Benjamin Cartagena and Sophia Marzan (Orlando, FL)
Ben Cartagena is no stranger to dance. Recruited at the age of 16 to learn and instruct at one of Orlando’s largest Latin dance studios, Ben has spent the last decade perfecting his craft and skills seeking training in different dance techniques, from Cuban Folklore to Contemporary and NY Mambo. He has created an effective training regimen, which he shares with his students in during his weekly classes. His unique style difficult to find anywhere in the world, as he truly intertwines grace, technique and dynamic physicality in his dance. Ben specializes in all traditional latin dances and is renown for his ability to help students realize their max potential.
Born to parents of Puerto Rican descent, Sophia grew up listening to salsa music all of her life. In 2012, Sophia moved to Orlando, Florida and decided to chase down her life long interest in salsa dancing and began taking classes at Salsa Heat. She soon realized that dancing, both a creative and physical endeavor, was the perfect art form for her: given her propensity towards the arts, her love of latin music, and her previous physical training as a young gymnast and D1 collegiate athlete in soccer and track and field.
Sophia quickly rose to the professional level once she began training at Salsa Synergy Dance Company and has been ceaseless ever since, training in salsa, afro-cuban, afro latin contemporary, and ballet at the Russian Academy Orlando. Her no-shortcuts attitude and love for training has propelled her to a professional level in an impressive short amount of time. She aims to express movement in her unique way while honoring the art form and continue learning from those who she respects.
As a teacher, Sophia’s objective is to inspire those that decide to pursue their passion at any age and prove that it’s never too late to pursue greatness. She currently tours the U.S. performing with her dance partner turned fiancé Benjamin Cartagena of Salsa Synergy. They both direct the schools performance teams and teach classes together in Orlando. They are constantly at work developing themselves and continue growing as dancers.
Julissa Cruz has been training, teaching coaching and performing dance for over 20 years. As a child, she would spend hours dancing to videos in front of the tv until her Mother enrolled her in dance classes at the age of 9. She would go on to train in jazz, ballet, tap, hip hop and the Latin dance arts.
At the age of 15, she began to combine her passion for dance with a new found love of teaching at Leggz Dance Academy, first as an assistant teacher and later developing her own youth hip hop program there. In addition, Julissa also served as director of the Salsa Heat professional dance company, teaching with them for 4 years before venturing out on her own as a solo artist. Since then, she has performed and taught throughout the U.S. and beyond on her own, while collaborating with other world-renowned performers such as Andy Cruz, Gordon Neil, Ana Masacote, Benjamin Cartagena and Liz Becerra.
In 2009, Julissa married and relocated to Richmond, VA where she founded Latin Vintage, and has become the proud mother of three. She is passionate about the creation and development of dancers, as well as creating enthusiasts of the art and culture. Julissa continues to be inspired by the integrity of movement, and hopes to share this with others for years to come.