“I started dancing, as a bboy first. Back then, in 1984, there was no Youtube, nothing like that. We would just see something on commercials or on TV – some breakdancing moves- and dancing looked like a positive way for us to channel our energy.
That’s how we got started, and maybe also because we thought it would help us get the girls at first (laughs). But later, you realize there is so much more to it. And when you get into dancing so deep, it becomes your passion.
I love dance, but it is the pioneers of Hip Hop who really inspire me. Crazy Legs, The Rock Steady Crew, and all the others who, despite the criticism they faced from everyone that didn’t believe in hip hop and breakdancing at the time, just kept going with it.
If it wasn’t for those guys who paved the way for us, those artists who constructed the highway for us, we wouldn’t be enjoying what we enjoy right now.”
-Cezar Tantoko- dancer, coach and choreographer
Creator of Fresh Groove Productions
(To begin at Part 1 – “Dancing has really taken me to a place of healing that I never imagined“- click here)
What has stood out to me about your dancing is that it is much deeper than just steps. You have that heart and passion for it….
SOUL! It’s called SOUL, baby! (smiles).
Yes, exactly (laughs)! So did you grow up with lots of music and dancing in your family? Where did that SOUL (smiles) come from?
Well, yes, we did listen to A LOT of music. And my sister –Irene Otero- and my brother – Ismael Otero – are six and seven years older than me. So imagine, when I was seven, they were in their teens. What do you think they were blasting? – Music EVERYWHERE. They were really into breakdancing and all that crazy stuff. And with the dancing, well, my brother and sister used to battle- in breakdancing battles, on the street. And THEY WERE BAD ASS! My sister was a beast! Don’t mess with her. Don’t even try (laughs). The way she is now in salsa is the way she was then in breakdancing, and of course, my brother too. They were the best. And I was the little sister. And so for me, oh my God, that was all normal to me (smiles). It was what I grew up with.
So at a certain point, did you start taking formal classes in any type of dance at all?
I’ve never taken formal dance classes except for learning salsa from my brother. My brother learned from Luis Zegarra, ‘cause Luis lived upstairs from us and we grew up with him. And then my brother decided to start doing his own thing. And I would just go hang out, ‘cause salsa was not my thing, in the beginning. But I learned the basics, and I caught on very quickly. Within the first three months, I was winning competitions with my brother. It was unbelievable- me and my brother were on a rampage, taking over the WORLD, just winning competitions, street-style. No rehearsals. None of that stuff. It felt like it was in us already.
But it’s not until NOW that I notice that I had a talent. The way I look at my videos now, I never looked at them like that before. So I’m kind of looking at them with different eyes now.
Wow. That must be interesting for you.
It is. It is. And I’m in awe, because I never realized I had talent then. I was grateful that people enjoyed watching me. But I never understood why. I just enjoyed dancing. You know, I never did it for attention. I’m gonna be honest, my intentions were NEVER to be in the public eye because I AM a private person. And I am a little shy, believe it or not (smiles).
And I’m learning about myself through all this stuff that I’m going through now with the MS. I didn’t really know that I had impacted so many people. And it makes me feel good right now. It makes me feel amazing to see so many people write me- oh my God- so many emails! And it’s too much for me to even respond to. That’s why I like that I’m even doing this interview, because people will also get to know me a little better through this. Up until now, they know me for my name, but they don’t know my story or who I really am.
“I got inspired to dance because of my brother. Him and his friends- they had a dance group and they didn’t really have a place to practise, so they practised in our garage. I’d sit down and just watch them and thought it was really cool. And then I’d find myself in the mirror, trying to bust a move or two myself (smiles).
But yeah, why dance? As you mature, as you grow up in this environment, what people don’t really understand is that Dance is an art. Like in a painting, people paint how they feel, right? Well, in dance, your choreography, or just how you freestyle, could depend on your emotions, how you feel inside too. Dance also builds your self- confidence. You become more confident in what you do, in dance, and in other parts of your life too.
And even if we can inspire just one person to take a dance class or something, well, that’s all we ever really wanted to do as a team, I think. It’s not always really about winning competitions or being high class dancers. It’s just about showing that we do honestly care about a lot of people out there. And we hope that what we do can help them in the future.”
– Gabriel Galedo – Age 14- member of The Freshh Crew
It is my pleasure to share a special photo feature this month involving three fellow dancers and friends from our very own Vancouver dance community!
Carlos Molina and Nicole Chan are captured here in a beautiful moment of dance by photographer and dancer Elina Sumichan. The photo was taken at a recent event in Vancouver called Kizomba Temptation. Thank you Elina for hosting and organizing such a magical night, and special thanks to Nelda Sumichan for providing us with such an elegant, intimate venue in which to get our Kizomba dance on! It definitely proved to be a great night of mingling, music, and fun memories. I am thrilled to be able to share one of those moments here as Elina’s shot of Carlos and Nicole will be our new header photo for this season.
“When I’m having a good night out dancing, I feel confident, playful, and a little bit sexy. And along with my own feelings, if I get the connection I want with my partner in the dance, she’ll (heck, sometimes “he’ll”- haha!) feel those same emotions as well. Sharing those feelings, even if only for three-and-a-half minutes at a time, can be a touch magical…and/or really hot. I also like to follow in salsa and bachata when I get the opportunity. It’s a total mind bender to hold the other end of the communication line. It’s fun in its own right, and it makes me a better lead, too.”
Photo by Jeff Mendoza of Commence Vision Studios
And that’s exactly what dancing is for me- it’s how you deliver it. It could be the most basic thing, the most basic step, but enjoy it (smiles). .. When people watch me enjoying the dancing, that allows them to enjoy it too…
So that’s my other piece of advice: Be sure to enjoy your every dance.”- Griselle Ponce
My mom always tells me to protect my “little dancer”. I have a picture of me when I was three years old, in my little tutu, and it’s important for me to protect her, to protect that girl. I think that can be really hard when you walk into a really cut-throat business. It’s not necessarily the people that are cut-throat, but the business is. You have to be the best you can be. You have to be your best you at every audition, at every opening, at every huge gathering and get together.You have to be your best self and in order to be that or do that, you have to BELIEVE in your best self, I think. – Mary Antonini