Breaking Through Physical Barriers: A Ritmo Bello Interview with Reinaldo Ojeda

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Salsa dancers sometimes hit roadblocks in their dance development that may seem insurmountable.  Due to physical or even mental constraints, many dancers have been challenged as they learn the dance.  Many times how they respond to their challenges serves as inspiration for us all.

One individual in particular epitomizes this in his own development as a salsa dancer.  Dancing salsa with one leg and a crutch, Reinaldo Ojeda shows us all that even the most challenging constraints can be overcome.  Below is a short interview of Reinaldo Ojedo, a truly exceptional salsa dancer.

John ;-)



Ritmo Bello: Reinaldo, thanks for agreeing to sit down for this interview. Let’s begin.  Being a salsa dancer with one leg really sets you apart from anyone else in the world as a dancer.  What sorts of challenges did you face when you were first learning to dance salsa?

Reinaldo Ojeda:  My  biggest challenge was the disability itself I suffered at birth due to my umbilical cord .  It caused trouble in my left leg and the cord cut off the flow of blood causing the leg to die in the my mother’s womb.  My family treated me as a normal child nonetheless and I played with my brothers and cousins at my  grandparents house growing up.  We always met during weekends to share a luncheon or a birthday and I grew accustomed to playing soccer and other games with them up to the age of 5 using a crutch.   As I got older I realized other kids not part of our family would look at me differently and question my abilities to play with them.  By the time I was 7 though I had grown in confidence and even played soccer at my school as part of the team. It was during this time that my mother taught me to dance and I was always around my family who were all musically inclined.  My uncles and Grandfather Carlos Cabrera had a band were they sang boleros and I was able to get exposure to all types of music like salsa, meringue, etc.

Ritmo Bello: What motivated you to begin salsa dancing?

Reinaldo Ojeda: My love of dancing came about a few years ago with my brother when we were frequenting a bar in Bogota called THE BRIDGE PA¨ALLA.  One day a few salsa dancers appeared, dancing very nicely and introducing me to the dance.   At that time I did not think I had talent for it until the owner of the bar Arvey Walteros  proposed that I try to learn the dance and perform in front of his customers.  I took on the challenge and was a hit not just at his bar in Bogota but in other places I performed.  The experience opened my thoughts to other things I could with my life including something different like dancing.

Ritmo Bello: As a Colombian American I know that Colombian salsa dancing has a huge impact worldwide through cities such as Cali.  Being from Colombia, can you describe how Colombian salsa dancing has influenced your development as a dancer?

Reinaldo Ojeda:  Salsa dancing in Colombia is best known not only as a quick dance but also for the technical side of it as well.  Its been difficult for me to keep my speed and technical dance moves up to what is known in Colombia, but I’ve worked hard to not fall behind.  I perform at the best salsa academy in Cali, Swing Latino, on a monthly basis doing salsa cabaret shows.  I take pride showing my skills and demonstrating to people in Cali that salsa dancers from other parts of the country like Bogota have their own salsa talent.

Ritmo Bello: What advice can you give to someone who may be disabled but wants to learn how to dance salsa as you did?

Reinaldo Ojeda:  In life we all have some sort of disability whether its physical or mental.  This is true even with the most ‘perfect’ of people.   In many ways the real disability though is a mental one that prevents us to do things even if we can physically.  There are examples of people like me who have worked hard to do things in life despite disability such as the Mexican singer Toni Melendez who even though has no hands still plays guitar with his feet.  I think you need to look at these good examples that God has sent to the world to show that disabilities don’t necessarily have to limit us.

Ritmo Bello: What has been your best memory from your salsa dance experiences?

Reinaldo Ojeda:  My best experiences have been through traveling to other countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, the United State, Italy and other places I never though I would visit and show the world that there exist a reality beyond my disability.  Through my travels I’ve also been able to show that Colombia is not all bad as some may think and that we also have a joyful culture in Colombia.

Ritmo Bello: I understand you are actually a Gold medalist in the Para Olympics.  Can you tell me a little about that experience and how it’s impacted your salsa dancing?

Reinaldo Ojeda:  Well for swimming I was part of the Colombian swim team and I feel fortunate to be able to participate in that.  As we say in Colombia you should always be “echando pal ante” or striving to move forward and this experience has helped push my salsa dancing development.  With the support of my parents, my wife Claudia Patricia and my daughter Nicol Saray I feel that they have been my heartfelt motivation to pursue this and dancing.

Ritmo Bello: Do you have any plans of visiting San Diego, California in the near future?  Perhaps to go to the upcoming San Diego Salsa Bachata Festival in September?

Reinaldo Ojeda:  I don’t have any current plans at the moment.  I would like to attend the San Diego Salsa Bachata festival and I’m currently looking into finding funding to allow me to perform at that event.

Ritmo Bello:  What advice can you give to people that are new to salsa dancing?

Reinaldo Ojeda:  Learning how to dance is not always easy but with work its rewarding to know that you can get to a high level of proficiency.  People can get to the level of dance where they can even perform like me with that hard work and dedication taking them to levels they may not have even thought possible.

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

Reinaldo Ojeda:  Sure.  If anyone wants to reach me they can  communicate with me  in Bogota, Colombia through:

Mobile 57-3133295999

Mobile 57-3184757330

Land Line 571-7021622

They can also visit YouTube and type in my name, Reinaldo Ojeda, to find lots of videos of my dancing like the ones appearing in this interview.

Ritmo Bello: Reinaldo, Thank you for your time and everything you to do inspire salsa dancers worldwide.

Reinaldo Ojeda:  Thanks to Ritmo Bello for giving me the opportunity to do this interview.  I want to send a very special greeting to all my fans in Colombia and worldwide, that God bless them always.  Remember that salsa is life!

Do you want to see Reinaldo Ojeda at the 2010 San Diego Salsa & Bachata Festival?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Colombian salsa performer, Reinaldo Ojeda, contacted me recently to see if there would be any interest from our salsa community to see him perform at the 2010 San Diego Salsa & Bachata Festival.  The videos here are ones he sent me to share with all of you.  What do you all think?  Share your comments here please.

John ;-)

Ritmo Bello

John F. Bello

Meet John ;-)

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