I began dancing in my 20’s which, in any professional sense, put me at a severe disadvantage. Thankfully, my journey with expression came at a much earlier time in my life. I graduated with several degrees in the visual arts which have helped me learn “to see.”
Not that I was blind mind you, its just that I became acutely aware that things aren’t always what they seem and that there is always a creative solution to the most challenging problem.
My graphic design degree had put me in a place in life where I was doing well financially, yet the gung-ho creativity and unbridled optimism had been replaced with a small cubicle and a bad case of carpal tunnel syndrome.
I met a teacher who literally changed the course of my life and gave me something that I didn’t even know I wanted and I haven’t looked back since.
Initially, I began as a Salsa dancer in a Chicago scene which had JUST had it’s very first Salsa Congress. As a scene we were young and naive. Thinking we were hot stuff when the rest of the world came by to show us what we still had to learn. It was an incredible experience for everyone involved and the people of the time who are still prominent figures now can attest to the fact that the first congress changed us all.
The group I was in, Descarga Caribe, was the black sheep of the scene. In a way, it suited me well because I was always a bit of an artsy type and was never particularly popular in school or in general. Doing something creative and expressive in a social setting certainly took some getting used to.
Regardless, I began to really feel a sense of fullfillment and purpose in what I was doing. It wouldn’t be until later that I would truly find out where this dancing would take me but at the time, it was a joy and I had never worked so hard on anything in my life.
As our director (Sekou McMillier) grew in ability, so did the team and we went on to represent Chicago all over the world in places like London, Rome, Tokyo, Beijing, San Juan and ALL over the United States.
As all things in life come to a close, Sekou moved on and went on to start in a Broadway show in NYC, and fell in love with the city and never quite came back.
It saddens me to this day that this was the beginning of the end for what I believe with all of my heart to be the most talented group of Mambo dancers to ever come out of Chicago. Most have moved on and some of us have stuck with each other but I believe that we could have conquered the world together if the circumstances had played out differently.
As for myself, I continued to take my dancing seriously and looked to try and grow my skills without the aid of my mentor which lead me to Ballroom dancing! With all honesty, Ballroom is looked VERY down upon by our scene, but being a technical learner as I am, it appealed to me because I grew to find out information that was NEVER presented to me in the past and a whole new idea of what the possibility was when dancing with another person.
In short, Ballroom made me better. So much so in fact that my friend from Descarga Caribe (who coincidentally got me a job at a Dance Studio) and I began to show an interest in, not only the technique, but also in possibility of a (gasp) Latino dance couple who could compete in the Latin Dances as professionals!
So now I am here, really struggling (and loving every moment of it) with a beautiful new dance studio in Logan Square, an incredible dance partner who is also a dear friend and a new dance journey that is sure to take me in a whole slew of different places than ever before!
You might ask what this has to do with teaching, but I think its important to know that everyone has a story, a reason and a drive to do things as a dancer, educator or artist.
I went from a designer in a cubicle, to a director of my own team, a studio co-owner and a professional ballroom competitor. Only someone clinically insane or someone who has the passion to do all of this would be in my shoes.
I take this all very seriously, but I also love it. I teach Mambo because it’s what I believe in and I do it from my heart. I hope that some of you will stop by one day to come and check me, my partner, my friends and our studio out so we can share that passion with you.