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Interview with Enio Cordoba and Terryl Jones


  • Interview with Enio Cordoba and Terryl Jones

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    Enio Cordoba and Terryl Jones, Two of the World’s Finest Master Instructors

    By Edie, The Salsa FREAK

    The caliber of instruction by Enio Cordoba and his partner / fiancée, Terryl Jones is unparalleled. Both teach at the Let’s Dance Studio in Alhambra, California, and have a student base numbering the thousands. Holding classes virtually seven days a week, the Let’s Dance studio has some of the largest dance classes in Southern California.

    It’s a rarity to catch them outside of their busy studio for a non-interrupted conversation, but I had that opportunity just a few weeks ago. They are both very down to earth, and genuinely nice people, who deeply care about the business and their students.

    Enio and Terryl have a dance and training background that is to die for. Both have taught and trained with some of the top names in the industry. “Enio and Terryl” have become household names with dancers and instructors from all over the world, eager to take their popular techniques classes, and instructor-training courses.

    I have known Enio and Terryl for quite some time, and have had the opportunity not only dancing with Enio, but also performing on stage with their dance company. Having been in the Salsa community now for a number of years, and continued my own education from some of the finest instructors in the world, I can often guess who has trained whom. I can always tell an Enio / Terryl-trained student. Whenever I run across one, it’s always a treat dancing with them. Each has a sharp, exciting, and refined lead, with a taste of ballroom, and a mouthful of Latin flavor.

    Enio and Terryl’s specialty is dancing to the music, which is an entirely different level of education, very difficult to find. Their methods take dance to an entirely different level. This highly professional way of leading can be tricky to follow if you’re always trying to force your basic count and step on the leader. I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work. What works is hesitating just a bit, and waiting for him. What works is listening to the music. What works is NOT THINKING, letting go, and just enjoying the ride! It’s passionate and fiery, soothing and crystal. Trust me, it will ROCK YOUR WORLD!!

    Ladies, expect WHATEVER from the Enio / Terryl – trained lead. Wait for the guy, and let HIM lead YOU. You never know what to expect. His moves are precise and fast. He plays and uses the music as his lead, not necessarily the methodic underlying counts. He’ll hesitate, then speed you sharply into a quick turn, hesitating again for a brief second, just long enough to pick up the next phrase or hit of the song EXACTLY where it’s supposed to be. To the Enio / Terryl – trained dancer, the basic rhythm is outlined, but the music is what is important.

    It’s not often one has the opportunity to take a beginner class from two world-class Masters. I was rather shocked that they were asked to teach beginners at the West Coast Salsa Congress. It was for this reason I stayed. I was compelled to see exactly how they taught a beginner class, and was very impressed with their thoroughness, clarity, and simplicity.

    I watched in amazement as they spoke of keeping your dancing tight, and in a circle, rather than the broader slot approach (which is what I used to teach all the time - until I took their class). They taught beginners the foundations of pivots (a highly technical move normally taught to advanced students) and taught what is called a Rotating Cross Body Lead, “keeping it close in a tight situation”. They explained that the popularity of Salsa has grown so much, that it is has become increasingly difficult to find ample space at clubs to execute typical (slot-based) cross-body leads.

    They had a tag-team approach to teaching that was both comical and fascinating. You can tell they love working together and make a fabulous team. During their beginner workshop, they shy’d away from the typically taught “basics and timing”. Instead, they taught physics, the mechanics of body movement, momentum, motion, speed, and control. This fascinated me. I had never seen a beginner’s workshop taught like this before.

    The mechanics of body movement and momentum.
    Taught to Beginners.
    It all made perfect sense to me.

    It all clicked in an amazing way. After I saw and experienced their class, I believe this type of training should be recommended training for all beginners up front, so they don’t develop bad habits, and can progress more rapidly. Beginners as well as advanced Salseros need to be trained this way. The reasons “why” a movement is executed, understanding the momentum concept, how pivots can help a lead, what type of speed should be applied, and where the follower’s body is placed are all vital to a solid, professional lead.

    Enio himself has been trained by some of the world’s top instructors like Ron Montez, Bob Medeiros, and Nina Hunt. His titles have included US Amateur Latin Champ 1980, California, Texas, Florida Rising Star Champion 1980-1982, US Rising Star Latin Champion 1987, placed 17th at the 1980 World Latin Championships in Stuttgardt, Quarter Finalist at the British Professional Latin Championships, Feather Award Winner as the Top Teacher 1992, Feather Award Winner as the Hottest Mambo Dancer in the Country in 1993 & 1994, and 1st Place Cabaret Division at the World Swing Championships in 1994.

    Formerly a Smooth Dancer in the International ballroom community, Terryl has been teaching dance since 1980. She has received extensive teacher training in multiple dance styles and has also trained and worked with such world-class competitors as, World Cabaret champs - Roy and June Mavor, US Latin Champion - Vernon Brock, US Latin Champion - Ron Montez, US Standard champions Brian & Susan Puttock and Brian & Kristi McDonald and technicians Jock & Bemil McGregor. Some of Terryl’s titles are Semifinalist US Championship in American Smooth (1986), Florida State Rising Star Standard (1987), Fred Astaire National Rising Star Champion (1988), and 1st place Cabaret Division at the World Swing Championships (1994)

    What’s more, their reputation goes beyond the Ballroom and Salsa communities. Though they have never competed on ice, their talents have indirectly been seen in 3 consecutive Olympic Ice Skating events (Albertville, Lillehammer, and Nagano) where they have personally trained such world-class ice skaters as Punsalan & Swallow, Roca & Sur, Sargent & Witherby, Mayer & Breen in Ice Dancing and Meno & Sand in Pairs Division. They have also done several elite training camps at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

    Enio and Terryl have traveled throughout the world competing and training professional instructors, dancers, and ice skaters not only on the techniques of dance, but how to teach as well. Hence, the term “Master Instructor” suits the both of them very well. They currently have an instructional video on the market, and are working on more to come.

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    Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very proud to introduce to you, Enio Cordoba and Terryl Jones

    Questions for Enio:

    How long have you been dancing?
    I’ve been dancing organized dance since 1975. Before that I did Costa Rican Folkloric and always had music at my parents weekly parties.

    What or who got you started?
    A girlfriend who took a social dance class at USC had to go to a dance party where Ron Montez and Carol Montez were performing a Latin and ballroom show. They played cha chas and swings, which I could do. So when they said “Next week... blah, blah blah” I thought they were having the same party the next week so we went back. Instead it was a ballroom class. Although I tried to sit it out, the teacher made me get up. Being ‘Joe Cool” athlete/fraternity guy I thought all the girls would rather dance with me than all the propellerhead chinitos with the pocket protectors. I was so bad that every girl who rotated to me rolled her eyes towards heaven like “Oh no! Not this one!” Most guys would have given up right away but being a Scorpio with Latin blood I made a vow that I would out-dance everyone of those #$^%£$ by the end of the series. Although I did catch a few of them by the end it wasn’t as easy as I thought. The only problem was that one of the girls ended up partnering with Ron Montez and winning 7 straight US Championships and eventually becoming one of my coaches. Never did catch her. After that summer I took classes with Ron Montez at USC and joined the USC formation team. When they held an intercollegiate competition Carol Montez urged me to compete. I had hoped to place 2nd behind the star of the dance team. When they announced him 3rd place I was so bummed. I thought, “Who could have beaten him?” I was shocked when I won the Latin event.

    Where did you learn?

    Although I didn’t win again for almost a year, I moved up the ranks for the next three years until I won the US Amateur Championship. At that point I was starting to compete heavily in Europe, so I went to Ron’s coach- Nina Hunt in London and took from the stable of World Champions she coached. Although I was quickly outdistancing all my partners I had to commute weekly to Houston to find the best available girl. Although she was only 15 we danced in the worlds and did really well. We had only been dancing together for three months, even though all the other couples practiced daily for years. After that, I had to find partners in San Diego and later Denver. But when I was home alone I took jazz, tap, ballet, Afro-Cuban, and modern classes. All I did in those days was work 9-5 at GUCCI then danced till the studio closed. I don’t remember eating.

    Who were some of your mentors in your progress?

    Although Ron was always my main coach, I took with all the best. Then one day I met Bobby Medeiros from Miami. He was also a former US Latin Champion. For three years he challenged everything I thought I knew about Latin dancing. He introduced me to the Mambo, he taught me about the music, about the different body actions, and best of all he taught me that I wasn’t dancing for the judges I was dancing for my partner and myself. That year when I won the US Rising Star Championship in Miami I felt I no longer needed to prove myself, so I retired from competition. I later learned that Joe Cassini had been a buddy of Bobby back in Boston and that Joe had coached him. Joe Cassini is someone that I love working with because he’s so brilliant, so musical, and has such wonderful stories of the good old days.

    What type of teaching style do you take after?
    Fortunately all of my teachers were the cerebral type. I was stubborn - I had to know why, I never accepted anything on face value.

    How do you define the difference between the style of Salsa you teach, and those taught by others?:
    I started using the term LA Speed Salsa about three years ago in Europe. If you think of a five-point star inside of a circle, we will dance within the circle. Rather than the linear Mambo style our style teaches really good control. Like a car that goes fast it’s got to have great brakes. We show people how to go fast. I love to push the edge. Terryl is my Ferrari. The objective is to have the control to go as fast as if the floor was empty and yet not bump into anybody. As floors have gotten more crowded, we had to develop patterns that were more circular and less linear.

    Because Terryl also speaks her mind, there are certain moves we won’t teach like wraps where the girls are forced to go under the guys’ armpit. The girls spend lots of money getting beautiful and then some guys will put them into wraps that trash their hair, roll them on the floor, or wipe the girls arm across the guys sweaty neck. They also don’t want their arm cranked over their head or hard neck loops.

    I love to analyze various styles when we travel. Some of the styles are brutal. I hate rough dancing. The best leading is what I call no option leading. I don’t make the girl guess. She knows exactly what I want, but I never force her to do it. The lead places the girls center over her feet.

    As for our style, there are many facets. Unlike one-dimensional dancing where the focus is only on footwork, I feel the choreography shows off the couple’s skills, stuff that allows the girl to shine, and stuff that allows me to shine. In one song I would use all three. If you’re standing there facing the girl doing footwork and she’s looking at you like what a jerk, why even take her out on the dance floor? In one of my better moments I told one class “It’s kind of like sex, you can do it by yourself or you can do it with someone else.” I don’t try to get a lower-level girl to dance to my level. A lot of guys do that and make the girl feel terrible. I will try to get an idea of what the girl’s basic skill level is, and then try to lead her well enough so that when the song is over she thinks, “That’s the best I’ve ever danced.”

    Finally the music aspect is about making people on the sidelines see what they are hearing. If you were watching a video with no sound, would you be able to tell what dance someone is doing? Connecting with the music as it builds in intensity towards the crescendo, creating a light and shade means that you and you partner are much more aware of the music than just dancing the cool variations of the week.

    But really what is authentic Salsa? Watch the opening of the movie Dance With Me and you’ll see authentic Cuban dancing. It doesn’t have any neck wraps, dips or drops. On the other hand how many people would drive a 1940 Ford if they could drive a 2001 Mercedes? Music changes - dance changes. As dancers become better the dance mutates. They bring in moves and leads from other dances and styles. The New York Style isn’t any more authentic than the Miami style. The New York style has so much 1970’s disco influence that it looks at times like Hustle. So that style looks dated to me. Miami style uses so much pretzel and neck dubbing moves that I wonder where the Latin is. Neither of those elements is “authentic”. So, when someone criticizes our style as “too this or too that”, I wonder from what perspective he or she is coming from. While we go fast, we are still in synch with the pulse of the rhythm. The body action, while much more subtle, is felt by my partner which synchronizes in the movement. Finally, the music is expressed through the body- not just the feet. The feet are but one element.

    “Music changes - dance changes. As dancers become better the dance mutates. They bring in moves and leads from other dances and styles.”

    What’s Your Opinion on The Dancing on Two Issue?

    Last week we were showing our advanced dancers a video of our 2nd MamboMania in 1990 where Bob Medeiros was teaching how you could use different styles (read body actions) like Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican and even Brazilian. In those days they called it Mambo. Bobby demonstrated that everyone now calls it “NY Two”. He was saying that this is how the NY dancers dance on the One. This whole issue is like Cadillac calling their cars superior because they have ‘The Northstar System’. Yeah everybody else calls it a carburetor. It’s a selling gimmick. What I don’t like about it, is that it confuses dancers and makes it harder for people to dance together. What is confusing to the beginner is that they’re taking something that’s blue and calling it red. You can call it red all you want but it won’t make it red. No matter what you call it you are still dancing on and 567. You’re holding the 4 and the 8.

    The arguments for NY 2 are these:

    1) You are dancing on the clave.

    Crock! The clave hits on 1,3,4, 6, 7, where there are different places in the first bar than in the second bar. Doesn’t matter whether you dance on Salsa 1, Mambo 2, or 3, or 4. Only one of the breaks is going to be on clave, the other won’t, no matter what style you do. Real dancing on clave is when you dance 5 (Five) steps over 8 beats of music hitting exactly on the clave hits. Do it once and your out of synch with your partner, do it twice and you’re back in synch. Watch Joe Cassini when he’s doing shines, and you’ll see him do it. The real Two is a different matter. It is on different beats and therefore hitting clave differently. That takes someone with a better understanding of the music to be able to dance. All the time I have good dancers ask me to dance and request I help them stay on the two because they know that I can keep them there and they are trying to learn it.

    2) You get a better feeling.
    That’s like saying chocolate is better than vanilla because I get a better feeling when I eat it. Gimme a break. I can dance on Salsa 1, Mambo 2, and the so called NY2 . There’s no magical feeling. The feeling has to do with being in synch with the music. Mambo was music of the 40’s and 50’s. Ran Kan Kan and Mambo # 5 sound nothing like the quasi rap sound of DLG, the charanga sound of Hansel Martinez, the timba sound of Los Van Van, the Salsa Romantica of Lalo Rodriguez, or the Cumbia sound of some of Oscar D’ Leon’s music. A while back at the Sportsmens Lodge one of the old timers was complaining that the band was playing terrible MAMBO. I told them - that’s because they’re playing SALSA. At the LA Congresso I noticed how many of the shine & “2” stylists were teaching to Latin Jazz. On that kind of music I would dance MAMBO 2 not SALSA 1. But try dancing MAMBO 2 to Salsa Romantica or Columbian Salsa and it feels like sht. In LA all the top bands have the Charanga arrangements with flutes and violins. Maybe in NY they dance to Latin Jazz but it won’t play in LA. So there are people here teaching the “NY Two” as feeling better because of clave etc. Yes, the feet are in a different place on the floor, but they are on the same beats, same clave etc. The feet are dancing basically the pendulum action. The action is what makes “NY Two” have a distinct feel. And I agree it is a good feeling, I use the pendulum action myself, but I don’t try to say it is a different beat. It takes us about three minutes to teach our students to switch to the “NY Two”, because once they realize they are still holding/tapping on the same beat it is just a matter of changing foot placement.

    3) Breaking on NY2 is different than breaking on 1
    Only in direction of movement. If you are stepping on beats 1, 2, 3, 5,6,7, you are DANCING on 1 regardless of which count you are BREAKING on. This is still AFRO CUBAN based and the feeling that you should get is from the hypnotic PULSE of the RHYTHM in the BODY. In Cuban based rhythms, the strong beats are on 1 and 3. Count 2 is a “dead” beat. Where did the idea of breaking come from? Listen to the father of Mambo- Perez Prado. His songs had breaks (pauses in the music) Good dancers of that era would know when those pauses were coming and ‘hit the breaks’ - kind of like hanging on the edge of the cliff. Pretty soon breaking became the basic rather than as an accent.

    Tell us about your competition years. What types of titles did you win, and who were some of your partners?

    Until I turned pro I did police work. So lots of times I would work graveyard shift so that I could dance during the day or evenings. The most amazing partner I had was 15-year-old Natalie Mavor from Houston. She had been dancing since the age of 3 in her family’s dance show. Her parents were world champions and later coached me. I never met a partner like her. We danced 11 straight hours one day. Neither of us wanting to be the one to quit so when we were ready to drop I looked at her and said “You look tired, do you want to stop and eat?” Typical Natalie answered, “Only if you do.” The next morning before she flew back to Houston we practiced another 3 hours even though we were useless. Many partners later she moved to California and we did lots of shows together. I choreographed her routine when she and Steve Vasco won the Mayan contest in 1996.

    My ex-wife was someone who I took from a beginner dance teacher to the quarterfinals of the British Open Professional in 15 months, which was unheard of. We did it by going on a cruise ship for a year and doing nothing but practicing, performing and planning. However, once we started having kids, she quit dancing.

    I then danced with Karen Lee from Denver, Colorado. Also a beginner, I basically trained her for 1 year, commuting back and forth to Denver each week so that we could both run our studios and keep our families. Although it was frustrating always being on the teaching end, Karen introduced me to the spiritual & metaphysical aspects of dance. In many ways I grew much more than I thought possible. After we won the US Rising Star I retired and several top coaches tried to coax me out of retirement with lots of top girls from Europe or Japan but I was more involved with raising my kids and running the studio.

    Are you still competing today? If so, when is your next competition?
    ... and if not, why not?

    No! I have learned that competition izes the dance. Dancers don’t dance for the love they dance to win. I hate that they feel it necessary to do lifts and tricks to get the audience to oooh and aaahhh. In my last competition I danced solely for the audience and ignored the judges. Guess what- I won all five dances.

    Are you still traveling extensively? If so, where are you headed next, if not why not?
    Oh my gosh yes! Since the movie Dance With Me came out, we made 9 trips to Europe and all over the US and have turned down numerous other invitations. We just got back from Toronto and we’re home for the summer, as I needed a break. Our next big trip is Hawaii in September. I’ve cut back since I’m trying to open a club in LA. Also summer is when I work a lot with the ice dance couples so I tend to get flown out to Colorado Springs at a moments notice. Truthfully we lose so much money when we travel since our classes at Lets Dance are so huge, that we really only go to places that we’ve a) never been to before, or b) it’s a major event where we can teach the most number of dance professionals in the shortest period of time. For Example we taught at the German Dance Congress in April 99 where there were 3,500 dancers. We did a Rueda with over 350 couples in a huge arena. Last month we taught and performed on Latvian National TV 1 in Riga.

    How did the both of you meet?
    I like to joke that I had nothing to do with it. Read Terryl’s version here... When she finally came to California she had been dating my coach Ron and I thought she was drop dead gorgeous. I never thought she would date me. So we became friends. At every competition we went to we would meet and talk but it was our friendship with 14 time World Champion Gaynor Fairweather that brought us together. Gaynor loved going shopping with us in Miami and so we just kind of fell in love.

    Do you find it difficult to date your dance and business partner?

    Totally- NOT. We’re best friends. The only thing is that I’m a compulsive workaholic and I find it difficult to turn off business. I forget to have fun.

    What keeps your relationship together for the both of you?

    We’re total opposites. She calls me a vampire since I do my best work from midnight to 4 am when the phones stop ringing. In the morning she’s up at the crack of dawn and out running and climbing in the canyons of Altadena with our dogs. We see each other in passing. I’m off to the studio and work all afternoon; she comes in to teach her privates and our evening classes. So it’s like we’re together but it’s not OUR time. She’s the most intelligent well-read woman I have ever met. And Oh my God she has an opinion. Terryl is not meek. She’ll tell me what I need to hear whether or not I want to hear it.

    What are some of the benefits of dating your dance / business partner?

    When I’m working- I’m with my favorite person in the whole world. I can travel with her and if one of us is not feel particularly motivated, the other can step in and cover for each other.

    What are some of the disadvantages?

    I can be mad as hell at her for some dumb reason but when we teach we are performing. It’s impossible to stay mad at her. We’ll be out there and I’ll look into those beautiful eyes and even though she’s usually at fault I end up saying I’m sorry.

    Terryl came from a Smooth background, and you came from a Rhythm background. Has that helped or hindered your dancing as a couple?
    Dance is dance! The principles of body mechanics, gravity, and momentum apply to us equally. Gravity doesn’t say “Oh you’re a Swing dancer you can dance off balance”. It would have been different if she had not been a highly trained beginner. It just gives us 5 new ways to present an idea to a student who is having difficulty

    What types of adjustments had to be made?
    At first I thought, “Here we go again! Another partner I have to train.” Instead, as soon as I realized she understood partnering as well as I did, we got along much better. Sometimes it’s like we both want to drive the car, but unlike many couples where only the guy teaches and the girl assists, either one of us can be the lead teacher. The trick is to let go and let the other one run with the ball. It’s the key to our success. All teachers tend to over teach. When the student’s eyes tend to glaze over or they start to sit down - you’ve lost them. Instead we’ll keep each other from talking too much and let them dance. It’s really important to the pacing of the class.

    “…unlike many couples where only the guy teaches and the girl assists, either one of us can be the lead teacher. The trick is to let go and let the other one run with the ball.
    It’s the key to our success.”

    Tell us a little about your videos, and where our readers can purchase one.
    The 1st one we did was the Casino Rueda 1 & 2. Casino was just starting to hit in LA so we got together and shot it in one night. The problem is that at $175 an hour in an editing bay you can’t be really picky so I had to let the editor do it his way. The video has a good assortment of moves and covers two levels. By the time we did LA Style Salsa 1 & 2, I knew what I wanted and one of our students who edits for the History Channel put up with me for days in the editing bay tweaking it to get it just right. That video has a really good mix of technique and patterns. It is an hour long and has two levels. I wanted the video to be something that the beginner intermediate student could use for months and months not just “here’s 10 cool moves”.

    Right after that I bought myself a G3 Mac video editing system. Being a perfectionist I wanted complete control over every aspect of the production. Since we were teaching a lot of Rueda after the movie Dance With Me came out, we decide to do a video using the Rueda patterns that were also couple patterns. Because of the phenomenal growth of Salsa, clubs now are packed where before you could go and have lots of room, now you have to dance more rotationally or else you get boxed in and kicked and elbowed. Because of this our next video will update how our Salsa has changed in the past two years.

    “…now you have to dance more rotationally or else you get boxed in and kicked and elbowed.”

    What gave you the idea to train world-class ice skaters?

    They brought me to an elite camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, more for entertainment purposes. I was there to entertain the troops so-to-speak. When I found that out, I told them to put be back on a plane since I wasn’t there to waste my time. The chief judge asked me if I thought I could help them and knowing how stiff they looked I said, “Hell yes!” By the end of the camp coaches were flying me all around the country to do choreography. Then during the Nationals in San Jose, Dick Button interviewed me and said on ESPN that I was “the hottest choreographer in skating today…” along with Keith Young, the choreographer for the Drew Carey Show and Twyla Tharp. Then I really got booked with younger up-and-coming skaters.

    "Ballroom training is about partnering - how to make something happen in the easiest most efficient way. It’s not about style."

    Tell us a little about your instructor training courses. What is the curriculum, how are they run, and how often do you hold them (where can we sign up?) One thing I get really sick of is when second-rate teachers try to label us as BALLROOM dancers. Kind of like ‘anybody better than me is a ballroom dancer’- like it’s a disease. Hell the best teachers in Salsa today all have training other than Salsa. Laura Canellias (I met her in Houston working at Roy Mavor’s studio) Josie Neglia (Latin competitor out of Toronto) Joe Cassini (taught at Arthur Murrays in Boston) Bob Medeiros (the best Salsero I ever saw) all had ballroom training. Ballroom training is about partnering - how to make something happen in the easiest most efficient way. It’s not about style. You can have great style and still lead like sht. Or you can lead very well but have a ridiculous looking style. But given a choice, dancing is still about a man and a woman. You can always change your style, but leading is something that you really have to study. I still can’t watch many Salseros teach. The movement principles are all wrong. Some of the things I hear are downright wrong or injurious to the partner. Someone once asked me if teachers should be required to be licensed to teach. At the time I said no, beginner teachers often have so much enthusiastic energy that they motivate many people to go on when a more advanced teacher might bore the students to death. On the other hand, even though this is not brain surgery, dance teachers should be required to at least take basic training in how not to teach bad technique.

    Our training program will go from the basics of movement, partnering, understanding the differences between beat and pulse, body rhythm and foot dancing. We’ll cover the development of Latin dancing through the past century to it’s Afro-Cuban roots and we’ll cover the business side of dancing, like how to develop your classes into big classes (for example why do beginner teachers take their flyers to places where everyone already knows how to dance? Wouldn’t it be smarter to take them to where people don’t know how to dance? Instead of dividing up an existing pie, why not bake another?)

    Our training classes encompass exploring music phrasing, the concept of breaking on 1, 2 or 3, and teaching the different types of spins from spot spins to traveling pivots. We’ll introduce you to common terms throughout partner dancing and in general help you close the gap from “Salsa teacher” to “DANCE Teacher”. More importantly we’ll cover the relationships between the different styles from Swing to Ballroom to Latin to Salsa. Our next one will start in January after our Christmas dance camp.

    Tell us about the opening of your new studio. Where is it and when will it be open for business?

    We had expected to open by August but when the estimates came back from the architect, the cost of leveling the floor in the theatre we were looking at were way out of line due to structural problems of the building. Instead we are looking at another property, which is 6 times as big as our current location, but to make it work we are going to need a restaurant to go in with us. We hope to get back on track soon but for now we are on hold.

    On a personal level, what are you plans for the future?
    I have been asked to run a competition down in Orlando, another in Costa Rica, but my real interest is with introducing my group of teens at the studio to the wonderful life I have had through dancing. It is my passion. I would have 20 kids if I could. I’m like Peter Pan; I refuse to grow up. If I ever stop dancing I’ll have to get a real job. Seriously I want to give kids an alternative to sports as we know it and put the genie back in the bottle so-to-speak. I think kids are growing up too fast. The role models are all wrong. Competitive dancing is the solution. I want to start a program funded by school districts like the Soviets have where any kid can study the art form or sport of their choice for free. I just need to find the right foundation or benefactor. It will happen, the question is when. Most importantly, I’ve been waiting for Terryl to marry me since we met. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me.

    On a professional level, what plans do you have?
    I was heavily involved in the production of the movie Dance With Me. I really enjoyed the process. I would like to do more work in the film industry. I’d like to choreograph a really hot Salsa number that gets put on film and 20-30 years from now people look back and say “man that was some kickass dancing!”

    If you had the chance to live your life over again, what would you have done differently?

    Believe it or not I would have based myself on the Westside of LA. I used to teach in Santa Monica and Beverly Hills. Being in Alhambra is so removed from the pulse of Hollywood that I think, had I stayed there, I would be retired by now or in a completely different place in my life. I say that because I can’t live my life over. In actuality like the Nissan commercial used to say, “Enjoy the ride!” Well I’m doing that.

    If you had the opportunity to sit yourself down, and have a conversation with Enio Cordoba, what type of advice would you give him?

    I’m a perfectionist. That has held me up in life. I need to let go, hire people to do the job and then get the hell out of their way. I would enjoy life more and been able to accomplish more out of my life.

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    Questions for Terryl:

    How did you get started as a dancer?
    My grandmother had been a dance instructor when she was young and she imparted a love of dance to my mother. My parents were swing dancers, so my first dance was with my father. My decision to pursue it came right after high school. My father was in the Air Force and I ended up working on the line crew of an airport. I was the first female hired so I had to know my business, do a good job and be tough. I wanted to sometimes be able to relax and be a girl, therefore I went to a dance studio to train and become better. I ended up being hired to teach for them. The competition bug bit soon after and I was hooked full time.

    Who influenced you the most when you first started?

    Probably Jock and Bemil McGregor. I don’t know their titles; they were old timers when I started. They were known for teaching strong technique. They trained both of my first two partners as well. Through them I learned “why” and “how” to do everything. I learned to put everything up to those two questions “why” and “how” and know that there should always be a logical answer. Also Roy and June Mavor, Natalie Mavors parents, who won many titles including the World Cabaret championship and created the World Class Dance program at BYU. They lived up the street from me for many years and I learned performance and choreography skills from them. They were truly amazing.

    What background training do you have?
    My formal training started once I entered the studio. I spent 10 years in the Fred Astaire chain studios. I was fortunate to work in huge studios with strong dancers and the money to bring in high-level coaches on a regular basis. Every day we had an hour of dance training and an hour of training in how to teach. We were required to study all the dances and the different styles – well over 20 different dances - which is a whole different type of cross training! Anyway, I had an affinity to the Imperial Societies attention to detail and it was through that training I developed the technical style of teaching. During this time I was also competing in both the International Standard and the American Smooth categories. To be competitive it was necessary to take several private lessons per week. These were taken from both my local coaches and the traveling champions that passed through.

    Who were some of your mentors?

    Many of the people that I considered mentors were not major champions but people that had developed themselves as strong teachers and took the time to help me develop my skills, each one developing a different skill. One of the most important people who helped develop my skills was man by the name of Galen Bobo. Galen had an incredible understanding of mechanics. His greatest contribution to me was teaching me how to be a good student. He taught me how to learn. Without this, I would not have gained as much from the others. I could count on Roy Mavor to always tell me the brutal truth and give me a straight answer to any question I might pose. I learned both dancing and teaching skills from him. I can’t talk about mentors without mentioning Enio. Most people do not know that Enio retired from competition in the top 20 in the world. He has helped me hone my dancing and teaching skills considerably. He is probably the best group class teacher I have ever seen.

    Why did you decide to start teaching?
    To be honest, it was a way for me to spend one more minute dancing. When I realized that the effort it takes to explain things to another person in a way that they can learn made me understand something much more thoroughly. I may have learned something one way, but as a different person, you may learn differently. As a teacher I had to learn how to do everything at least 2-3 different ways and explain them in a clear and concise manner. This made me at least 2-3 times more knowledgeable. Besides, nothing strengthens your basics more than teaching beginners. Along the way I found I enjoyed sharing with other people something that brought me so much fun. I love seeing the look in someone’s face when the light bulb goes off in their heads and they understand something.

    Why did you direct toward the Smooth dances, as opposed to the Latin Rhythm dances?
    At the time I started the Latin was very stiff and unrhythmical. People used to make jokes about the style at the time as being “chicken scratching”. There was nothing romantic or sensual about it. So while I did learn it and actually did compete in that style both in the pro divisions and in pro am events, I didn’t see it as a beautiful dance form. The Smooth dances in comparison were beautiful, romantic and most importantly were not the butt of jokes. It seemed classier. I was drawn to the grace, power and incredible control these dancers had. The close body contact allows less room for error, which means that the dancers have to work extensively to create the unity that looks so deceptively simple. I admired the finesse it takes to get two bodies to move together perfectly while traveling and spinning. The partnering skills of smooth dances are the most fine-tuned that I have seen yet. You have to even breathe in rhythm with your partner. It also takes a tremendous amount of strength. I have always been an athlete and the controlled power of the ballroom still awes me.

    What was the hardest thing about dance for you?
    Believe it or not to stay focused on technique. I am the type of dancer that sees something, understands the mechanics and does it right away almost without training. I felt it. It is so easy to fall into the “I just feel it” way of thinking. Many dancers get stuck there. I had people available to help me understand that though I may “feel” it and can do it without “wasting” my time on all that “boring technique stuff”, what inevitably would happen is I would plateau. Without technique you cannot get off the plateau. Knowledge of good technique is what enables you to get off plateaus, keep growing in your dancing and most importantly avoid injury. It took a tremendous amount of self-discipline to keep myself studying good technique. I wanted to just relax and have fun, but I knew in the long run that would not serve me.

    Competing “ wonderful if you like living out of a suitcase and don’t want to develop any type of home or family life.”

    Are you still competing today? If so, when is your next competition, and if not, why not?
    I quit competing when I started dancing with Enio, he was already retired and we came from different styles so it was never in the plans for us to compete. I was willing to quit competition when I became good friends with 15 time Undefeated World Latin Champion Gaynor Fairweather. She was the pinnacle of what could be achieved. I had always thought that her life was wonderful. It is wonderful if you like living out of a suitcase and don’t want to develop any type of home or family life. I knew I wanted more substance and variety in my life than a roomful of trophies could provide. I had to analyze why I was competing and it was then that I realized it was simply for the love of dancing itself. This paved the way for me to be open to a partnership with someone who did not want to compete. Which was the only reason I agreed to dance with Enio.

    Over the last several years I have missed the challenge of pushing myself, so I have decided to return to professional competition. I have found a partner that, like myself, wants both to compete and to have a life. Enio is very supportive of my decision. It is so sweet. The partnership and competitions will start in October 2000

    Was there an adjustment period when you started dancing with Enio?
    Oh yes, big time and we’re still in it! Our backgrounds are such that we are both technical dancers, but we don’t always agree on which technique should be applied. Fortunately we usually agree on the end result. We are very different people and how we approach everything is usually exactly opposite. We’ve both had to compromise considerably.

    "Also a trend that I have been seeing is of “show” moves and tricks on the social dance floor. In my opinion this is not a good thing. Show dancing and social dancing both have a proper place and time and some people do not have the good sense to tell the difference."

    What is your opinion about the style of dancing Salsa today, as opposed to how it was danced a decade ago?
    First of all two major changes have happened in the Salsa community. Salsa is hot so the number of people dancing has grown to huge numbers. This has made the dance floors very crowded. Therefore the dance had to mutate to fit the space constraints. Secondly the music is constantly evolving. The hard sound of DLG is nothing like Ran Kan Kan, so they need to be danced differently. I think that both these evolutions are good and positive things. I think that dancers from the previous generations such as Joe Cassini, Bobby Medeiros or some of the seasoned Cuban men found in Miami had much more subtlety of movement, and much more musicality. So many young dancers today are into big “moves” or overexcited footwork patterns. It is all speed based - how fast can you go? Very few dancers today are known for being musical, which is sad because we now have more musical styles of Salsa available than we’ve had in the past. Also a trend that I have been seeing is of “show” moves and tricks on the social dance floor. In my opinion this is not a good thing. Show dancing and social dancing both have a proper place and time and some people do not have the good sense to tell the difference.

    “…rotational movements. This type of movement minimizes out of control movements and therefore reduces crashes into other couples and reduces not only how often you step on someone, but how often you get stepped on.”

    You teach a more compact-type of dancing, circular in motion. Have you always taught that way, or is this a recent technique for crowded dance floors?
    Our coaches taught us to always question and to never stop learning. We are constantly evaluating. We evaluate everything including floor conditions, type and style of music, other people’s dance and teaching styles, our style, what we teach and how we teach it. Does this work efficiently? Is there another way? Which way is better? In what circumstances? Who can handle which style? etc. We always evaluate the lesson we just taught, what worked, what could have been better. When out dancing we evaluate what types of movements are most practical and which are not. We do this all the time. So while we have always danced some things circular and some things linear the ratio has evolved to a higher level of rotational movements. This type of movement minimizes out of control movements and therefore reduces crashes into other couples and reduces not only how often you step on someone, but how often you get stepped on. This is a natural evolution do to the increased number of people on the dance floors.

    “Rather than the students focusing on patterns that they will forget anyway we work on actually improving the quality of their dancing. These skills can then be applied to any new pattern that is learned.”

    How do you define the difference between the style of Salsa you teach, and those taught by others?
    I can’t help but laugh at this question. Eight years ago people said that our style was “ballroom” because we danced on 2, wore costumes and in a show did arm styling and tricks. Now everyone is trying to do those very things! So I guess that means everyone else is doing ballroom style and since we quit doing those things we are street style!

    We are strong believers that there is not one style, or even two styles of Salsa, but that there are many, many styles. All these styles have some wonderful things about them so we try to learn as much about all the styles as possible. We then put each one through our evaluation, is it efficient? What about it is particularly good and worth keeping, what about it is not so good, and therefore not worth keeping. Our backgrounds gave us both exceptional partnering skills so we obviously bring those skills to Salsa. Good partnering skills are very difficult to teach, especially since there are even fewer teachers that actually have the skills themselves. Since most dancers lack partnering skills, these skills have been a key component to our teaching. Therefore you can say our style is a mix of all that we have seen and learned and chosen to keep. As teachers we believe it is more important for people to learn dance skills rather than focus on patterns. So we are very much skill-based teachers. Rather than the students focusing on patterns that they will forget anyway we work on actually improving the quality of their dancing. These skills can then be applied to any new pattern that is learned.

    How is it that other types of dances can be incorporated into modern Salsa (like Tango, Swing, Jazz, and Hip Hop), but Salsa has not influenced other types of dances?
    My opinion is that there are two reasons: 1) A great many Salsa dancers are Latinos and Salsa is part of their culture. Many of these Salsa dancers would describe themselves as Latinos that dance whereas dancers from other forms describe themselves as (jazz/tap/tango etc.) dancers. People that are dancing for cultural reasons are less likely to cross over into a different dance form than someone who dances just to be a dancer. Therefore you have fewer people infusing Salsa into different dance forms. 2) The other forms of dancing tend to be more structured. Salsa is both very free and extremely diverse. This makes it very easy to incorporate movements from other dances without losing the Salsa feel. The music itself also has so many different sounds and feels. There will always be a sound or a feel that lends itself to incorporating something new into the mix. The structure of the other dance forms makes it more difficult to throw something from Salsa into it and maintain the integrity of that dance. Although Enio and I often incorporate Salsa into swing just as much as we take swing into Salsa.

    What do you think is the most important thing a beginner should understand prior to taking their first step?
    I think all beginners underestimate dancing. They all believe that one or two lessons on where their feet should be placed and they will be good dancers. This belief undermines the learning process. They tend to feel that they must really be klutzy to not be able to do something they thought was so easy. They need to understand it is a process much like learning a language. Someone may know a few words, maybe can say and understand a few sentences, but to carry on a conversation is a whole different matter. Learning to dance takes mental and physical work. While it is easy enough that many people can do it, it requires effort and time just to become an average dancer. Good dancing takes years. Keep and open mind and laugh at yourself.

    Do you currently have a dance team? If so, where have you performed?

    Well, we have two teams. The pro team is a collection of our peers that have become friends over the years. We rely on the extensive training these dancers have to put together shows in a matter of days. For example at the Salsa congress last year, the number we performed we did on three rehearsals. This is possible when you have the likes of Melissa Dexter (US Champion/Blackpool finalist), Giacomo Steccaglia (Italian Champion), Lisana Meade (SF Ballet/Broadway dancer), Natalie Mavor (US Rising Star Champion) and Steve Vasco (US Rising Star Champion) just to name a few “regulars”. This group usually only gets together for an event that looks fun or is close to our hearts like the Professional Dancers Retirement Fund. The junior team is where we focus our time. We are trying to develop these kids into well-rounded dancers. We started them on Salsa because that was where their interest was. But once they realized how much fun dancing was we brought in Gaynor Fairweather to introduce them to the other Latin dances. They have been working on developing those dances all year and this year we are getting them started on the smooth dances. These kids perform everywhere, various city events, the last two years at the Salsa congress, private events etc. We want them to get performance experience.

    Do you have auditions to become a member of your team?
    Yes. The pro team has been primarily by invitation though. We met Lisana by running auditions several years ago for an amateur team we had at the time. We promptly asked her to join our pro team. The kid’s team now has a junior varsity level and as they become ready they start moving up to the performance team. Teens can audition any time

    How do you stay so slender? What is your secret?
    Yikes, a tough question! The answer is hard or easy depending upon how you see it. As a very young child I was attracted to anything physically challenging, was fascinated on how bodies worked and was a voracious reader. The first two developed a both a good base of strength and an attraction to aggressive workouts. The third allowed me to begin studying books on how the body worked at an age when few of my peers were reading at all. I have studied just about every type of diet/exercise program/life-style/healing program etc that there is. Where I am today is a mix of all of those years of study and experimentation. The answer simply is: everyday I think about how everything I do balances and affects my health. To be healthy and fit you need to physical strength, flexibility, endurance, healthy food, complete hydration and proper rest. Everyday I try to balance and improve as many of those aspects as possible. On a great day I might get in a good workout, eat/drink right and go to sleep at a reasonable hour. On most days I may have to try to make the best of things just like everyone else. Little things can add up such as parking farther away or using stairs can at least be a positive step on a day that a workout is not possible. As to what my workouts are, in the past in addition to various sports, I not only danced extensively but I was a hard-core gym rat, was a distance runner and practiced yoga on a regular basis. Now my workload is such I try to stick with focused workouts such as Pilates and Bikram yoga with my aerobic workout being climbing in the hills with my dogs. Foodwise I am a vegetarian and have been for many years, I rarely eat any thing fried, don’t like sauces or gravies and have trained my sweet tooth to only like very rich and high quality desserts. These types of desserts are not around all the time and a small amount gives great satisfaction. If I am presented with the opportunity to eat something “bad” I will only do so if it balances out with what I have already eaten that day. If yesterday I ate poorly and didn’t workout, today I will be very strict to balance it out. Over time balance is the key. As to the flat abs that everyone asks about: I was told by an older woman years ago that had several kids and great abs—hold the muscles in and tight 24 hours per day. That’s it.

    How did the both of you meet?
    In 1987 I was at the Florida State championship with what should have been my dream partner. He was British, well trained and good looking and we won our division, but I was not happy because the guy just had no charisma and I knew we would only get so far without it. The big talk that weekend was about the “California Couple” who had won the Rising Star Latin the night before. I was talking to my coach just as the Latin division started. She was telling me I should move to California to find a partner just as “he” took the floor. “He” had a black sequin shirt, black sequin pants and shoes, tiny waist and broad shoulders. He spun onto the floor like the Tasmanian Devil and came to a screeching stop and stood there like he owned the place. I said right then “I’m going to California and get myself one of those”. I moved to California to train under Ron Montez and he introduced me to his good friend Enio. We knew each other on the pro circuit for a number of years and became friends before we eventually started dating. After we moved in together I opened up the closet and there was the sequined outfit. I tell people they had better be careful what they wish for that they just might get it!

    Do you find it difficult to date your dance and business partner?
    It is both a blessing and a curse. When things are in the good cycle it is wonderful to have such togetherness. On the other hand when we are irritated with one another there is no escape and no one to vent to, so it just has to work through. It takes a tremendous commitment in all the aspects of our lives to pull it off.

    What keeps your relationship together for the both of you?This is basically a simple answer. We are both very stubborn people and we love each other so we have just decided that we want to be together. We just do what it takes to make it work. At various stages of the relationship it has taken different things. Overall the main thing is that it takes a tremendous commitment and desire to make it work. Relationships go through cycles and remembering the good times sure helps in the less than wonderful times. I stay with him because of his soft brown eyes. No matter how angry I am he looks at me with those eyes and they remind of all the other reasons I love him and I get un-mad, even if I want to stay mad. OK so I’m a sucker.

    "We get to be together all the time. We share common interests and common goals. A special bond develops working side-by-side, overcoming obstacles and sharing triumphs."

    What are some of the benefits of dating your dance / business partner?
    First of all we are sharing the main parts of our lives with our best friend, which can make even the most tedious job more pleasant. We get to be together all the time. We share common interests and common goals. A special bond develops working side-by-side, overcoming obstacles and sharing triumphs. Also most people are always struggling to find time for both work and their loved ones and feel guilty for not giving enough time to either. This is not an issue when you are always together. It also makes it easier to drive toward a goal because we have fewer outside influences pulling on us.

    What are some of the disadvantages?
    Having to be together all the time. No matter how much you love and enjoy someone, sometimes you need to be apart from each other. People need breathing room. A life spent constantly with one person tends to become homogenized. This is what can make you feel a bit smothered, or just not allow cooling off periods after a disagreement. I traveled extensively as a child and was constantly changing environments and activities. I have to make an effort to spend time apart from Enio to do things that are different and keep my mind active otherwise I get bored. The most difficult part is keeping the various aspects of our lives separate. It is also hard not to bring personal issues into the work relationship and we always take work home. It is hard to have non-work downtime together. No matter where we are or what we or doing one of us often starts discussing something that needs to be taken care of at the studio. It takes more effort to keep the relationship fresh.

    On a personal level, what are your plans for the future?
    We both want to start having a little more fun in our lives. We have finally hired people that can do some of the work we’ve been doing so we can start taking a day off here and there. We rarely have been out of the studio because we are always working so much, so we’re looking forward to going out more frequently. To answer the most frequently asked question: we have decided to get married next spring.

    On a professional level, what plans do you have?
    Well we are still working on expanding the studio, which will allow us the room to work on some of our other pet projects. We both feel we have reached the point in our dancing that it is time to start training the next generation of teachers and dancers. I think that Enio and I both are looking into the future and wanting to expand ourselves. We are both creative and driven people and we are both looking for ways to grow creatively. The kids program is a pet project, so is a fitness program that has yet to be developed, and eventually a complete teacher-training department. Enio has been learning video editing and edited Rueda 3 all on his own. These are just a few of the ideas we have been nurturing.

    If you had the chance to live your life over again, what would you have done differently?
    Carpe Diem. To live braver. Many times I talked myself out of trying something due to lack of confidence or fear of failure. To live slower. In my effort to rush through life I often rushed thoughts, people, and events that deserved more time. These would have made me a better person not only to other people but to myself as well.

    If you had the opportunity to sit yourself down, and have a conversation with Terryl Jones, what type of advice would you give her?
    I would probably to follow my instincts more. To live up to my own standards rather than trying to live up to what someone else wants me to do. To do what I believe to be the right thing regardless of the time, other peoples opinions or the cost to myself. Seek teachers. Learn from everyone. Relax. Laugh and play more.

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    Terryl, Edie, The Salsa FREAK!! and Enio
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