Reminisce on VIS! – A series of 5 brief artist interviews from the Vancouver International Salsafestival 2013.

VISIt’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.

Giana and Nery5

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.

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Joan- “When I’m dancing, I am untouchable…I become a moment … that will only happen once.”

joan de los reyes.3jpgFrom the moment I met Joan at Danzaire Studio, I noticed a unique energy about her.  At first, it seemed like a kind of quiet, friendly, charisma on the outside.  But the more that we talked, the more I understood that there was an even bigger and ‘louder’ depth of character looming inside of her.  And boy was I right.  I soon learned that there was remarkable story of strength and resilience behind Joan and her dancing, a story of courage and inspiration that I am so honoured to be able to feature in the form of an interview here on Dance Me Free.

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Celia Cruz’s Cure For Headaches…

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celia c“My life is singing. I don’t plan on retiring. I plan to die on a stage. I can have a headache but when it’s time to sing and I step on that stage there is no more headache.”- Celia Cruz

Thank you VIS for connecting us even deeper to Celia Cruz and her music!

celia_cruz“You would give up your career if you lost your voice for good, or if the impresarios stopped calling, or the audiences stopped coming. But as long as those things are there, I don’t plan to stop. There is nothing that makes me feel better than to be with my public.”- Celia Cruz

Yesterday, I was running around trying to get too many things done, in what seemed like not enough time. And then I thought, what am thinking, heading downtown from North Vancouver during rush hour traffic to go see… a movie? Really?  The cars were at a standstill and my mind was telling me to turn back and just head home.  So I started slowing down but … I missed the first turn, and then couldn’t get myself to take the second for some reason.  It was as if something kept nudging me to keep going, even though I had no space to move forward to.  But somehow, I actually managed to get over to the Van City Theatre just in time to catch the screening of the Celia Cruz movie that the Vancouver International Salsafestival (VIS) were putting on. And boy, it was so worth the traffic I had to get through to get there.

What an inspiring way to start off the week of the festival.  Not only did the screening begin with an amazing promotional video for VIS- recapping some of the highlights of VIS over the past four years- but, I was blown away by the touching details about Cruz’s life and personality that I didn’t know before. Artists of many genres were commenting on the
legacy that Celia left behind.

Celia was described as “pure breath”, “born of rhythm,” and “possessing an energy that you couldn’t help but to be drawn to” by artists such as Quincy Jones, Eddie Torres, musicians connected to the Fania All Stars, and even modern artists such as Pitbull.  The way Celia captivated her audiences not just by her music, but also by her persona- her connection to people and her songs of happiness and positivity- shown in the movie, was a great reminder of how one person can have a huge influence on millions of people of all generations.

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Thank you VIS for continuing to give Celia an audience long after her life and passing on her legacy not just as an artist but as an inspiring woman in history.  This legendary artist lives on in many hearts all over the world, and I know that after what I learned from the movie last night, her music will carry an even deeper meaning to me and all those who came out to watch it and to dance a little before and after the screening!

Looking forward to more fantastic dancing, learning, and unforgettable memories this weekend at VIS!

Check out the site for tickets and schedules and the amazing line up of instructors and performers from all over the globe!  You don’t want to miss this.  It’s the last one!

Vancouver International Salsafestival

“My goal is… just to make the world dance.” -Ryan Morrissette

“Those who say it cannot be done shouldn’t interrupt the people doing it.”

– Chinese Proverb

This is definitely one of my favourite quotes because it continues to remind me of the power of our own inner strength, despite the obstacles we might face.  But what I love the most is meeting people who prove to be amazing examples of this- those individuals who, because of their own will, passion, and courage, manage to go beyond what they might normally be thought capable of doing, and then often inspire others to do the same.

Little did I know that one of these individuals, who I had the pleasure of meeting  recently, Ryan1would be a young teen- Ryan Morrissette.  Ryan, a member of the hip hop crew Freshh,  is a talented, charismatic dancer whose energy is well, … contagious, to say the least.  His hard hits, quick and clean moves, and overall enthusiasm on stage definitely draw the attention of his audiences.   But even off stage, Ryan seems to often be found smiling and sharing a positivity with friends and strangers alike that is truly refreshing.  So when I heard that this young dancer has been dealing with a serious health condition since the age of two, I couldn’t believe it. You’d just never know that Ryan has Cystic Fibrosis if you saw him out there – the way he always seems to be giving it his all- whether on stage dancing, or co-emceeing and event, or just hanging out with his friends.

But that’s what Ryan does- he gives his utmost to this passion he has for dance, and to life in many ways, it seems.  In fact, rather than letting CF stop him from pursuing his love of dance, Ryan uses dance as a way to heal his condition and to reach others out there to remind them to live life to the fullest. “I wasn’t supposed to be able to do a lot of cardiovascular exercise,” says Ryan. But if you saw him out there, training, leaping, doing flips and tricks- well, Ryan has pushed through many physical obstacles that might otherwise cause another person in his shoes to not even attempt any of it.  And that kind of perseverance is extraordinary . Continue reading

Dancing Makes My Day!- by Justin Nicolas

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“The way I got into dance was through watching movies and TV shows.  I’d see all the mainstream dancing and I thought it was really cool.  So I started dancing and training. And sure, it sucks sometimes when I make plans with my friends from school and then I remember I can’t hang out with them because I have dance practice.  But then, once I come to dance, well, I kind of forget about those other plans because dance is so much fun.

Justin

The feeling I get from dancing, well, I can’t really explain it. It’s always different.  I could be happy, I could be sad.  But each time I dance, it makes me feel really good about myself.  It just makes my day.  And in our crew, we get to share that feeling with each other, as a family. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it. Because even though we’ve reached a high level, there are others out there who are better than us.  And we don’t want to just stay at the same level.  We want to get better too and be good role models. ”

– Justin Nicolas – Age 15-  member of The Freshh Crew

Props to the Pioneers – by Cezar Tantoko

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Cezar Tantoco“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

Interview with Yesenia Peralta- Part 3

Part 3: “EVERYONE- the world- is helping me through this. You guys are my strength.”- Yesenia Peralta

(Click here to begin at Part 1 and Part 2)

I found out about your health condition when your brother sent me an invite to the fundraiser that was put on for you earlier this year.  I was shocked. I had no idea you were even suffering through anything, let alone multiple sclerosis.  How did the diagnosis come about for you?

MS poster advertIn 2007, I had tingling in my arms and my legs.  And the tingling got worse.  I went to Singapore with my brother, but I wasn’t being very social there, and I wasn’t dancing as much as I used to.  I didn’t know why, but I just wasn’t feeling good.  When I came back from Singapore, it got worse.  It went from my hands to my arms and to my legs.  The tingling got so bad that I couldn’t unbuckle my belt, I couldn’t brush my hair, and I couldn’t write the receipts for my students.  Eventually, I couldn’t teach!

I had to go to three different hospitals before I got admitted because nobody could figure out what was going on.  So I finally get admitted and they released me five days later, without telling me what was wrong, because they said they didn’t know.  And because I didn’t have insurance, they couldn’t continue to just keep me there.  So they let me go.  And then little by little, I got better, so I just thought, “Oh, it’s gone.  All right.  Back to work!”   I opened up another school and didn’t think twice about what had happened.

Then, in 2010, I get this feeling again- tingling, numbness, and all that stuff.  And then finally, I got diagnosed in August of that year.  But when we finally saw the paperwork from 2007, it said ‘possible Multiple Sclerosis’ on it!  2007! Why couldn’t the doctors have just mentioned that word to me then?  But no, they didn’t.  And that’s how I found out three years later.

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Photo Feature #2- Nicole Chan, Carlos Molina, and Elina Sumichan

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. 

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VIS 2013- The Finale- The question is no longer WILL YOU BE THERE? It’s WHY WOULD YOU WANT TO BE ANYWHERE ELSE?

The Vancouver International Salsafestival (VIS) has easily been one of the most successful, fastest growing, and not to mention hottest dance events to hit Vancouver.  In the few years that it has been running, it has drawn many of the top Latin dance performers, artists, and instructors from around the world.  Moreover, the attendees of the festival come from a range of cities just to dance and learn and socialize with other fellow dance addicts.  The connections that are made between all the dancers just leaves everyone ‘wanting more’- as one of the first VIS slogans so appropriately described it.

So when I heard that next year was going to be the last of the VIS, I was completely surprised.  I couldn’t believe that such an incredible event was soon to be coming to an end.  But when the creator of the event- Cheyenne Kamran- began explaining the reasoning behind the decision, I definitely could appreciate and admire his conviction to maintain the quality of the event.  And I thought it important share his thoughts with others through this interview.  It was great to hear Cheyenne reminisce on the memories he holds of VIS but also to see the utter excitement he feels for the next and final year!  “Make no mistake,” says Cheyenne, “this year will be the craziest most epic event anyone has ever experienced. Because guess what? There is no next year!”

And that’s why it’s easy for me to say that you just all got to be there!

People have often told me they are shocked when they meet you because you’re so young.  It’s impressive that someone your age began what has turned into such a huge and successful event.  How DID the idea come about for you for VIS?

Cheyenne: Oh my God (laughs).  Okay. Well, to back up a bit, I was about twenty one when I tried out salsa at UBC.  But at the same time, I was playing a lot of soccer so I didn’t really have time to dance salsa.  And then, at one of the soccer games, I tore my ACL and I had to have surgery.  And the doctors told me not to play soccer anymore.  And for some reason, I thought that dancing would be easier on my knees (laughs). So I started taking classes, and I just fell in love with the dance.  By then, I was a twenty-two year old kid excited about the dance and I wanted to DO something more with it.   And for me, call it a weakness or a strength, I’m not sure, but when I get excited about something, I’ll take action on it, you know?

So the more I got into dancing, the more I wanted to put on salsa events.  So we started with smaller events first with about eighty people attending, and then it kind of grew from there.

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