If you’ve been a part of the San Diego Salsa dance scene for a while now, you probably know Erika Briones. Deeply involved in the local dance scene and with connections to some of San Diego’s best dance teams, she has made a name for herself through her unique documentaries showing a behind the scenes view of a dancers life. These “SalsaMentary” videos also allow those who have been a regular part of the scene to delve further into the genres and stories that make up this great San Diego dance community. I hope you enjoy the interview.
Ritmo Bello: Erika, thanks for taking the time to address the San Diego dance community. Let’s begin. How did you first become involved in the local dance scene?
Erika Briones: I first got into the scene when there was an open house at the ARC which was SDSU’s local gym. At the ARC’s open house they had different vendors, entertainment, and food. My main interest was the entertainment portion so I recall watching a salsa performance by Positive Energy. From that point on I fell in love with this dance called salsa dancing. Soon after I began taking salsa lessons with Michael and Camille from Positive Energy for the first few months until I became part of their team around the fall of 05′. After a year of learning the salsa basics and a few fun dips and tricks I then became part of the Majesty in Motion family. I started on Jennifer Stein’s ladies team and that led to being on the couple Amateur team to the Semi-Pro team and eventually Pro team. I believe a lot of my growth of a dancer came from Majesty in Motion. From MIM I learned a lot of footwork, musicality, and to be good follow. Eventually around the fall of 2008 I then joined Son y Pasos directed by Iran Castillo. Being on Son y Pasos helped me understand more salsa technique as a follow as well as how to improve my salsa spins. In addition to training with salsa teams I have also taken a few salsa workshops from Jason Molina, Santo Rico, and Ana Masacote. Learning as a dancer is never ending experience , there is either a new dance style one wants to learn or there is a new way your basic step. With that said, I am now learning from Deseo directed by Serena Cuevas. So far, I enjoy Serena’s fun fusion of different Latin dances besides salsa like bachata and samba.
Ritmo Bello: How did your initial experience dancing on Positive Energy’s dance team influence your current video documentary work?
Erika Briones: This is a good question John. Even though the idea of videos did not originate from Positive Energy, however, it did introduce me into the world of salsa. Something always originates from something. That being said dancing on Positive Energy has lead to other wonderful projects to originate like the San Diego Salsamentaries. In addition, I also recall one of my other former teammates Ron, would always be into recording the practices and performances and making a video montages which I found fascinating. I guess it never occurred to me that later I would be doing something similar.
Ritmo Bello: When you later worked with Majesty in Motion and Son y Pasos, what did you learn from those experiences that led to you to focusing on the SalsaMentary series?
Erika Briones: My main focus when I was on both Majesty in Motion as well as Son y Pasos was primarily to videotape rehearsals so I could practice at home. Being on both these teams gave me more passion for salsa dancing which created a new hobby of videotaping and editing out of it. The videos in the beginning was mainly used as a learning tool, but one day I was just curious about how all the teams started so I just had the idea to make a mini documentary or as I call it a “salsamentary”.
Ritmo Bello: Looking specifically at the content of your salsa documentaries, what are they mainly comprised of and why did you choose to focus on these subjects?
Erika Briones: This is another good question John. Even though these videos are comprised of the salsa dancing, it’s actually a lot more focused on how people took their passion of salsa dancing to the next level. As easy as it may seem to be a dancer or have a dance studio, it’s actually challenging to get to that level. So I respect and am grateful for all those instructors who produce great dancers because they are the pulse of the scene. Also without the dynamic group of regular dancers then there wouldn’t be a flow that inspires more people to go out each night. Besides the instructors and regular dancers who go out, it wouldn’t be much of a fun and diverse scene without the great salsa music that some of the DJ’s here play (DJ Bongo,DJ Mambo DJ Rumbero, DJ Rome).
Ritmo Bello: What has been the reaction of the salsa instructors and personalities that you’ve highlighted to the ultimate videos that you’ve created?
Erika Briones: A lot of the people interviewed loved the videos. In my first salsamentary I received a lot of great feedback and without that feedback then I wouldn’t slightly improve each video regardless of content, lighting, timing, or just the interview questions themselves. Currently I am getting some film advice from other people who do this professionally like Daniela Aguilar and Danny Castillo. Daniela Aguilar who worked as a producer in T.V. gave me some great insight into angles, frames, and dynamics. Danny Castillo who has his own film production (thirtyfiveproduction) gave me mostly encouragement and support in the process. Overall, I want to thank everyone again for those who were interviewed and those who support my San Diego Salsamentaries.
Ritmo Bello: Do you ever get approached from people that you’ve filmed asking what the documentary is all about?
Erika Briones: I sometimes get approached by people and some of them tell me how they look forward to the next one. That simple acknowledgement alone motivates me for more videos to work on.
Ritmo Bello: What are you plans for future videos you may produce in 2011?
Erika Briones: Once I take care of all minor computer glitches, then I plan on making more videos in the future. I am currently working on a video promotional trailer of all the upcoming episodes coming up. The episodes coming up will continue to focus on the club scene like Marriott, Prospect, Club SPIN, team socials, and then other episodes will focus on teams like Alma Latina, Salsa Divas, Deseo. Finally I plan on making an episode called “Old School” vs “New School” where people who have been dancing for 10+ years will discuss how the scene was back then and the new generation will discuss how it is now while also asking each other questions in between. Also I hope to make a collaborative video with Daniela and Danny in the future. Besides that I am looking forward to more fun in making these videos and adding different elements and techniques to it so here is to another season of filming and editing.
Ritmo Bello: Of all the videos you’ve created which documentary is your favorite and why?
Erika Briones: This is a tough question because every video is my favorite in the process of making the video. My top 3 favorites are the first video I made which introduced the series:
My other favorite video is the one of David and Jennifer Stein because of how charismatic and charming both their interviews went. Also I enjoyed adding the bloopers and just the fun process of making that video:
Another video favorite is my last one of Citrus. This was my first collaborative video with my friend Cass, another video editor, who had great transitions of my material:
Now that I think of it I think my next video will be my favorite even though I haven’t started on it yet because I am always enjoying the process of editing the music, adding transitions, and embedding the video clips. The best part of making my videos is not only the people but the wonderful music and people who keep them interesting.
Ritmo Bello: In your opinion, what is the best thing about dancing salsa in San Diego ?
Erika Briones: One of the best things about salsa dancing in San Diego is a moment when the dancing is about to end. The DJ or Promoter announce “This is the last song of the night” but then all the usual dancers say “Otra, Otra!!!” Sometimes my dance shoes are off, but then I have to change back to my dance shoes because the song is too good to waste. Suddenly once your on the dance floor then this great moment happens when all the leads trade off partners so your never dancing with the same partner. Then it happens all over again when they say “Otra!” The fun and enthusiastic people is what makes the San Diego scene simply awesome. Also the scene is very close because there is other activities happening besides salsa like Volley ball, house parties, and road trips. Basically this happy and close-knit community is what makes salsa dancing that much more vibrant.
Ritmo Bello: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the Ritmo Bello readers about you and your work that we haven’t covered yet?
Erika Briones: I would like to share a quote that sums up my feelings about why I am interested in filming dancing: “The history of Latin music and dance is shaped by people; very passionate people. Their unique vantage-points are best glimpsed through the way they articulate of their understanding. These words were, to me, personal flashes of enlightenment”-unknown. With that said everyone’s “vantage-points” like one’s personality on the dance floor creates community. Other than that I would like to thank my subscribers and supporters who keep my projects moving forward. If anyone has an ideas on future episodes or feedback you can contact me.
Ritmo Bello: What is your contact information in case anyone from the Ritmo Bello audience wants to contact you?
Erika Briones: To contact me you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, facebook (http://www.facebook.com/esbriones), or call at (619)822-3292.
Ritmo Bello: Erika, it was a pleasure talking with you today. Hope to see one of your new videos very soon.
Erika Briones: Thank You John and Ritmo Bello for this awesome opportunity. Keep your eyes out for my promo video trailer coming up this month.