San Diego, CA: Land of Salsa Dance Competition Teams

Friday, January 22, 2010

At first glance you probably wouldn’t think that San Diego has much going on apart from the traditional surfing and other recreational diversions for which this place is known. It takes a simple look under that well known surface to see that San Diego is a teeming hot bed of salsa dance talent.

Much of that dance talent is due in part to the myriad of salsa dance competition teams that offer a wide array of styles and philosophies of salsa dance. San Diego is fortunate to have a salsa scene influenced by such a great group of performers that help inspire those new to the scene to learn more about the dance.  Here at Ritmo Bello I’ve been privileged to get to know these performance groups over the years and I wanted to highlight some of them here.

Well known performance groups like Majesty in Motion and dancers from A Time To Dance Studio have excited audiences through the years through innovative dance. Newer dance companies such as Alma Latina and Salsa Susie’s Cosabellas & Hot Tamales have done a great job of expanding salsa dancing to a wider group of people. Some local San Diego talent has seen great national exposure such as Junior & Emily’s Amicitia Dance Company and Serena Cuevas Deseo Dance.

These and many other dance teams which I haven’t mentioned here all deserve to be recognized for the great exposure they give salsa dancing to the general public. For many people here in San Diego, joining a dance team is a great way to accelerate your learning of salsa dance while expressing yourself through performance.

If you’ve had a good experience with a local San Diego dance team feel free to leave a comment on this post.

John ;-)

Ritmo Bello

Ritmo Bello Interviews San Diego’s Salsa Susie of Ooh La La Dance Company

Friday, April 10, 2009

 Salsa Susie from Ooh La La Dance


There are a number of salsa dance companies here in San Diego, California and while most of these companies are similar in many respects, there is always something unique about each one. This is especially true for Ooh La La Dance Company.  Under the direction of Salsa Susie (a.k.a Susie Nguyen), this local dance company has pioneered new directions in professional dance through a fusion of salsa and burlesque dance styles.  I sat down with Salsa Susie recently to talk a little bit about her experiences as a professional dancer and how she is pursuing her dreams through salsa dance.



Ritmo Bello: Susie, thanks for agreeing to sit down for an interview.  Let’s begin.  I’ve been hearing a lot lately about your dance company here in San Diego. What would you say is the main focus of your dance company?

Ooh La La Dance Company: Thank you John.  It’s definitely an exciting time for Ooh La La Dance Company.  I am approaching my 1 Year Anniversary and I am so blessed & love how Ooh La La has become a Dancing Empire for dancers & aspiring dancers to call home.  The #1 focus of Ooh La La Dance Company is make every dancer’s dream come true.  My dreams have transpired into reality with Ooh La La Dance Company so I want salseros, dancers, average everyday people learn how to dance/perform & have a fabulous time doing it!  Music is every dancer’s diet & dance feeds our soul.  I am 100% committed and invested in teaching all my students whether they are beginners, advanced, young or old to dance, perform, compete, travel and create unforgettable memories in the process.    We are having our 1 Year Anniversary coming up on Saturday, April 25th, 2009.  It’s open to all ages!  We are celebrating by having Ooh La La’s 50 dancers perform at the showcase!  I’m having my 6-7 year Salsa Girls perform, my 10-12 year Dare Dance Kids perform, the Hot Tamales, Cosabellas, with guest dance teams such as Alma Latina Salsa Dance Company, Body Poets Breakdancers, DOC Hip Hop Dance Crew, and Sininho Samba come perform.  The shows are in 2 Acts.  Group Lessons Starts at 5pm-5:45pm by Salsa Susie.  First Act starts at 6:30pm.  Second Act starts at 7:15pm.  Jack & Jill contest with $100 First Place Winners by Audience Applause.  Salsa Dancing till 10pm.  $10 admission fee goes towards fundraising money for our team’s costumes.  The event will be held at FIREHOUSE LA JOLLA YMCA 7877 Herschel Avenue in La Jolla, CA 92037.  We hope everybody comes to celebrate & support us!

Ooh La La Dance Company

Ritmo Bello: What are the origins of your dance company?  Is there a story to how it was formed? 

Ooh La La Dance Company: I started dancing at 14 years old.  I began with stunts, lifts & tricks, cheerleading, hip hop and dancing on my high school & college dance teams.  I always had dreams to be a fulltime dancer.  I fell in love with teaching because I too started off with 2 left feet and therefore am very kind & patient to beginners.  I could never afford classes so I would always watch & learn.  I was self-taught and self-made until my hard work & talent started to shine and then I started to receive scholarships to take classes from amazing dance teachers.  I started teaching & choreographing at age 15 and now I have accumulated over 16 years of experience in teaching, performing, dancing, competing, and choreography.  I fell in love with Salsa Dancing in 2003 when I learned from Francisco Vasquez and Alex Da Silva and other salseros in Los Angeles.  I have been addicted since!  Salsa Dancing & Burlesque Dancing consume my life!  I quit my 6 figure salary sales job in March of 2008 and took my 4-Person dance company to Bora Bora, French Polynesia on an all expense paid tour to kick off the birth of Ooh La La Dance Company the right way!  We rocked it like the Rich & Famous!  I am a world citizen & traveler starting my world travels at the age of 18 so I have accumulated a wealth of networks and contacts worldwide in exotic destinations.  I travel the globe in high heels and have been fortunate enough to bring other cultures into my life.  Traveling extensively through 35 countries, I dreamt of having a job that combined my two passions in life: Dance & Travel into one fabulous job.  I received my Bachelors in International Business & minor in Spanish & Finance so I possess the know-how to manage, direct & grow a thriving business.  To my dismay all my ideas have worked out and it was a leap of faith to quit my job and pursue dancing full time, but I haven’t looked back since.  The number of countries will surpass 40 by the end of this year when I bring Ooh La La Dance Company on tour through Australia and Asia. 

Ritmo Bello:  Unlike other traditional salsa groups I noticed that you picked a very unique group name.  Why did you choose Ooh La La for your name?

Ooh La La Dance Company:  Ooh La La!  This sassy phrase just rolls off your tongue and our dancing & style just makes people want to say Ooh La La so I just named my company, Ooh La La Dance Company! Ooh La La Dance Company uses a fusion of Salsa, Latin Ballroom, Burlesque, Lifts & Tricks, Samba, and Hip Hop to differentiate us in the marketplace.  I try to think very outside the box and am unconventional with my Dance Company from the music I choose to the choreography I put together, to utilizing everybody’s talent to make a contribution to the dance productions we put on.  We are Ooh La La.  However, under La La there are 2 different dance entities:  The Hot Tamales & Cosabellas.  The Hot Tamales are the Men & Ladies Performance Salsa Dance Team.  Cosabellas are my Burlesque-Salsa Ladies Performance Dance Teams.  Ooh La La is growing in numbers so after our 1 Year Anniversary Showcase & Social, I am creating 2 new teams:  The Hot Tamales Amateurs and Cosabellas Amateurs.       

Cosabellas Team

Ritmo Bello: What type of salsa dancing does your group perform?  What types of influences have impacted how you dance salsa?

Ooh La La Dance Company:  Ooh La La is definitely flashy with our lifts & Tricks that we incorporate into our salsa dancing.  I like to come up with patterns that look big & pretty. I learned in LA where they hit on the downbeat 1 when they dance salsa so I love making a sharp statement when I dance.  I also lived in Spain, Costa Rica & Brazil so I have studied and dance Samba, Flamanco & Salsa at these different countries so I always add these styles and flavor into our dancing.  Also, I am a big fan of Burlesque Dancing.  I love the Pussycat Dolls so I wanted to make sure I came up with the idea of fusing Salsa with Burlesque Dancing as an Ooh La La Trademark.  Ooh La La also has more risque costumes than the tradicional salsa costumes.  I love fashion & I want my dancers to always look HOT!  I love using cutting-edge music for my choreography.  I don’t always use salsa although I love all my salsa music.  I like to switch it up and whatever has a great catchy beat, I mix the music & then I dance to interpret the music! 

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

Ooh La La Dance Company:  My main focus is to teach everybody.  We tend to have a younger age Group.  My youngest salsa dancers are 6 years old.  My oldest salsa dancer might have been 87!  The Hot Tamales range from ages 15-35.  My Cosabellas Ladies team tend to be in the age Group of 30!  Thirties are the new Twenties!  Ha!  Ha!

Cosabellas Team

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

Ooh La La Dance Company:  We are always accepting new dancers whether its for only 1 group lesson or if they want to join a dance team.  There are no auditions.  I can teach anybody.  All it takes is patience, kindess and a little bit of love in what you do!  I am creating 2 new Dance Teams at the end of April if anybody is interested, they may contact me, Susie at 805.252.6900 cell or visit my website at  Both Hot Tamales team meet every Wednesdays from 7pm-10pm at the FIREHOUSE YMCA LA JOLLA at 7877 Herschel Avenue LA Jolla, CA 92037.  Cosabellas Pro meet every Thursdays from 7-10pm.  Hot Tamales Beginners will meet every Fridays from 8pm-9pm in addition to the Wednesday practice.  Cosabellas Amateur will meet every Fridays from 9-10:30pm.  Dues are $75 per month.  If you are on the Cosabellas, you can join the Hot Tamales for free at no additional charge. 

Ritmo Bello:  I know that you mentioned earlier that you have personally have traveled all over the world for dancing salsa.  Could you share with the Ritmo Bello audience some of the locales where Ooh La La Dance Company will perform? 

Ooh La La Dance Company:  Ooh La La Dance Company started off at the Exclusive Hotel Bora Bora in Bora Bora, French Polynesia.  We are going to Turks & Caicos to perform in May 2008 for 10 days.  We are confirmed & going to The Great Barrier Reefs to perform in October of 2009.  Bali, Indonesia in October of 2009.  Phuket, Thailand in November 2009.  I am also negotiating to perform in Greece, Morocco and Montenegro for next summer 2010.  Its going to be exciting & my dancers and I have become such great friends.  I negotiate that all expenses are paid for so my dancers just have to go on a vacation for free.   They get to be in 4 to 5 star Hotels, all meals, drinks & local activities are paid for when they go.  It really is a one in a Lifetime experience.  The bill when I left Bora Bora was $50,000 per Dancer after being there for a month & a half.  The bill was all taken care of.with no questions asked!  Ooh La La is really so lucky.  It really pays off to have an strong awesome network of people around the world.  

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?

Ooh La La Dance Company:  I wouldn’t categorize myself as a Celebrity.  I just go for it.  Competing, performing, teaching….all of these activities make you a better dancer.  I’m still improving as a dancer and performer just like everybody else is.  We are having alot of fun dancing & being together.  It’s fabulous & glamourous being in the spotlight.  Every dancer loves to be center stage.  I’m humbled by nice and inspiring messages when people give me & my dancers compliments.  It’s my motivation to keep dancing & do what I’m doing. 

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

Ooh La La Dance Company:  Anybody can contact me directly at:

Susie Nguyen “Salsa Susie”

805.252.6900 cell

858.488.6900 studio or

Ooh La La Dance Company

Ritmo Bello: Susie, Thank you so much for your time and I hope to attend some of your salsa performances in the near future.

Ooh La La Dance Company:  Thank you so much John for this oppurtunity to sit down with you & share with you all of what Ooh La La Dance Company has to offer & share our story!  We appreciate it! 

John F. Bello

Meet John ;-)

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