Marisol Blanco Workshops

We are so excited to welcome Marisol Blanco for our 18th Anniversary Weekend.  This is a very unique opportunity to train with one of the best instructors in this field.

We will be starting the weekend with a great party on Friday, March 27th, but Saturday, we will be continue dancing under the tutelage of one of the few Master Instructors of Afro-Cuban Folklore in the US.

To learn more about Marisol, please check her bio here

Date: Saturday, March 28th
Classes and Times:
– 12-1pm – Palo
– 1-2pm – Makuta
– 2-3pm – Yuka
 Carmen’s Cuban Café, 108 Factory Shops Rd, Morrisville
Price: Per Class $20.  All three Classes for $50. Or Get the Anniversary Party and the workshops for $55
*** Space is limited to only 25 students***

MD Anniversary

Mambo Dinamico Anniversary

MD Anniversary

We will be celebrating our 18yr anniversary this year during our monthly Agua y Fuego Party!

What to Expect?
– Dance Performances
– Live Music by Orquesta K’che
– 3 Rooms playing Kizouk Room, Dominican Room, and Salsa Room
– Free and convenient parking
– Great Drinks from your favorite bartenders
– A great atmosphere with our beautiful dance community!
– Special Guest Marisol Blanco!
*** Marisol Will be teaching an Afro-Cuban Workshop on the Saturday, March 28th. Click Here for more details!***

Date: Friday, March 27th, 2020
Location: Carmen’s Cuban Cafe, 108 Factory Shops Rd, Morrisville, NC
Time: Doors open at 10pm until 2am
Cost: $15 walk in or $10 Prepaid
($10 for Military, Students with proper Identification, and Mambo Cards)
*** Prepaid option will be removed at midnight the Thursday before the party.

MD Anniversary

The Complexity of Simplicity

Why do we overcomplicate things in dance?  There is beauty in simplicity… a perfectly positioned arm, the breath during a long note, or even a subtle pause of intimacy are usually the most memorable moments.

Dance is special, because it’s a dynamic form of self expression as well as an art form.

Good communicators craft their message using precise and explicit words, saving time and energy without unnecessary embellishment. Their message is direct, intentional and clear.

Painters also use the same method of economy in order to create master pieces.  Take Picasso for example, I once stood in front of his self-portrait at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Upon close inspection, his painting looked unfinished, with his strokes being disconcerting, disorganized, poorly executed and childlike.  Suddenly, I remembered my art teacher’s advice to appreciate composition, so I stepped back.  The more distance between the painting and I, the more realistic the portrait became.  When I was about 15 feet from the painting, his face became a 3D image, jumping out of the canvas.  Every little “flaw” that I was observing from a close range was suddenly very purposeful.  They helped create this masterpiece, which will continue to be studied for many more generations.

In dance often we have the tendency to overdo things.  It’s a common belief that the best dancers are the ones executing the most amount of moves.  From my perspective, all of those moves are distractions. They are just words without a message.  Sometimes BIG words that are poorly applied, and have nothing to do with the mood set by the music.

We forget that dancers are artists first, and being purposeful with each movement helps us compose our story.  The truth is that to become a master in this craft, it takes a whole lot more than a large repertoire of moves… It takes an understanding of composition, music, culture, and oneself.  Inspired by the music, every single movement is intentionally executed.  Dancers tell a story in each dance, and every dance is a unique experience.

Let’s dance by telling our stories, and hopefully inspire the next generation with our compassion and vulnerability.


Technique… It’s a term that gets thrown around quite a lot.  I have heard dancers from other styles say this to Salsa/Mambo dancers with the purpose of belittling our art form.

So what is technique?

From Cambridge English Dictionary:
“A way of performing a skillful activity, or the skill needed to do it.”

Martha Graham said this about technique… “Freedom to a dancer means discipline. That is what technique is for — liberation.”  And she also said, “Great dancers are not great because of their technique, they are great because of their passion.”

Most of the time when I hear about technique, they are usually referring about Ballet, Jazz or Ballroom.  But what about other types of dancing?

  • Do African dances not have any technique?
  • Do breaking, popping, afrobeat, waacking, krumping, electric boogaloo, or any of the dances under the Hip Hop umbrella require technique?

I used to rock climb, and I used to hear this from my fellow rock climbers: “I like her/his technique”.

What I’m trying to explain is:

  • Technique provides consistency.  Good technique allows you to be successful at achieving results/goals at a high rate. If A and B produce C for you, a good technique (A+B) will provide the same results (C) for others.
  • Good technique = Safety.  Having an understanding of alignment, balance, control, strength, connection, counterweight, etc. will keep you from injury.
  • Quality without much effort. A good technique is appropriate when it allows anyone to produce similar or same positive outcomes with the least amount of effort possible.  It needs to be efficient and effective.
  • Can be replicated.  By comprehending the systematic approach to a skill, that skill can be replicated by another.  Techniques are methods, which allow us to recreate similar situations achieving expected results.  Meaning that it can be taught or learned.
  • Clarity. The methodological approach needs to create clear results.  In dancing, good technique allows us to convey our message clearly.

Latin Dance has borrowed techniques from many different dances.  Our technique allows us to communicate almost instantly with our partners.  It help Leads to spin the Follows ten times “on a dime”.  It makes our bodies move in beautiful symmetrical contradictions.  Our technique allows us to feel one with the music, with our partner, with the moment… at the same time, it takes us back in time to our ancestors, and the culture we inherited from them.  Our technique makes us feel… I think Martha Graham said it best… passionate and liberated!

Salsa vs Mambo Debate

The Salsa Vs Mambo Debate
Every so often a discussion appears on social media about this subject, and it usually redirects to on1 vs on2.
After studying this dance for many years, I have come to some conclusions.
1. The premise is incorrect. Mambo is very specific to a dance, that is executed to a specific rhythm. While Salsa does not really specify a rhythm or a dance. Actually, it could be many different rhythms developed in the Caribbean islands, predominantly Cuban rhythms.
2. On1 vs On2. There is no wrong or right way. These two are optional ways to execute the same basic steps, the same turns and figures. They both use the same structure and techniques, only shifted on the timing of execution because of where the basic starts in the musical phrase. These terms are mainly used in the US to describe the slotted/linear dance style.
3. There are many different ways to dance what we call Salsa music. There is Son, Changüí, Mambo, Rumba, Pilón, Bomba, Plena… just to name a few. Each style applies to a very specific rhythm. Most times a track will include sections or breaks with these rhythms, and the dancer should adjust accordingly.
4. There is more than 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 7 (or EnTiempo). While this is a great guideline to help us understand the phrasing of the music, it’s not the only base used. There is contratiempo (2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8), On Clave (2, 3, 5, 6, 6.5, 8 — 2/3 Son version), Chacha (1, 2, 3, 4, 4.5, 6, 7, 8, 8.5), Rumba (1, 3, 5, 7 or the syncopated 1, 2.5, 3, 5, 6.5, 7), Pilón (1, 3, 5, 6.5, 7), etc, etc.
There are many different ways to connect with the music.
5. Mambo as a dance and music has changed/evolved or morphed into something different through different times, and regions. There is Cuban Mambo, Palladium Mambo, Ballroom Mambo, NY Mambo (Often referred as On2 or Eddie Mamboking Torres Style). The influence of Jazz of the 50’s in NYC started taking the music in a new direction starting with Machito and his Afro Cubans with Mario Bauzá as their musical director. With this fusion, the dance also started to be influenced with the other dances (lindy hop, swing, tap, jazz, ballet, etc) that were around the city.

This can be as complex or as simple as you need it to be. The important thing is to have an open mind, a good ear and kind heart. People will dance or stylize the dance accordingly to their region, culture, customs, ancestors, heritage, and feelings.
Let’s accept our differences and celebrate the diversity within our latin dance community. After all, this dance reflects the different shades of our complexion.

What is the Muelleo?

Passing on the knowledge entrusted to me by those who fought so hard for this art.

“The energy comes from the earth… Mother Earth, she gives us the energy to move” – Master Pupy Insua. (+)
My late mentor said this to me when explaining the “Muelleo”.
What is the “Muelleo”?
In Afro-Cuban dances, it’s the bending of the knees (demi plié), which allows the dancer to move by pushing into the ground creating and releasing energy between steps/moves/beats. The posture of the torso is slightly tilted forward. It almost looks like “bouncing”, but I rather use the term “hovering”.
In other dance forms they use similar techniques, like “plié and releve”, “grounding”, “foot articulation”, etc. Posture varies accordingly to the style.
The “Muelleo” is the most important element in Afro-Cuban dances. Understanding the concept, and learning how to apply it, can take years of practice, but once you got it… it’s a whole new world.
Something that Pupy also shared with me was that “the best Rumberos study the Orisha’s dances”. AND from my own observations, the best Salsa dancers study Cuban Rumba.
Let’s continue our education of these dances in order to move forward with the evolution/fusion of it. If you want to fuse something, you better know what elements you are using. It’s about traditions, culture, history and artistic integrity.
Let Mother’s Earth feed you with her energy next time you hit the dance floor!

Dancing from the Heart

New Year Resolution… Educate people more!
Counter Body Motion or Cross Body Motion is essential in Latin dance, specially the Afro-Caribbean dances.
Ribcage and hips more oposite directions from the dancer’s center. This fluid motion or grove, creates energy that triggers the movements of the arms and hands, also the bending and straightening of the knees, which eventually helps your feet roll in and out of the floor (foot articulation) when weight shifting.
Everything comes from the center, from micro movement to explosives macro movements… So we dance from the center… We dance from the HEART!
Let’s add more heart to each dance this year!

Why do you dance?

I feel a little dishearten when I know of people leaving the Salsa Dance Scene, because they think they have “learned everything about it.”
Most likely, it’s because you have acquired limited knowledge of this style. The problem is that most instructors lack of a deep understanding and knowledge of this dance.
Here are two pictures. The First shows what most instructors think of Salsa… The Second one shows the complexity of this dance, which has evolved for centuries in Cuba, with meaningful moves that connect the dancer with the music, culture and mystical traditions.
Do you want to learn to DANCE? OR Do you want to learn some steps?
Dancing is more that mimicking some steps or spin a dozen times on a dime. Dancing is feeling, and in this case… Salsa is how WE connect to our music, our culture and our ancestors.
(BTW When I say “WE”, I include everyone, because many cultures have contributed to the developing of this dance and music)

See you in class!

Brian and Ellie – Bachata Instructors

            Brian Brizuela was born in Manassas, Virginia and raised in Raleigh, North Carolina. His mother originally from Guatemala and his father from El Salvador, both immigrated to the USA shortly before Brian was born. Brian was raised surrounded by Hispanic culture and music, including Bachata, Merengue, Cumbia and Salsa. His love for dance and music was evident from a young age. During his teenage years, he discovered a love for various styles of Hip-Hop dance, which continue to influence his unique style and creativity. Through Hip-Hop, he also found his passion for choreography. Prior re-discovering Latin dancing, Brian was a member of a local Hip-Hop crew that performed at events in North Carolina and battled other dance groups in the area.  In late 2015, Brian met Ellie, his current dance partner, at a local Latin dance social, and became immediately interested in learning different styles of Latin dance. Since beginning his Latin dance education, he is well-versed in the technique of Dominican “traditional” bachata, Salsa and Mambo. However, he found his true passion for Bachata after discovering the unique style of Daniel and Desirée (Spain), as well as Korke Escalona and Judith Cordero (Spain) – the creators of Bachata Sensual.

Elizabeth “Ellie” Marie was born and raised in Sacramento, California to an Italian-American family. Ellie’s mother introduced her to Latin dance at a young age since she trained to be an instructor before Ellie was born. As a young girl, Ellie was taught Salsa, Merengue, and Bachata, surrounded by the rich Hispanic culture in California, where she quickly learned to speak Spanish. As a child she immersed herself in various styles of dance and art, including jazz and gymnastics, and musical theater. It was not until 2014, after her family moved to Raleigh, North Carolina and when her mother was re-inspired to learn Latin dance, that Ellie took her first Salsa class in Durham, North Carolina. Her passion for different styles of Latin dance grew quickly, and she began to train exclusively with Jose Paredes in “traditional” Dominican Bachata and Mambo, and in 2015, began to assist Jose in teaching classes and creating choreography. After meeting her partner, Brian, at a Salsa social, they were inspired to learn different styles together and take classes from various instructors in the area. Ellie’s knowledge of Dominican Bachata and Mambo strongly influence her technique and musicality. She discovered her love for Sensual Bachata with Brian when they began training with Kat Arias in Washington D.C. She has been inspired by the feminine sensual styles of Desirée Guidonet, Judith Cordero, and Andrea Cobos Gomez from Spain. She is preparing to graduate in the spring of 2019 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she studies Exercise and Sport Science, Hispanic Studies, Portuguese and Italian.

Since beginning their partnership in late 2015, Brian and Ellie have trained with numerous reputable instructors in various Latin styles, including but not limited to Jose Paredes, Norberto “Betto” Herrera, Annie Velez, Jenny Geska, Kat Arias, Jose Serrano, Vladi Aragon and Carla Capo. Their passion for Sensual Bachata has been inspired by the technique of Korke and Judith (Spain) and the ambassadors of Bachata Sensual. In May of 2017, they began teaching their first weekly group class at Aura Studio, expanding on the fundamentals of bachata and introducing sensual style and technique to the Raleigh Latin dance community. In 2018, they travelled to Madrid, Spain where they immersed themselves in the culture and style in order to improve their social dancing technique. That same year, they competed as members of Ferocity Dance Company under Kat Arias at the Ultimate Latin Dance Championship and at the World Latin Dance Cup as an Amateur Bachata couple, placing in the Top 3 at both competitions. They are best known for their musicality, fluidity, and connection. By continuing to grow within their local community and to expand their style as dancers, performers, and instructors, they hope to connect individuals of various cultures and backgrounds across the world through dance.

Bachata Syllabus

Level I Bachata – Beginner (1st class)

Thursdays 7 – 8 pm

  • Steps or Footwork: Basic Step, Front & Back Basics, Right Turn, Left Turn
  • Partnerwork: Open Frame, Semi-close Frame, Connection, Lead and Follow of Right and Left Turns

Level II Bachata – Advanced Beginner (4 classes)

Thursdays 7 – 8 pm

  • Class #1:  Hand Holds and Turns
  • Class #2:  Tension and Directiom
  • Class #3:  Craddle and Hammerlocks
  • Class #4:  Changes in Levels and Intro to Body Isolation

Level III Bachata – Sensual Bachata (4 classes)

Thursdays 8-9 pm

  • Class #1:  Musicality
  • Class #2:  Body Isolations
  • Class #3:  Fluidity
  • Class #4:  Sensual Interpretation