An Interview with Johnny Giraldo (Boston) by Johnny Johnson

Johnny GiraldoJohnny J: First and foremost, thank you for giving La Voz del Mambo an opportunity to interview you. I recently got a chance to come up to Boston and hang out with you guys and I had a terrific time. The atmosphere on the Boston Salsa scene is something to be admired. In addition, I got a chance to attend the Anniversary social for your company Salsa Y Control. I also had a great time at this event. For those who may not know, can you tell us a little about your dance background and how you got into performing salsa?

Johnny G: First of all, thank you Johnny for interviewing me for your very successful newsletter, La Voz Del Mambo. Your hard work is truly admirable and your insights and ideas, as well as the collective efforts that your newsletter has produced are very valuable for the Salsa/Mambo communities worldwide.

Well, I always say that I’ve been dancing since I was born. Although, growing up in Medellin, Colombia wasn’t per se, the place where I received dance training, took classes, or even went out dancing to the Clubs (I wasn’t old enough), it was the place where I was introduced to this captivating rhythm we now call SALSA.

Before getting into performing Salsa professionally, I was more devoted to the pleasure of listening to the music and learning about its history and the artists that I enjoy the most. However, dancing to this beautiful music was something hard to resist and came together with being present at house parties and family gatherings as I was growing up in Colombia.

When I came to this country about 15 years ago and entered middle and high school, I began participating in the talent shows dancing salsa/mambo as well as other Latin dances. I remember dancing based on the feeling the music gave me without having any idea what 1,2,3 5,6,7 meant or without having any kind of training whatsoever in any kind of dance genre.

It was in the year 1995, that I joined a Colombian Folk Dance Group (BAJUCOL) in Boston under director Mr Miguel Vargas. In Bajucol, I gained performance experience and developed choreography skills that allowed me to explore more of my passion for Salsa music as I was given the chance to choreograph a couple of routines for the group. As a result of this experience in Bajucol, my fascination for dancing and the performing arts became more solidified.

In 1999, I attended the Salsaweb Convention which took place in Washington DC. Interestingly enough, I had planned to attend mainly because I was dying to see El Conjunto Clasico perform live, since they have been one of my all time favorite groups, not knowing what else to expect. What I experienced that weekend was just out of this world.

I truly felt in Salsa Heaven I was watching one my favorite bands play live and on top of that I had the opportunity to see incredibly talented dancers that inspired me to continue my dream of becoming a professional dancer myself. This event I have to say, was when the Salsa bug officially bit my brother Andres and I.

Johnny Giraldo SalsaFrom then on, we decided we were going to practice and learn from watching the video footage we had taken at the convention and were completely determined to work hard and our goal was to just get better and better. As we came back to Boston, we started looking for a place to learn more, that’s when we found Jamnastics Latin Dance Company.

In Jamnastics, my brother and I were given the opportunity to perform a duet. This was the breakthrough performance where the idea of pursuing that concept (performing as a duet) came about and where the dreams of creating our own dance company flourished until it became a reality, a reality that people now refer to as SALSA y CONTROL.

Johnny J: It seems as though the top salsa groups in Boston have been able to create a family atmosphere, which seems impossible in most cities. How have you guys been able to achieve this?

Johnny G: The family atmosphere that exists in Boston between all the dance companies is something I’m truly proud of. I think one of the reason by which we have been able to achieve this, is through really understanding the meaning of unconditional support.

The Boston dance companies have always been there for each other. From attending each other’s events to helping promoting them, we are ultimately working towards achieving one goal: involving the most people we can in experiencing the positive qualities that dancing Salsa conveys at both, the individual and collective levels; as well as in sharing with one another and the community the passion that we have for this beautiful music and dance.

I also feel that in Boston there is not such thing as competition on who is the best or number one company or dance group, on the contrary, we are always excited to learn about each others successes and at times celebrate it together when we get the chance.

Johnny J: Your brother Andres spoke about his experience performing with you. How would you describe the experience of performing with your brother

Johnny G: Performing with my brother has been a very unique experience. Its one of those things I just can’t see myself not doing. I see it as the best reflection of the upbringing and the set examples that our parents provided to us during our childhood. From sharing ideas to looking out for each other, from giving each other advice to having brotherly fights, the experience of dancing with my brother is just the best way to stay connected at a dance level as well as a familial level.

Although dancing and listening to Salsa is a passion we both equally share, our style of dancing tends to be a bit different. At the same time, we are able to read off of each other very well, when we are choreographing and when we are performing on stage. In all, I just love my brother and I’m very happy and blessed to share the dreams and to obtain the accomplishments we have had dancing salsa together.

Johnny J: Who are some of your favorite dancers in the Boston area and beyond?

Johnny G: It is very hard too say who my favorite dancers are. It’s not an easy question. Overall, I enjoy watching and dancing with individuals who truly feel the music when the song is playing.

My favorite dancer is one who dances with soul and actually finds a connection with the music and with his or her partner. One of these dancers is my beautiful wife Felicita; our connection on the dance floor is very unique. Dancing with her places me in a different orbit, as they say. To name a few of my favorite dancers in the Boston area, based on the description above, I would have to say these are: my brother Andres, Burju Hurturk, Ana Tinajero, April Genovese, Victor Perez, Joel Masacote, among others.

From beyond, I would say: Troy Anthony, Juan Matos, Amaryllis Cintron, Sekou McMiller, Amanda Estilo, Grisselle Ponce, John Narvaez, Liz Rojas, Kimberli Flores and the list can simply go on and on.

Johnny J: What would you say is the most interesting thing about you outside of salsa?

Johnny G: I guess one of the most interesting things about me outside Salsa is having a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. The interesting part is probably the fact that at the present time I’m not necessarily working in that field.

Meanwhile, I do feel it comes in handy and goes very well together with being a Salsa instructor. In the near future, I’m planning on getting my master’s, specializing in expressive therapies, specifically dance therapy, where I plan to integrate Salsa dancing with helpful therapeutic practices which can help individuals to live healthy, productive, and happy lives.

Johnny: Additional Comments…

Johnny G: Well, once again, thank you Johnny for interviewing me and allowing me to share a little bit about my views and myself with your readers. I hope you come back to visit us in Boston again soon and anybody who wants to come hangout with us, we’ll be happy to show you what Beantown has to offer. One more thing for all our fellow salseros and salseras: “life is short, dance hard…but make sure you dance from the heart

Johnny Giraldo