Juan Matos Interview – Italy

Juan MatosJohnny: First I would like to thank you for giving me a chance to interview you for my project. You are definitely one of my personal favorites whether it’s instructing, performing, or social dancing.

I definitely feel like you are an innovator within the mambo community; and I receive the same feedback from a lot of world-renown dancers. Your name always pops up as one of the most respected dancers on the scene.

You have The Forgarate Project, you’ve performed with Santo Rico, you’ve traveled all around the world performing and teaching Salsa. Ironically, a lot of people are not familiar with your dance background. If you don’t mind, can you give us a brief summary of how you reached this point in your dance career?

Juan: First of all I would like to say that I am blessed by God for giving me the opportunity to do what I am doing. If it wasn’t for him I would not be at the point that I am at right now.

When it comes to who I trained with my story is kind of different. I started going to salsa classes because of a girl. In my country, Santo Domingo, there were no salsa classes. So when you talk about taking a dance class out there it was just ballet, modern and stuff like that.

So when I got here, I was in this club and there was this girl and she was cute and she told me “the only way you could see me is in my salsa class” and I was like “salsa class, what the hell is that.” So I went to the class and at the time it was Vittico “La Magia” Pacheco teaching.

Juan MatosI took a month of classes with him, but it was only one class per week. During that month we became friends and we started hanging out. So I started taking his advance classes, learning what he was teaching, and he told me to keep coming to the class and I would not have to pay because I had talent (although I didn’t know what he was talking about at the time). So then we started hanging out and I started watching other Dominican dancers (thinking to myself.. Wow)

But then I had a car accident and I could not walk or dance for almost a year but I still hung out with them and watched them dance in clubs sometimes until 7 and 8 in the morning. I learned so much during that time of watching and listening to their advice and hearing them talk about dancing. That was better to going to a class and learning a turn pattern. And that’s how it started, that was my beginning.

Johnny: It seems like more of the world-renown dancers are beginning to move over overseas. You recently moved to Italy, can you talk a little bit about what prompted that decision?

Juan: Basically I’m in Europe more than I am in the US and I have never had a full class going on in the US. Not because I didn’t want to, it’s just that most of the time I am in Europe.

I moved to Italy because I believe that Italy has a bigger market. Most of the dancers moving to Italy are from the West Coast. No one from New York has really moved and established themselves in Europe.

The people out there still dance mainly on1 or still dance Cuban style but now they are ready to broaden their horizons. They want to learn on2 because for them it is a different feeling, something brand new. So I am moving over there to open up my boundaries and to start something new in my career.

Juan Matos Salsa think I will be dancing for the next 10 years, in fact I think I will only do this for another 2 or 3 years then retire and continue taking care of my business in my country and in New York. That’s really it. I just want to go out there and help grow the scene and represent us.

Johnny: I think it will be great for the European market to have your presence out there regularly. Your response prompts another question. Since you only see yourself dancing 2 or 3 more years; what do you see yourself doing 5 or 6 years from now?

Juan: The Juan Matos that people know is just the Juan Matos who is a good dancer that knows how to dress well and wears glasses at night time. That’s the Juan Matos that people know. But I have businesses and family stuff going on that is more important because that’s my future. I am not planning to dance for 5 years; the most is 3 years.

In my family, everybody takes care of everybody and decisions are made for everybody. So my family is letting me do this because of the travel, they want me to see the world. Because with what I do, it would take a person a lifetime to collect the money to visit the places I go to, and I go for free and get paid to dance and teach. So for me this is a blessing.

Like I said earlier, I thank God that I am able to do this and experience so many different cultures. That is my payment; it’s not about fame or money, it’s about the experience. I am not going to win an Oscar for doing this; however my reward is getting to know all these beautiful people that appreciate me for visiting their country and appreciate what I have to offer. The opportunity to gain these experiences and return that appreciation is my reward.

Johnny: I frequently hear people mention your project, Forgarate, as their favorite group. What’s the status with this project? (Juan corrects my pronunciation)

Juan: For us it’s a family thing. When we come together for a rehearsal or performance, we enjoy being together and hanging out more than doing a show. I have worked with so many beautiful people through that group.. or project.

Actually, I don’t call it a group because I have so many different people from so many different groups from different areas coming together to perform. That was my plan… not to have a group and rehearse 10 times a week and do shows everywhere. Forgarate has not done that many performances, but when we come together, we mainly enjoy ourselves.

Let me tell you something, the talent that I have for this project is simply amazing! It is incredible! And it will keep growing because when I move to Europe I will still have the Forgarate name and work with old members, but I will also begin working with new members from Europe and make the project bigger and better.

Juan MatosWe will continue to try to do better things, better shows, combine styles because that is what it is.. Forgarate is a combination of different styles and different nationalities. That’s what Forgarate is about, having love and appreciation for what you do and for those around you.

People say Forgarate is their favorite group and I appreciate the compliment. Ironically we haven’t been working hard because it so hard to get all these talented people together to continue to developing ourselves and creating new routines.

Me.. I basically live in Italy.. actually I live in a plane. Truthfully, I am in a plane more than I am in my house; so it’s really hard to schedule to time work with everyone. So whatever performances you see out there, it was really hard to come together and get it done due to schedule conflicts. But I believe the love and chemistry between all of us makes it look and feel good on stage.

Johnny: Now I would definitely say one of the best mambo couples that I’ve seen on stage, by far, was you and Ms. Kimberli Flores. Frequently a lot of people ask and want to know what happen to this partnership?

Juan: I am still in shock at what happened with me and Kimberli because outside of dancing, we were really good friends.. that was my sister. All of sudden she just told me that she was going to stop dancing. For what reason, I don’t know. And whoever is reading this interview and hears me talking about Kimberli; that is really my friend and really knows how Kimberli and I used to be…. They know how Kimberli and I used to be.

We were way more than just dance partners and to this day I still ask myself what I did wrong and what happened. It was shocking and it was a tough lost for me because Kimberli is one of the most talented dancers that I have ever seen. Because like my other dance partners (Jessica Ortiz and my sister Burju Hurturk) Kimberli brought the best out of me. And Kimberli and I had such good chemistry as friends that we developed that same chemistry on stage.

So to tell you the truth I really do not know exactly what happened. After that she disappeared, I haven’t heard from her. I heard from some people that she moved out of New York. So I would like to know, I would like to have a conversation with her. More so to know how she is doing, to see if she is ok, and too see how things are going in her life. Because we used to take care of each other, but things happen; hopefully we will see each other again soon.

Johnny: Well I know the mambo community would love to see you guys work together again. On another note, we kinda talked about this off the record, but this is something that I definitely wanted to ask you about being that you are one of the biggest salsa stars on the scene right now.

It seems like when people get a lot of success in the scene they become less social. Now you are one of the biggest salsa stars out here, yet at congresses you are still out there socializing, dancing and being apart of the community; and that’s really what people come for. They don’t come just to see a show, they would also like to interact with the stars, whether it’s socializing or dancing. What are thoughts or advice on this issue?

Juan: I’m going to give my comments and advice to everyone that goes to your website that is a dancer and a performer. Let me start with the advice: People, this is just dancing. Like I said earlier, you will not win an Oscar because of this. You could possibly become a millionaire, but you would have to teach a lot of privates and sell a lot of videos.

This is just dancing. It is about having fun. If you are popular, if you are a good instructor, if you are a good performer, you are there and people respect you and because the people put you there. Because the people think you are, not because you think you are, because the people think you are.

So it is all about the people. The people will go and take your classes, the people will take your privates, the people will buy your videos.. you know what I mean. It is all about having fun, it’s all about dancing.

You can be big, you can be bad, you can be the best in the whole world, you can fly in the air and do a Suzzy Q… but it’s still just dancing. Get that through your heads. You can get as much fame, money, and girls or boys as you want… but it’s still just dancing. Be humble. That’s the only way you can make it. It’s a lot big names out there, individual and groups, but right now because they are not social and humble, they are beginning to come down.

Getting to the top is not the hard thing, maintaining yourself at the top is the hard thing. You get up there by being a good dancer and instructor, but more importantly if you are a good person, you will stay up there until the day you decide to stop doing a “123, 567” or whatever numbers you count.. abc.. whatever.. Just stay humble my people. I truly believe people like me more because of my personality. You don’t have to dance all night, you don’t have to dance with 20,000 people in one night…just be there, be humble.

Right now, people want to ask more questions, they want to feel your vibe, and they want to see you dance. People will watch you social dance and they will record your dancing and put it in a performance (lol) And you know it’s true. Everybody, wake up, open your eyes and talk about it. B

ut you cannot tell people “don’t record me” because then you are getting a big head. Keep in mind, this is just dancing. Just keep creating and innovating yourself and coming out with new things. I know it hard, but try it. That is the only way to make your self different from everyone else. Because right now, everything seems like it has been done; so just keep creating;

So Stay humble, have a beer, have a drink, do something. Just don’t get a bad attitude problem and don’t get a big head.just be humble. I truly believe that’s why promoters keep bringing me back.

Dancer’s Feedback on Juan Matos:

Juan is my inspiration. He is an innovator and a creative genius. From the choreography to the costumes we wear and the way we do our hair, he knows how to put a show together. But even more amazing is watching him social dance and create on the spot. FOGARATE WHAT WHAT!!!

Burju Hurturk – Lawerence, MA

Since the first time I saw Juan dance, he has been an inspiration. He has brought a new style to the salsa/mambo scene, mixing some afro Caribbean, jazz, and modern dance moves in his performances/dancing. His energy while dancing is incomparable. There is no other male performer that has his attitude, charisma, and personality on stage and delivers his routines w/ so much passion and power. He is always is raising the bar for the rest of us and always challenging himself every single time he performs. As a person he is just plain freaking crazy! That is why we love you Juan!

Betto Herrera – Raleigh, NC

I think Juan Matos is one of the most exciting and creative dancers that I have come across, but he is also one of the funniest guys that I have ever met.

Earl Rush – Washington, DC

Juan Matos is for me is the most talented and innovative mambo dancer. He changed my approach to mambo and continues to inspire me and so many others. Juan is currently making a major contribution to Mambo dancing around the world without him being aware of it.

Marchant Birch – South Africa/UK

Juan Matos is the most talented and refreshing dancer in the New York Mambo scene.
I see in his style a little of Elvis Presley in it. It is unique and different. He has become a super star in the Salsa world in a short time and I am very lucky to have seen him grow from beginner to the star that he is now.

David Melendez- NYC

Juan has brought a breath of fresh air to way, salsa is being danced today. He is funny and a tremendous talent. Keep up the good work. Love you man.

Super Mario – London, UK

I had the pleasure of learning from Juan for a brief time in NYC…before he was never in NYC anymore. Suffice to say it was obvious to ANYONE looking that he was destined for greatness and it was only a matter of more exposure that would keep him from achieving that goal. Since then, well…we all know the deal. Juan is the man. I look forward to seeing Juan’s work and creativity for as long as he cares to bless us with them.

Del Dominguez – Chicago, IL