An Interview with Jamie Matos (NJ) by Johnny Johnson

JJ: First and Foremost, thank you for granting La Voz Del Mambo an opportunity to interview you. You are arguably one of the best follows on the scene! I have admired your style of dance for some time now. For those who may not know, How did you get into salsa dancing? Who were some of your most influential instructors?

JM: First of all I would like to thank you for the kind words and compliments you have given me. I would also like to say thank you for giving me the opportunity to express myself through this interview.

There are three reasons why I got drawn into to the Mambo/Salsa scene. My first reason is that I was always capable of dancing to any type of music with the exception of salsa. This made me want to be able to fulfill any dancing destiny I had. The second was my desire to perform. I originally wanted to dance Merengue professionally but thought I would never make it with that type of dance. Then later realized Salsa was my ticket to the stage. The final reason, to be honest with you, was when I notice money could be made (ha ha ha). I saw many dancers win contest and prizes and felt I could do that and more.

The only influential instructor I’ve had was Ismael Otero. He was the one who made me realize I had talent and the ability to become a great dancer. He always told me to be myself, never try to be someone else and my natural style will blossom, which eventually did.

JJ: You are one of the key members of The Caribbean Soul Dancers. How would you describe this experience?

JM: What can I say about that? Originally, no one thought I could do it because of the lack of experience I had but Ismael never let me give up. There were times when I wanted to leave because most of the people felt I wasn’t ready yet, but at the same time I wanted to prove everyone wrong. I remember crying at times because it wasn’t easy and no one was going to make it easy for me but because of it I became stronger and believed that I could do it. I didn’t give up and now… here I am today.

What are some of my most memorable moments with The Caribbean Soul Dancers?

That is an easy one, when I became a true CSD is when I had to do a very difficult routine in two hours. At first, Ismael did not want me to do it, but Danny and Griselle convinced Ismael by saying “Come on Ismael we are Caribbean Soul and taking chances is what put us where we are, they said, “If she can do it, she is a true CSD”, not only did I do it but everyone said that I rocked it. Ismael always said anything is possible if you want it and work at it and I feel I have proven him right time and time again.

JJ: As I mentioned before, you are one the best follows in salsa dancing. What advice would you offer to those that aspire to become great follows?

JM: I don’t consider myself the best but one of the best. The best thing I could say is, don’t think, feel. For example, when a blind person has their walking stick he/she let‘s the stick be it‘s guide; let the man be your guide. Don’t anticipate the next move because you never know what the guy is going to do.

Also, feel his tension. When a guy does a move you will feel his tension, don’t back lead. What makes a guy good in partnering is how well he leads and what makes a woman good in partnering is how well she follows, put those together and you have poetry in motion, adjust to each others tension and style.

Everyone has different tension levels and styles, if you perfect adjusting and feeling the flow then you have more time for styling. Just because we follow does not mean the lead is in charge, if you can read all his signals and leads then you can also play and act or do theatrics to make it more fun, instead of waiting for his signal and forgetting about yourself. Top of your list is following then styling ect.. With practice and understanding you can style while following.

JJ: Is there anything else that you would consider interesting about yourself outside of Salsa?

JM: Boxing. I have been taking classes for about 2 months now. Right now, that is it. Eventually I may move into marital arts.

JJ: Any additional comments:

JM: I want to thank everyone who asked me to dance. Thanks to them, I have become as you say, a great follower. For those that have not asked me to dance, please do so. I enjoy dancing with beginners to practice my shines, I enjoy dancing with intermediates to practice new moves and I enjoy dancing with advance to practice everything.

Jamie Matos