Capturing San Diego Salsa One Video at a Time: A Ritmo Bello Interview With Erika Briones

Thursday, June 30, 2011

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.

John ;-)

@Ritmo Bello | Ritmo Bello on Facebook


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, facebook (, 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.

Café Sevilla Releases Statement Regarding July Re-Opening and Reason for Delays

Saturday, June 25, 2011

It seems like everyone in San Diego is waiting for the new Café Sevilla 5th Avenue location to open so it is unfortunate to report that we will all have to wait just a little longer.  Why so many delays?  I was able to get an answer directly from Café Sevilla’s Facebook page that explains with some detail why the reopening is now slated for July and what some of the reasons are for the delay.  Below is the entire statement that Café Sevilla posted on their facebook page on Friday June 24th.

We know that good things come to those who wait, so we continue waiting for San Diego’s next best salsa club to hit our scene.  See you at the new Café Sevilla in July!

John ;-)



Cafe’s Sevilla Statement Regarding Re-Opening (June 24, 2011 at 4:50pm PST)


Due to unforeseen delays in the permitting process Café Sevilla will be unable to open it’s doors in time for the Grand Opening party scheduled for Wednesday, June 29th.

But why?

Doing business in the Gaslamp is both a priviledge and a challenge- the spotlight is not only on us, it is on the city and all organizations representing the city; we must all adhere to strict construction codes in order to ensure the safety of all of our guests while they enjoy the many activities offered in downtown San Diego.

But why is it taking such a long time?

All good things take time. When you walk in the door you’ll see why

and you will be amazed that it only took 9 months!

So when is the new party date?

Wednesday July 27

Why a whole month away?

Take a look at your calendar and maybe you’ll feel the same- July is a busy month for all of us! We have the Fourth of July holiday; American Idols is holding auditions at Petco Park this year- aren’t you going to audition? And then we have Comicon with its hundreds of thousands of attendees and exhibitors. So much happening, so much fun! Hopefully you will not be gone on your summer vacation come July 27th!

But really the whole month will be filled with grand opening celebrations! Stay tuned.

So what do I do if I already bought tickets?

All tickets purchased prior to June 24, 2011, will be honored on July 27, 2011. If you cannot attend, we will gladly and rapidly refund your donation. Please email with your information.

But when will Sevilla open?

Sevilla will open its doors as soon as all agencies grant necessary permits.

It will definitely be before July 27th, probably closer to the beginning of the month.

If you want to be first to be notified we ask that you please visit our facebook page on a regular basis or sign up to receive our email newsletters.

Do you need to vent?

We totally understand… Please come chat with us on our facebook page. We do want to hear from you and we will promptly answer your questions. And who knows? You may yet be the next winner of a pair of tickets! Now we have lot’s more time, we will give away a pair every week until the new date!

Colombian Salsa Music Group Grupo Niche Performing LIVE at Blue Agave Nightclub June 24th

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Grupo Niche, one of Colombia’s premiere salsa bands, is once again returning to San Diego in June and will be playing live in concert at Blue Agave Nightclub.  The group is well known for its high energy salsa music and engaging live performances. The two videos below show a glimpse of them performing at Blue Agave Nightclub the last time they visited San Diego:


The concert is on Friday June 24th and tickets can be purchased online at TicketMaster or at the door at the club.

See you all at the Grupo Niche Concert!

John ;-)


San Diego Dia de San Juan Salsa Festival to Feature Spanish Harlem Orchestra

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Dia de San Juan Salsa Festival is hitting San Diego later this month and we are lucky to have Spanish Harlem Orchestra on hand to headline the event.  That’s right, the 2 time Grammy Award winners will be performing LIVE at the event along with Conjunto Costazul and J.D All Stars.

Here are some videos of Spanish Harlem Orchestra and Conjunto Costazul for you to get a quick preview:

This festival will be a full day event starting at 10am and ending at 6pm.  Best part about it is that it will be a FREE event for kids 12 and under.  Everyone else can purchase tickets in advance for the event.

For more information about the event and to RSVP with the San Diego Salsa and Latin Dancing Meetup Group please visit the event page here.

See you all at the San Diego Dia de San Juan Festival!

John ;-)


San Diego Salsa Dancers Await Re-Opening of Gaslamp Quarter’s $2.7 Million Cafe Sevilla

Saturday, June 4, 2011

When people mention Cafe Sevilla to me the question today is always, “When will Cafe Sevilla Re-open?!”  Well, San Diego salsa dancers your 8 months or so of waiting is coming to an end.  Cafe Sevilla is re-opening in its new 5th Avenue location with a whopping 10,000 square feet restaurant and club this month.  The former location was only 7,000 square feet back on 4th Avenue and Spanish-born owners Rogelio and Janet Huidobro have invested $2.7 million in making sure that the new location meets every salsa dancers’ expectations.

Some of the major changes will include a  larger tapas bar when compared to the old location and an underground nightclub that will accommodate 330 people. We are talking capacity for 90 additional salsa dancers compared to Cafe Sevilla’s old digs.

My hope with the new location is that it meets the needs of San Diego’s salsa dancers and that they bring quality, LIVE entertainment that San Diego sorely needs in a venue.

Cafe Sevilla’s Grand Opening Party & Fundraiser to benefit the It’s All About the Kids Foundation is scheduled  for June 29th but the real salsa dancing  will begin on a regular schedule on Thursdays each week.  I’m already working on getting the first Thursday of each month designated as night and I will get details to you all soon about it.

See you sometime in June at the new 5th Avenue Cafe Sevilla!

John ;-)


John F. Bello

Meet John ;-)

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