Interview with Orville Small – Toronto, Canada

Orville SmallJohnny: First and foremost, I would like to thank you for taking time out to interview with LaVoz De Mambo. You are one of the most exciting dancers on the scene, whether performing or social dancing. How did you get into salsa dancing? At what point did you realize you were a “professional?”

Orville: Thank you, I appreciate you having the interest in contacting me for this. There are a bus load of awesome dancers you could have picked from. I do consider myself lucky. Thank you once again.

Wow… Salsa dancing hit me right in my head without me seeing it coming. I guess my eyes were closed when that happened… lol. You know how the story pans out… You follow your peeps into a club because they are all up into the craze and the next thing you know, after a minute, you’re all up in the craze yourself. Boy I really didn’t see it coming. But I am real happy to be here.

As for being professional, I basically realized that I was when people started telling me I was. I’m the type of person who loves to bump heads with big cats and tuff dogs…. so for me, when I first started, I had no problem going up against the ‘big names’ from my home town at the time…. Montreal!! From my second open/pro competition in, at about just under a year of learning how to dance, I was head to head. As well, I truly felt that because there was no governing body controlling who was truly professional or not, I couldn’t give a hoot about calling myself pro…. I let my dancing do the talking. I glad it happened that way cause if there was someone controlling levels, I wouldn’t have been able to bumps heads with the big dawgs as early as I did… Burn Rubber.

Johnny: I have had the opportunity to watch your performances in person in Chicago (2003), LA (2003), Charlotte (2004) and many on video. You frequently change styles and concepts. This year at the Charlotte Congress you performed a solo Afro-Cuban piece. Where does creativity behind these classic routines come from?

Orville: Prior to what you saw in Charlotte, all my choreographies have happened out of me trying to find what exactly I wanted to see myself as for that specific routine kind of like an actor picking and choosing the roles that he wants to do. It has to make sense to me… There are a thousand ideas that I come across but it’s got to suit me… I have to be able to feel a connection.

Now what you saw in Charlotte, that was an Orisha by the name of Chango that I did. All those movements and facial expressions/mimics are part of what he does. I gave my own interpretation of who the character was, but those movements were definitely not my own… I had to be taught that stuff…. Peace out to Serita Lemay and Roberto Torres for educating my body.

Johnny: On your website you have offered video clips of your dancing. With a saying “Please take what I bring to the supper table…….eat it up…..use it to your benefit… only makes me a better chef.” In a time where dancers are ultra sensitive about taping and copying what has allowed you to adopt this philosophy which goes against the grain? By the way, I really enjoyed the clips!

Orville: It’s very simple to me… The day I have to start worrying about cats biting my stuff, the day I need to pick up something else. I use this as my incentive to re-invent myself. An no matter how much you try… If your stuff is appealing, it will be leaked out and someone is going to cop it. I’m just grateful that people cop it.

Johnny: You recently were awarded the International Instructor of the Year at the 2004 UK Salsa Congress. First, I would like to congratulate you on such a prestigious honor. What teaching methods and/or philosophies do you apply to your workshops and classes that allow you to teach so effectively? For someone who has never experienced an Orville Small workshop, what can they expect?

Orville: Yeah, you should have heard the crowd when I won… actually, you couldn’t hear the crowd. I think they were just as shocked as I was. It was hard for me to understand this cause I think that it is a little ahead of my time. As well, I know there are great instructors out there. The last thing I need is for people thinking that I think I’m all that… Don’t get me wrong I appreciate all who voted and support me… My problem sometimes is that I forget all the places I’ve been and how many people I have pass the torch to. I had to step back and get onto my site to remember sometimes, you know? I feel my work is never done. That title will be used as a promotional tool but that’s the extent of it.

As an instructor, I still need to show you what I’m about… As for my way of teaching…. they can expect someone who is off his chain. I think that is important… It’s like when Olivia and I teach together… People have a hard time keeping it together… That’s my girl right there. The only thing else I do is teach from the heart… after that, everything else is gravy. Make them laugh but also be able to change up the plan to suit the way a crowd may prefer to learn… Be very conscious about your pupils. Like a stand up comedian…when you throw your spiel, if it’s bombing, regroup.. if not, keep it working…

Johnny: Any additional comments:

Orville: There are so many people that I should thank… I didn’t get here by myself. SO to all who have in some size, shape or form, helped me to achieve what I have… negative or positive, Thank you so much. Couldn’t have done it without you all…… One. You can check out they have pics of my performances and when I won the award.

Orville Small