It’s been four months since The Vancouver International Salsafestival (VIS) 2013. And I still smile an extra big smile whenever I run into one of the team members or even just think about the great time I had over that weekend in March. Keeping in touch with some of the out of town guests and instructors that I met over the course of the festival weekend also brings back good feelings of the time we shared. I know I made some amazing new friends and connections through VIS, and also gathered memories that I will carry with me for a long time.
In particular, I thoroughly enjoyed getting to speak to some of the artists personally, asking them questions about what inspired them, and what drives them to continue in their various art forms.
I am excited to share with you some of their words, in a series of short interviews that were conducted over during the VIS 2013 festivities. Each interview will be presented under the larger title ‘Reminisce on VIS.’ Thank you so much to each of the interviewees for the time and thoughtfulness you put into your responses.
It is with great pleasure that I introduce the first of the series of five interviews:
INTERVIEW 1: Giana Montoya (of Shiva Latina), and Nery Garcia (of Elegant Rumba)- from Fort Myers, Florida.
How I made it to the 9am workshop on the Friday morning of VIS, I have no idea. But I’m so glad I did. Acro- Yoga with Nery and Giana was not just a yoga or dance class, but a lesson in balance – physical and inner- and how to use this to make our connection with our surroundings more meaningful. If only we could wake up to this kind of learning every morning!
How did the yoga become a part of your dancing?
Giana: I’ve been a yoga practitioner for eleven years now. I started yoga when I was sixteen, which is about the same time that I started salsa. But I danced many years before that. My degree is in dance and theatre. But yeah, my whole family is really into yoga. My dad is also a yoga teacher. I got him into it.
Giana: I’ve had a lot of injuries. And I’ve had a lot of surgeries. Yoga has been the only thing that’s allowed me to keep going and to do everything I want to because of the way it can rehab my body and also heal some of the emotional scars that go along with injuries.
Nery: Very often, some of us guys come to these dance workshops to learn moves, and all we want to do that same night is pull out those moves. And I was like that before. But now that yoga has become such a big part of my life, and I’ve gotten in touch with this whole ‘meta’* feel (*Sanskrit for ‘loving kindness’) that we talked about in the workshop, I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that dancing is not just about the moves. It’s actually about the connection that you’re having with your partner at that moment.
So for me, yoga has opened up my eyes a lot- my heart and my eyes, actually. And my dancing has gotten even better in the sense that in general, I’m just caring more about my partner than just what moves I can pull on her. And this makes for a better dance for both of us. So my advice to the guys is to get involved in yoga. It’s going to really open you up to a better feel to your dancing.
Were you open to the yoga right from the start, or were you reluctant about it?
Well, Giana introduced it to me. And I trust her so much. I know she would only share something with me that’s good for me. So that made it easier to be open to it.
Giana: Plus, I’m from San Francisco and he’s from Florida. We met at a San Francisco Congress. And when I was going to be moving from home to be with Nery, my dad freaked me out. Before my going away party he said, “Well, before Nery takes my little girl away, I need to have four hours with him.”
And I didn’t know what was going on (laughs), but it turns out my dad actually gave Nery a crash course in yoga for four hours, and they ended up doing a yoga routine at my going away party. So that was my dad’s gift to me -to acknowledge that the practice has to be shared. And Nery learned that if you’re with me, it’s almost like a prerequisite (laughs)- that you have to at least understand the practice.
You described the incorporation of yoga in dance as feeling like ‘moving meditation’. That just gave me goosebumps. The idea of being able to feel that and create that in every dance just sounds so amazing.
Nery: Yeah, and it’s amazing for both partners, because when you’re dancing all night and it’s three or four o’clock in the morning, you have to be in the state of mind where you can just zen… And this meditative state through yoga helps a lot.
Giana: And I’ve been in the congress scene since I was sixteen. I’m twenty seven now. And when you do this every weekend, it can start to get old. Okay, well THIS congress is an exception because this is an incredible, INCREDIBLE event (smiles). But often, at these events, you’re dancing with these partners that have no connection to you. They don’t ‘care about you’ in the sense that they don’t know you. So in order to make it meaningful for me, I have to have the yoga incorporated, and I have to be able to connect with my partner in a way that I feel like I’m becoming a better person when I’m dancing.
Because for me now, it’s about feeling good with what you’re doing, not just physically but also spiritually. That’s when it gets rewarding. That’s when I get home and I think, “Oh my God, the people I met and those couple of days away were just amazing.” It’s not about the moves. It’s not about the dances. It’s always about the relationships. And it’s about the connections. That’s what makes our community so beautiful. I think the salsa community is beautiful because of the relationships we have. And so the more ‘meta’ connections that we can make (smiles), I think the deeper the relationships are.
There are so many types of relationships and connections we make in our lives. If you were able to sit down and interview or chat with anyone in the world or in history that you wanted, who would you choose?
Giana: Prince! (laughs) He’s just awesome and he’s crazy. I want to know how his mind works.
But then I guess I should say someone like… Buddha, right? (laughs). Yeah, okay- Prince and Buddha (laughs). How’s that for a complete answer? (smiles).