An Inteview with Shaka Brown – DC

Shaka BrownJJ: First and foremost I would like to thank you for doing this interview for La Voz del Mambo. You are by far one of my favorite dancers on Mambo scene. Your performance, social dancing, and instruction is truly an inspiration for aspiring dancers such as myself.

SB:Thank you for inviting me to do an interview with LaVoz. I had an opportunity to review the articles on the site, and it’s great to share company with the other folks that have contributed their views to the magazine.

JJ: I read somewhere that you played in the band at FAMU. Although it’s not TSU (my alumni), this experience had to provide a tremendous opportunity to gain knowledge and experience with dance and music. Has this experience contributed to your growth and success as a Mambo dancer/performer/teacher?

SB: My experience with the Marching 100 has had a tremendous influence on my performance ability. The way that I ended up with the band is an interesting enough story. I don’t play an instrument well enough for anyone to want me in a band, and when I came to FAMU I didn’t even know who the Marching 100 was. In fact, when I asked someone they thought I was kidding, then thought I was crazy.

I had a little crush on a girl that was a freshman in the band and I figured that the easiest way for me to get closer to her was to sign up for the band. I signed up for the Flag Corps and when I tell you I knew nothing about being in a band I couldn’t be closer to the truth.

Next thing I know I’m standing at attention in the middle of a dirt patch in August wondering what I got myself into. Then in the second week they started teaching the dance routine and I was like “The band dances?!”. I always loved to dance, but I had never danced in public.

The way the band is structured, the larger instruments are kept towards the back (Bass Drum, Tubas, Quads) and the more mobile instruments are kept in the front (Piccolo, Trumpet, Saxophone). The drum majors stand in front of the entire band. Then the Flag Corps stands in front of the drum majors, right in the front of the crowd. Well, the first time they started rehearsal I freaked out and said I couldn’t do it. I stood to the side and watched.

Then they told me that if I wasn’t going to dance then I wasn’t going to be in the band. So I started stepping through the routines somewhat. I didn’t even perform at the first game because I was too scared.

Then something happened. I don’t know what it was but all of a sudden I wanted to be out there and I wanted to rock. I came to rehearsal and started putting everything I could into it. I consider that the major point in my life that I knew I wanted to perform and was comfortable doing it in front of two people or 200,000. It’s funny because I went from a total timid person to “who’s that guy on the 30 yd line?!”. All I could remember was that I was having a blast.

JJ: ClaveKazi is an awesome group. My first exposure to your group was at the Chicago Congress in 2003. You guys did a phenomenal job! Can you describe your experience of directing and performing around the country with ClaveKazi?

SB: Again, thank you for the compliments; I will pass them onto the team. There are a number of teams in DC that are making strong statements and representing DC. We like to have a good time when we’re at home and on the road, sometimes that good time cuts into practice time.

Still, they are a good bunch and they adapt to changes well. It’s fun because they are receptive to the ideas that I introduce to them, which keeps them on their toes. It’s my goal to introduce different routines and concepts in the group’s choreographies, which means that it’s important to have a versatile group, since then angles I look at things can be kind of skewed sometimes.

JJ: I recently purchased your tape, featuring the lovely, Griselle Ponce. Your turn patterns were very creative. It’s almost like your moves come from the left side of the brain, when everyone else is only using the right side. What inspires your creativity? How did you come up with move no. 7?

SB: Oh man, move number 7 🙂 Well, I don’t really know where that one came from, I think I was in that “don’t let go” mood and just ended up with that one. I’m glad you enjoy the turn patterns and find the moves creative.

I was fortunate to be able to work with Griselle Ponce on that video, there was so much up in the air as to whether the project was going to happen, and then a tight window to get together and put all the turn patterns on tape.

When laying out that video I wanted to make sure that the turn patterns were leadable and distinctive, as well as in a full sequence so that a person would be able to take what they liked, or take everything and use it all in one chunk.

I don’t really know where the turn patterns come from, I appreciate influences from multiple genres, and am constantly trying to do something new. I think that a big influence on my style is that I didn’t really come up with any one person to admire and pattern myself after, so I have a pretty wide foundation.

I actually started really formally learning moves from a Salsa Lovers tape and now I pull from anywhere that I can.

JJ: You have become a world renowned performer/instructor/dancer. What can we expect from Shaka Brown in the future? Is there anything you would like to achieve? When is the next tape coming out?

SB: Well, it’s a big world, and lots of dance floors that I haven’t had a chance to test out yet, so there is always more traveling to do.

I’m working with David Melendez to bring a congress to DC again in June of 2005 “” I love to dance and choreograph routines, so I continue to plan on doing that.

I recently completed a Beginner and Intermediate Level Turn Patterns Video with Yesenia Peralta, another one of the Jersey Mambo Divas. Those are available now. I also have a shines and body movement DVD on the editing table right now.

I’ve been working closely with nuViewmedia and on video production and web streaming; spreading the dance fever as much as we can. Additionally there are video production projects with other dancers, trying to help them to present their instructional style to a wide audience. It feels like there’s always a project that I’m working on.

JJ: Any additional comments:

SB: If you don’t dance….start. If you do dance…keep doing it. If you stopped…start again. I can’t think of anything I’ve found more satisfying, that has given me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. Remember when you’re working at it that it’s supposed to be fun. Looking forward to seeing you on the floor. -sGB

Shaka G. Brown
Dance Instructor
Dance Videos Available!