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NY Salsa Dance Examiner
Sunday, 27 December 2009
In search of a groove On2
When East met West there was no stopping the On2 movement but was On2 destined to become a novelty, a status symbol for the West Coast Salsero or would the West Coaster embrace that dancing on two was not just about breaking on count two in the music or about a number, it was about a feeling, a groove, a drive to a groove.

Nineteen ninety-nine was an interesting year. I relocated to the West Coast where the On1 style of salsa was king and On2 was a style untapped and uninvited but all of that was about to change and I was about to witness it first hand. I was about to experience the ups and downs, the ins and outs, and the trials, tribulations and hopes of migrating a new form of Salsa dance to a scene unexposed.

San Francisco Instructor, Gabriel Romero

Three years into my stay out West, I met up with a local group whose director was venturing into unknown territories. His name, Gabriel Romero, a charismatic, friendly, smooth and talented dancer, performer, choreographer and instructor who became hooked on learning, instructing and performing the On2 style of Salsa after several visits to New York City and ongoing instruction with Seaon Stylist, a local dancer and instructor brought up in the New York Salsa scene who had migrated out West. After three years of agony, longing and starvation for the familiar groove of the On2 style of Salsa, a ray of hope sprung up in Berkeley, California at the Beat Studio where Gabriel and his team Mambo Romero began their On2 journey tapping the infectious New York Salsa Style familiarly referred to as “dancing On2.”

Although there was hope there, it became apparent to me after spending my formative years of dancing Salsa in the heart of the New York scene that starting up a different form of Salsa without the support of its original surroundings was definitely a brave move and quite a mission but it was one that Gabriel Romero dedicated himself to and in my last two years on the West Coast On2 began to take a foothold in the Bay Area.

"Mistakes Are the Portals of Discovery" – James Joyce

Little did I know that the shortcomings of adopting a dance form rarely practiced outside its normal habitat would also end up being my introduction to becoming a salsa instructor. While attending rehearsals, I began to notice teaching practices given by an instructor that were not quite on point. After the instructor had taken several workshops at the famed Santo Rico School and attempting to implement their spinning technique in instruction, it was apparent that there was a piece of the puzzle missing. The Santo Rico Spin technique is one of the most intricate techniques to master, as the creator of the technique, Tomas Guerrero , comments on in his interview with LaVozdemambo.com. A few workshops weren’t going to do the complete job of breaking down such an involved and evolved form of spinning. What was misunderstood was that the follower’s hip rotation was used to assist in increasing the speed and power of the take off of the spin, not to spin on her own and disconnect from the initiation of the lead or her role as a follower. Aside from the technical misconceptions, there was a disconnect in the feeling of the New York Style. It was apparent to me that the On2 style was interpreted as just that in the beginning, dancing/breaking on count two of the music with none of the nuances that made it so infectious. I began to study the lead, feeling that perhaps I could translate what I was talking about by gaining experience as a leader. As fate would have it, that was the beginning of my venture as an instructor.

Feeling the On2 style

There was a particular dancer who would be relocating from the Bay Area to New York to study that I would run into a few years later upon my return to New York City. Upon bumping into her at a local club, I asked her a simple, direct question, do you understand what I was talking about now? “Yes,” she said emphatically, “I finally get it.” If you’re wondering what she got, turn on the classic Dirty Dancing film with Patrick Swayze, it's a very simple way to catch on to the meaning of dancing On2. There’s a scene in the movie where Swayze's character says to Baby, “it’s about a feeling;” he takes his fingers places them over her heart and makes the sound of the tumbao rhythm, “ga goong.”

The groove migrates abroad

As with any migration, there is a period of adjustment, acceptance and that “ah ha” moment when the pieces of the puzzle find their way to a succinct picture. The On2 style is no longer just a New York thing and has definitely become more than a novelty. It’s become a staple around the world. Although there are still some moments of disconnect to the feeling of what it means to dance On2, the more the New York instructors circle the globe at congresses and expose the On2 Style around the world, the more enlightened, connected and curious we all become about what makes this form of Salsa so infectious. For a New York Salsera stranded in a distant place far from the Salsa and the scene that resonated in her bones, it was nice to know that there is an instructor by the name of Gabriel Romero who was brave and determined enough to swim up stream into uncharted territory.

San Francisco Salsa Instructor and Performer, Gabriel Romero with partner Adrian
Gabriel Romero

Posted by liccardoenterprises at 12:01 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 4 April 2012 10:30 PM EDT

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