An Interview with Eddy Deynes – Houston, TX by Johnny Johnson

Eddy DeynesJohnny: First and foremost, thank you for giving La Voz Del Mambo an opportunity to interview you. You have been very influential in developing the On2 salsa scene in Houston, TX.

Eddy: Thank you Johnny. First, let me say I’m flattered by the invitation. I did not know people outside of Texas knew who I was and especially, my contribution to the Salsa & Mambo Community here in Houston and the state of Texas. Once again, thank you.

Johnny: For those that maybe unaware, can you tell us a little bit about your salsa background?

Eddy: Of course, to make a long story short my salsa background started at the age of 5 beginning with the comprehension of dancing and listening to this music in the kitchen with my family, mainly my mother – Esther Ramirez.

Coming from a Puerto Rican background, listening to Salsa and dancing is a way of life. It was a part of our Puerto Rican culture that my parents shared with us while we lived in Brooklyn, New York. You feel me? As I grew older, my appreciation for this music, dance, and my culture grew too. I love to be able to share this with many people here in Houston and the state of Texas.

Johnny: How did you get into teaching and performing salsa?

Eddy: The teaching part has to do with my best friend, Tova Ganurl. She convinced me to teach Salsa. Hesitant at first, my decision to teach came full circle when I picked up a friend at a dance studio. Waiting for her to finish her class, I noticed that someone was teaching a private lesson. As I watched the instructor teach what he called Salsa, I found out he was charging the student $100 an hour. The funny thing was that he wasn’t teaching salsa. He was teaching cumbia to salsa music.

Shocked and upset that he would hustle someone $100, I decided right then it was time for me to teach. I was like, “I can’t believe this!!! I will teach people salsa the right way and for a reasonable price.” So, that is how I started to teach salsa.

Now, concerning performing and competing in the salsa community, that started back in Puerto Rico. On the west side of the island, there was this famous place (back then) called “La Cabaña” (located in Moca, Puerto Rico). La Cabaña would host a Salsa, Merengue and Bachata competition called “La Triple Corona” (Triple Crown) every summer. It wasn’t something I took very seriously, it was more having fun with friends at these locations.

My first serious performances and competitions happened in Houston in 1999, thanks to Ruby Rivera (most of y’all know her as the Co-promoter, along with David Melendez, of the Texas Salsa Congress here in Texas). That would start the beginning of SalsaEddy in Houston.

Johnny: From my understanding, Houston was a predominately On1 dance scene. What motivated you to help to increase the number of mambo dancers in Houston scene?

Eddy: Houston and the state of Texas are still predominately “On1” dancers but they are changing. To be honest, it wasn’t easy to get people in Houston to dance “On2” so, I decided to make the 1st “On2” dance company in Houston. If no one wanted to dance socially “On2” with me, I was going to get nine other people to start dancing “On2” with me, which started the spark here in Houston.

Personally, I think it is awesome to increase your knowledge and ability to dance both styles and many others. I would love people to learn Cuban, Puerto Rican, Colombian, Miami, Afro-Cuban, Bomba y Plena, Casino Rueda, etc. The more we know, the better dancers we become. That is my goal not only for myself but also for others here in Houston and throughout Texas.

Johnny: What were some trials and tribulations you experienced?

Eddy: I would have to say getting people to dance “On2”. While in Puerto Rico for the Salsa Congress my fellow Houstonians would just stand on the side watching the others dance “On2”. I hated the fact that they were not able to enjoy themselves dancing “On2” like myself.

When we came back to Houston, no one would want to dance with me “On2” at the clubs. That was the main thing or obstacle I had to deal with for about two years. I’m glad to have nine people who believed in me and helped make “On2” a reality here in Houston. So, I want to thank the nine original members of S.W.A.T. for making my dream come true.

Johnny: You are the director of several dance projects. However, you have been a member of Yabucua and Salsa Azteca. How do these experiences differ from directing a company?

Eddy: Yabucua was the 1st team I co-directed with three others back in 2001. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a strong background in operating and directing a dance company together. That and the fact that our members did not show their dedication to the company (not showing up to practice, lack of hard work ethic, conflicts with styles between directors) I decided to disband the group.

Taking a break from directing, I decided to join Salsa Azteca Dance Company. I didn’t stay too long but the little time I spent there I learned a lot from Rey Rodriguez, the founder of the team. I observed how he ran his team and made mental notes of the do’s and dont’s of running a dance company. After sitting back, taking notes, and organizing my ideas of running an actual business, I decided to branch off and do my thing again. However this time I had the right formula thanks to my experiences and observations.

Johnny: Can you name the various projects you direct?

Eddy: Besides Yabucua (pronounce Ja-boo-qua) and directing a small group from Salsa Azteca Dance Company, using my formula I decided to create my 1st “On2” Dance Company, S.W.A.T. This is my main team. Once that was establish, I wanted this team to dance “On2” with a mix of today’s and yesterday’s style of Salsa / Mambo.

For those who don’t know, S.W.A.T. means Salsa With Attitude & Timing. After the huge success with S.W.A.T., I decided to establish a Dance Academy. Once I did that, I created three more dance companies. The SalsaEddy Dancers – This is my main “On1” team that is the next generation of salsa dancers here in Houston. The SalsaEddy Project – This is my older team that dances “On2” and brings back what I call “Salsa Clasica”. Las Tribus De La Salsa – The Salsa Tribe dances “On1” with the main focus of dancing Afro-Cuban with the style of today’s and yesterday’s salsa.

Johnny: Who are some of your dancers?

Eddy: Some of the hottest dancers in Texas are part of my team. My main team we have two of the best “On2” dancers in Texas: Melissa Oehl and Reyna Vallejo. On my other teams we have some of the hottest new comers making a name in the Houston Salsa Scene like: Domenica Cancinos and Luis Avila just to name a few. Plus, I have many other dancers that I have taught in my classes that are making an impact in the Houston and Texas Salsa Community. This is definitely a blessing.

Johnny: You decided to discontinue your corporate job in web design to pursue a career as a dance instructor?

Eddy: Yes, I have a degree in business which provided me the knowledge and skills to work for an investment banking firm for four years and two different companies in the E&P department as an Analyst / Web Designer. Three years ago I made the decision to leave Corporate America to do dance instruction and directing full time.

Johnny: How has the experience changed you?

Eddy: It has been a blessing. There is nothing better than working for yourself. To be in total control is priceless. Now, the change wasn’t abrupt; I gradually established myself in the salsa community before instructing and directing full time. It was a transition that over a period of time I decided to leave Corporate America and do my own thing and I thank the lord for blessing me with this new career. I never thought I would be doing this in a million years.

Johnny: Do you have any regrets?

Eddy: None. Only wish I had more days in the week to teach more and more people around Houston. There is nothing more exciting than teaching someone from the beginning and watching them become great social dancers.

Johnny: What advice would you offers to individuals faced with similar decisions?

Eddy: If you plan to do this full-time and you have the business mindset to keep your business running for a very long time then go for it!!! Most importantly, once you walk out the doors of Corporate America don’t you EVER look back. You look forward and focus on moving toward Financial Freedom.

Johnny: Where would you like to see salsa in Houston 5 years from now?

Eddy: I would like to see people from outside of Texas recognizing Houston, Texas as the Salsa & Mambo Capital of the South. We already have the title and are known by locals but I want it to be as big as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. Also, I want Houston and the Texas Salsa Community to keep growing to the point that we have at least one couple to represent us and be recognized internationally.

Johnny: Any additional comments:

Eddy: Johnny, once again I really appreciate this opportunity and thank you. Keep up with what you do for the Salsa Community World Wide!!! God bless!!!

Thank you for everything. Eddy

Eddy Deynes