Interview with Yesenia Peralta – New Jersey

Yesenia PeraltaJohnny: First and Foremost, I would like to thank you for giving me this opportunity to interview you for “La Voz del Mambo.” You are admired by many aspiring dancers all around the world. I personally know several exceptional dancers that have studied your following and styling. What is the key to becoming a good follow, stylist, and freestyle dancer?

Yesenia: Well first I would like to thank you for your interest in interviewing me. In my opinion the key of becoming a good follower is to study the different types of leads guys have. Once you can understand the signals and remember to focus on following first, you will feel the flow and then feel comfortable enough to put in styling. Sometimes ladies styling get in the way of following so my advise would be to first focus on following and then the styling.

Styling is something that takes time, being comfortable and confident with your dancing. My advise is to get so comfortable with your basic steps so that you don’t have to think about it and then start playing around with your styling. And as far as free styling, again, you must feel comfortable with yourself on the dance floor by perfecting your basics everything else will come naturally….

Johnny: You have several classic congress performances. The energy you exude on stage is, at times, amazing! Do you consider yourself a natural performer or is this something that required a lot of hard work? Are there any other activities or hobbies outside of salsa that contribute to your performance abilities?

Yesenia: I believe I am a natural performer because I am truly having a good time while on stage. But it varies with everyone, some people need to work on it and understand what the audience is looking to see or feel, while others, just simply go up there have a good time and at the same time amaze the audience.

Yesenia PeraltaI believe that outside of salsa something that helped me enjoy performing was growing up with my sister Irene Otero and brother Ismael Otero. Both of them, while I was growing up, use to break dance in the streets of jersey and they were two of best. My sister would challenge anyone, anywhere and would usually beat them, ha ha….. by the fifth grade Irene and Ismael were helping me choreograph numbers for local talent shows in grammar school and I won every time….so yeah my upbringing is definitely a big part of why I am where I am, and I owe it to my family.

My brother use to make up beats with the keyboard at home and then he would take me to the park to teach me how to do back flips. I was performing with a freestyle group by the age of 14 performing in festivals and things like that.

Johnny: You have trained many well-known dancers and inspired many great dancers through your instruction. How does it feel to see dancer you’ve trained develop into a salsa super-star.

Yesenia: Well in my opinion everyone has the capability to be a “Salsa super star” if thats what you would like to call it. I feel great when I see all my friends doing good and enjoying themselves. When the occasion comes that someone that I have trained gives credit to me for what ever reason, It feels good. It is always nice to be recognized for hard work.

Johnny: Currently, you run The Caribbean Soul Dance Academy with Ismael Otero; you have performed all around the world; you are a world-renown instructor, performer, and dancer; and you’ve performed with and trained some of the best dancers in the world. What can we possibly expect from Yesenia in the future? What inspires you to set and accomplish new goals? Is there anything within Salsa that you have not achieved already?

Yesenia: In the future I will be working very hard with the kids in my area. I have started a kids program at my school and my plans are for this program to be a big part of my life. I have many many goals and that’s what keeps me going, that is who I am.

I work full time at a multi-million dollar Law Firm, I am a parent of a wonderful 10 yr old daughter that completes who I am, I am currently part of Fogarate Dance Company, working with my brother Ismael on occasion and also with my partner Danny.

This year alone I have done 2 instructional videos with Shaka Brown from D.C, the 100 moves for 2004 video with Ismael filmed in LA, and Beginners gone advanced video with Ismael as well. What inspires me? hummm my daughter inspires me, kids inspire me, beautiful memories inspire me, my family and friends inspire me, life inspires me.

I experienced one of the most life changing experiences when I was in The World Trade Center the day of the attacks and feeling what I felt, seeing what I saw, it has changed my life. Stay focused, learn, make friends, make money, make memories, laughs, sing, cry, love……. that’s what inspires me.

Johnny: Any additional comments:

Yesenia: I would like to say thank you to La Voz del Mambo for keeping what we do alive. For anyone interested in contacting me please go to

This year Ms. Yesenia Peralta will be honored at the Los Angeles Salsa Congress, she will also be teaching beginning in February in New York City at The Soho Dance Studio by popular demand!