An Interview with Eric Baez (Orlando) by Johnny Johnson

Eric BaezJohnny: First and foremost thank you for granting La Voz del Mambo this opportunity to interview you. You are undoubtedly one of the mambo scene’s favorite personalities and admired dancers. You were apart of the world-renown Eddie Torres dancers where you were one of the premiere dancers. You have accomplished so much in the mambo world in such a short period. Now you’ve moved to Orlando, FL and founded Universal Mambo. Can you tell us about this new venture and what brought you to Orlando?

Eric: Before I get to my venture to Orlando, I would like to thank you for the flattering compliment. I would hope that the dancing public feels as highly about me as you do. After several years with the Mambo King himself, I thought I would retire as an Eddie Torres dancer.

I came to Florida on a family vacation and just fell in love with the city of Orlando. Orlando is clean, fun and just enough city for me, while still living in the suburbs. I’m still adjusting but loving every minute of it. As far as my dancing, I had no intentions of continuing my dancing out here. I felt there was enough dancing out here and I was content with just social dancing at any local club. Performing is great but I find an art within itself on the social aspect of dancing.

After months of being heavily sought out in Orlando, a buddy of mine, Guillermo Reyes and I decided to start the Universal Mambo Dance Academy.

Johnny: You are an awesome dancer and instructor. I had the pleasure of taking one of your workshops in Miami. I was equally entertained and challenged. What do you feel are the keys to being a good instructor?

Eric: Good Instructor? Johnny are we talking about the same person here? Out on the dance floor or in front of a class I like to just be me, fun, funny, innovative, and motivating. Now if you were to ask me what do I like to focus on when I am teaching, that’s different.

As I have learned from my mentors in this dance, I love to focus on detail, technique and most importantly having a good ol’ time. Once a dancer, whether it be social or professional establishes a solid foundation and good technique, the rest is just fun.

Let me not venture too far away from your question. A good instructor should cover technique and timing in as much detail as they can within the allotted time slot. One last thing which I am still a student of… PATIENCE.

Johnny: Who are some of your most influential instructors and why?

Eric: Eddie and Maria Torres, Danny Ramirez, and one of my biggest influences…my peers in the night clubs of NYC. As far as my foundation, I hand it to the three well respected names above. Eddie, Maria and Danny are all great dancers and around them I was able to absorb their knowledge like a sponge.

On the other hand, my ability to be innovative and fun comes from the night clubs and socials of NYC, where we would trade moves right there on the dance floor or out on the sidewalks in front of a club or social.

Johnny: You were a very popular dancer in New York. What experiences have you gained from learning, dancing and socializing in NY that will stick with you for a lifetime?

Eric: Well, one thing I would like to mention to all the guys out there when social dancing. Remember, it is all about the lady, lol. That is something I learned that will stick with me forever. Practice. Never be afraid to try anything, and never lose focus of the big picture. Dancing is a way to vent and have fun, it should never cause you any stress.

Johnny: One of my favorite performances is the Eddie Torres dancers “couple routine” in LA 2003. You were apart of this performance. What are some of your most memorable performances?

Eric: WOW! Every performance is pretty memorable. If I had to pick a few I would have to say the NYC Congress of 2003, and the Switzerland Congress of 2003. These performances stand out the most because I shared the stage with many a great dancers, including Eddie Torres himself. As a team, I felt the chemistry of the Eddie Torres Latin Dance Team was at an all time high.

Johnny: Do you have performance plans for Universal Mambo?

Eric: Ah, the most anticipated question since we have founded UMDA. Yes, we do have performance plans. How soon? I don’t know as of yet. I am definitely used to a certain caliber of performances and do not plan on putting on a show that would be any less than I am accustomed to.

Johnny: Who are some of your favorite groups and dancers on the scene?

Eric: All of them, I can learn and enjoy watching just about anyone. As far as the creme of the crop, Eddie Torres dancers, Frankie Martinez, Tropical Gem, Johnny Vazquez’s team, Sacuye Latin dancers out of Sweden, Forgarate, Descarga Latina, Santo Rico, Karisma Dancers, and the list goes on and on.

Johnny: Where would you like to see Mambo in Orlando, 5 years from now?

Eric: I hope to see the scene grow for the simple fact that I would like to have more dancers to dance with. For now, come and check us out anytime, present or future. Promise you will see some progress, big things for UMDA (Said with a small grin on my face). For all the readers, I hope this interview was informative and pleasureable to read and if anyone is ever in town or just in cyberspace feel free to check out our site or just drop by the studio.

Eric Baez