Instructor, Performer, Servicemember, Introvert
QUESTION: Who was your first ever dance teacher?
Janet Jackson! But don't get too excited...it was by videotape. I started dancing at the age of 7 when there weren't many dance schools in my hometown. My dance teacher was Janet Jackson...via video cassette tape. I would watch the music videos from her Rhythm Nation album and memorize the choreography. I'm still contemplating whether to attempt the chair sequence from "Miss You Much." Dance has always been in my heart. It has been my background and my foreground at different times but has always been an unwavering presence.
QUESTION: How does a Jersey girl train in dance?
At 18, I began to train in various dances at the Dance Complex in Cambridge, MA. I trained in jazz, Senegalese Sabar, Haitian folkloric, modern, Afro-Jazz, amongst other styles. That place was my second home. Once I graduated and entered the unforgiving world of the jobless college grad, dancing took a backseat. It wasn't until the beginning of 2013 that my love for dancing was reawakened.
QUESTION: When did you first fall in love with Cuban dance?
One cold night while working in New York City, I decided to take a dance class. I was stuck between Chicago Stepping and "Rueda de Casino." Since the salsa class was closer to my office, I decided to sign up. I was so captured by this dance and its community feel that I was determined to become a teacher someday. But later in 2013, I swore to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies and enlisted in the US Air Force. It wasn't until mid-2015 that Rueda reappeared in my life. In the midst of struggling with my mental health, I sought out Rueda classes once more.
QUESTION: When did you start teaching Cuban dance?
Technically, my first "attempt" was in 2013 at Goodfellow Air Force Base, TX. I wanted to put on a morale event, but I had no idea what I was doing! But in the fall of 2015, I met two of my now-mentors, Barbara Bernstein and Scott Wilson, who took me under their wings and trained me to become an instructor. I taught various studios in the Hampton Roads area, and at both Fort Eustis and Langley Air Force Base.
QUESTION: So would you say Rueda changed your life?
Absolutely! In 2016, I started traveling domestically and internationally to deepen my repertoire in not just Rueda, but other Cuban dances including rumba and son. In 2017, as part of an all-female dance troupe Las Guerreras, I performed at the Stockholm Rueda Festival in Sweden. Later in 2017, I traveled to Cuba to train in Cuban modern technique, Son, Cuban mambo, Orisha dancing, and cha-cha-cha. At the start of 2018, I taught in my first international class at Graceway Sports Centre in Providenciales, Turks & Caicos. And in 2019, I choreographed my first show for the Baltimore Salsa Bachata Congress!
QUESTION: What is your teaching approach?
I always start with the basics. In class, we will break down the fundamental movements and patterns. This includes body movement (shoulders, torso and hips) along with footwork and/or figures. I also make sure to give my students some historical context so they understand the origins of the dance.