An Interview with Leon Rose – London

Leon RoseJohnny: First and foremost, thank you for taking time out to grant this interview. I was first exposed to your tremendous talents at the Chicago Salsa Congress in 2003. I just remember this huge circle around this brotha doing all the awesome moves that I had never seen before. I overheard two dancers talking and one of them said, “Oh that’s Leon Rose.” From that point, I always kept an eye out for you because I thought you were “off the hook.” For those who may have never heard of you, how did you get into salsa?

Leon: Damn, I remember that congress in Chicago. I was really sick and I was finding it really hard to dance. Anyhow, I started Salsa almost 9 years ago in a hot and sweaty club called Villa Stefano’s in London. It was in fact my mum that dragged me down there since she got hooked on Salsa just a few weeks before. I remember standing in a corner amazed at all these moves people were throwing down on the dance floor. Then a girl asked me to dance and that was the moment I decided to study this “Salsa thing” hard!

Johnny: I got a chance to read your articles located at I found them to be very inspirational. To know that a dancer of your magnitude has gone through some of the same things I go through is very inspiring. For those individuals that aspire to be great but are somewhat discouraged what words of advice do you offer?

Leon: For me it has been and still is very important to enjoy what I’m doing whether it is in a class situation or while on the stage. I don’t think I would be where I am now if I just looked at Salsa a business. I started working nationally then internationally because I traveled around to different clubs/ congresses and just had a good time on the dance floor. People would then approach me for workshop and shows. My advice to up and coming dancers would be to start traveling around and performing your routines must most importantly, after the shows dance with everyone!

Johnny: You talked in your article “Partners – Past and Present” about all the different partners you have had and how they inspired you. As a male lead, how can a great female follow help to someone’s ability to lead salsa? In ways have women help you to improve as a dancer?

Leon: Every partner I’ve ever had has helped me lead better by giving me feedback on the combinations I would use on them. Male leads must understand that to lead well you must be ready to adapt to different females. For example shorter women might need less force for a double turn than a tall one. Everyone has seen guys with strong leads throwing ladies around in clubs (even on the stage), and if their partners don’t say anything they will just continue the same way with everyone they dance with. Another way I’ve been helped was by my dance partner of six years, Susana Montero, with spinning techniques. She trained in ballet for a number of years and gave me tips on how to improve my spins.

Johnny: You also mentioned how you were influenced by Robert Charlemagne and T in London. In what ways did these tremendous dancers influence your innovative style?

Leon: In London back in the old days I don’t think we had many strong stylish dancers but with the help of these guys thinks started to change. Robert was and is still is a man the that can put a lot of humor and attitude in to his dance without putting too many complex moves in, and T was the guy that would do the fast and tricky stuff. I worked on over the years creating my own style and my own “strange” routines. This started with combination of all the things I learnt from all my instructors to what I do now which I work hard on making unique.

Johnny: Who are some of your favorite dancers in the UK and beyond?

Leon: Susana Montero (of course) and Miriam: who are probably the only two in the UK that can follow everything I do when I’m going crazy. Lesley and Violeta from LA: because they challenge me when it comes to pure style. There are several women around the US and Europe that are too numerous to mention but they stand out to me because they really feel the dance and there enjoyment radiates off them. When it comes to guys, I like watching Cliford from Paris freestyle. Also I really appreciate the work my brother from another mother, Sekou.

Johnny: I got an opportunity to see the “Leon Rose Project” On the UK Congress DVD, which is a preview to a much bigger show. Can to talk a little bit about the hour-long theatre dance production you have in store?

Leon: I came up with a idea for a big show a while ago and it’s damn hard work!!! When it’s ready, everyone will know….

Johnny: Outside of being a phenomenal dancer, what is the Most interesting thing about you?

Leon: I’m working on my standup comedy routine at the moment which I’ve been a little scared to actually go out and do.. Also, I was born to be a singer..I just can’t sing..

Johnny: What can we expected from Leon Rose in the next five years?

Leon: If I’m still being hired, I’ll still be dancing…

Leon Rose