dance Scene By Guest Writer Marisol Apostol

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Over the years I’ve received a number of inquiries regarding Flamenco dancing in San Diego, so I wanted to get an expert on the subject to talk a little about the San Diego Flamenco dance scene.  Marisol Apostol is a local San Diego flamenco dance teacher who writes for and designs award-winning jewelry when she is not dancing. Hope you enjoy it!

John ;-)



Thoughts About the San Diego Flamenco Dance Scene By Guest Writer Marisol Apostol

I love flamenco.

Yes, fast percussive foot stomping with sharp hand-clapping and powerful lament-like singing. There is nothing like it… It’s raw.

Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s when the Gypsy Kings where in full swing, I dreamt of dancing their contagious bubbly rhythms. Every time their songs came up on the radio I would strike a pose and stomp my feet, not that I knew was I was doing, but I kept dreaming about it.

The day came when I found a flamenco class here in San Diego. Oh the angst of a new relationship with dance. I was so excited and ready to dance, I knew all the Gypsy King songs and I had danced all my life (my short 19-year life). I am going to pick this dance in no time I thought to myself. Yeah right?! I was in for a treat.

San Diego Flamenco Dancers

Photo by Tareq Zatari

Flamenco comes from Andalusia (Southern Spain) and it’s believed it originated in Rajasthan, India. One might think it’s an easy dance form but let me tell you, it’s vast and rich rhythms are indeed challenging even to the trained ear. The “compas” (rhythm structure) is diverse with many possible styles and emphases. I’m not talking about the 4/8 count that we all know… but 6/8 rhythms that for no rhyme or reason are complete out of this world. Well, there is a rhyme and a reason, but that will take me a whole year of blogging to explain it. And to make matters a bit more exciting, the dance must follow live “cante” (singing). So much for me dancing to the pre-recorded music huh?

So here I am twenty-one years later and still learning about this awesome art form. I’ve learned to move way past the the Gypsy King and other pseudo flamenco music. I learned to dance, to do palmas (hand-clapping), to do some singing -which my students endure so graciously. Most of all, I’ve learned to think less as a dancer and more as a musician, a percussionist in fact, and to create music with my feet. I’ve learned to let my body express raw emotions and to dance from the heart. I’ve learn to listen.

Now, you be it.

Joins us! San Diego is blessed with a several flamenco instructors in dance, guitar, and singing who teach some of the various flamenco styles: gypsy, classical, modern, fusion. Also you can experience flamenco at the local tablaos and performances. Find more information about San Diego flamenco happenings at

Now, if you’ll excuse me, there is a wooden dance floor waiting for me. I must go and get my daily dose of flamenco footwork.

Guest Writer Marisol Apostol

John F. Bello

Meet John ;-)

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