Interview with Jose Maldonado – Atlanta, GA

Jose MaldonadoJJ: You are a very known and respected Salsa dancer in Atlanta, GA. How did you get started?

JM: Growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico we have the luxury of being surrounded with Salsa music as part of our culture. It was home where I learned my first homegrown salsa steps.

But it wasn’t until 1992 when I moved to Boston where I was introduced to Bachata, Perico Ripeao and other Latin dances. Once graduated from college, I was relocated to Atlanta and in 1999 I got exposed to flashy LA style Salsa and started taking classes with local instructor Alfredo Piceno (ex-Rumberos dancer).

A year later, I helped co-found a performing group called Fusion Latina. This gave me the opportunity to grow as dancer and performer.

JJ: Recently you performed in the Miami Congress, NC Mini Congress and Charolotte Congress. How would you describe these experiences?

JM: Performing for an audience of technical dancers is an intimidating thought. Just picking a meaningful song, moves for the choreography, story and compile it all together is not an easy task. For that same reason, there is a sense of unity and support among fellow dancers back stage where most are nervous and worked hard to please and delight their audience.

The experience is incredible. The adrenaline rush, the hot and bright lights, the smooth floor, the eager audience…, the music starts and your soul gets free. Time pass so quickly, you see and hear the audience smiling, yelling and clapping. The support and appreciation from the audience makes all worthwhile. This gives you enough energy to go back to the salsa lab and start it all over again.

JJ: You have been a dancer on the Atlanta Salsa Scene for sometime. Have you seen any progress?

JM: When I got to Atlanta 5 years ago, I was impressed by the diversity of its salsa dancers, mostly on1 dancers, but unlike Boston and Orlando, the majority were not Latino. In spite of the current Atlanta’s tropical market 8 years growth deficit compared to other states in the East Coast, there has been an observed progress due to local media.

In the last 2 years local broadcasting of Latino TV channels and Tropical radio shows has helped promote and unite the segregated Latino market. Nowdays, we enjoy very competent on1, on2 and casino dancers. Many talented local Latin bands are available, Latin clubs to dance almost every day of the week and good dance instructors working hard towards improving the our salsa scene.

JJ: Who is your favorite dancer, company or teacher outside of the Atlanta, GA area?

JM: I don’t have one favorite dancer, but I get inspired by Jason Molina, Frankie Martinez and Felipe Polanco; mostly on2 dancers that incorporate true afro-Latin roots and elegance in their dance.

JJ: Any Additional Comments:

JM: First, thank God for giving me the opportunity of making a difference into people’s lives. Thanks to my lovely wife and partner Belle Useche for sharing this crazy passion and be next to me along the way.

I honestly would like to thank all of you who believe in what we stand for and give us your support. And last, but not least thank you, Johnny for this opportunity. “I realize that after 12 years in the US, salsa has kept me true to my culture and roots. Latin music is extremely rich in culture, rhythm and essence. Every dancer out there is a soul expressing his feelings towards this music. It’s a soul getting free…”

Jose Maldonado