We have great respect for all artists, performers, and all kinds of professionals, displaying sincerity and dedication in their work. Fernando Sosa is –undoubtedly – one of the greatest salsa maestros and an inspiration for salseros all around the world, having been distinguished for his unique style and his focused effort to upgrade the Salsa community. In his early youth he danced his first steps as professional, whereas the last 18 years he is the mind behind the phenomenon Tropical Gem.
How can one keep his love and joy for dance alive after having a 25 years career? His answer is Mentality!
Let’s find out more…
Talking about Fernando.
In your first steps, who were your inspirations?
When I started, Alberto Valdez was my first teacher; he motivated me and was a great inspiration. I started with him in Cuban style, and travelled together. But after that, in the first years of 2000, I was very much inspired by LA style, when I saw the Vasquez brothers; that is when I realized that this was my style. When you find your inspiration you need to follow it. At first, I followed the Cuban style thanks to Alberto Valdez and then the LA style thanks to the Vasquez brothers.
And what inspires you now?
Today I find inspiration when I see the new generation and their shows. So it is important to take lessons and watch new shows.
In my opinion, you have changed the route of Salsa with your personal style and also as part of your team – Tropical Gem. Your work has stood out not only for the choreos of unique style, but also for the selection of songs, costume and lights. How have you managed that? Is it the result of teamwork, or are you a real perfectionist?
It is a system. When I started 18 years ago, we didn’t know how this would work. But after 2-3 years, I understood that I needed a system, almost a military one. And I didn’t even join the army. Everything, from the comportment, the hair, the costumes, the social encounter with people, the lessons, the training, the shows, everything is part of the Tropical Gem system. And I try to introduce every new dancer to the mentality of the team: that we all respect the Tropical Gem-system. This is the secret of the success of Tropical Gem.
Your work is very demanding and at the same time it involves great personal exposure. How do you manage to maintain your personal life in balance?
It is very important when you reach a mature age to understand that life is important not only as an artist but as a person. I think that it is very important to understand that all artists need their family’s support. If you are dedicated only in your artistic life, you take a great risk. This is because the life of an artist is not easy; it is quite dangerous and there is great need for the support of a family.
So I have my wife, three kids and my mother, a big part of my family is here with me and supports me. Because after 25 years in the Latin salsa world, it is now very difficult to be alone when you take further steps.
How do you manage to have the joy of dancing alive, after 25 years?
Mentality. It is very difficult to find inspiration and renew everything. Mentality makes the difference, when your body or your soul lets you down, only the mentality can raise you up.
Talking about Fernando’s projects.
Every year, at the Sosa academy there are hundreds of dancers from all around the world, who attend your classes, and then add this unique experience on their CV’s. What piece of advice would you give to a new artist/dancer/choreographer in terms of finding their own personal style?
First of all I have a business partner who helps me reach my dreams. So a dancer needs a business partner, not a dancer partner for these things. You cannot dance and then have a business running. My business partner is my “brother” and he is very important in my life. Together we have created so many things.
Our academy has 5 rooms, which are filled with students from around the world every night, every day, every week. We have a great responsibility towards them and we are honored that so many students and teachers from all around the world take lessons in our academy. So my second advice is never to stop taking lessons.
Even I, at the age of 41, take lessons, when I have free time in the festivals. Even if you take a lesson and you think that you are following the same steps, the same combinations, you need to do it, because maybe there is something new for you.
My piece of advice is:
“don’t stop taking lessons, take a lot of lessons from every style, and when your body adopts these styles, you can feel your personal style and then you can create something different and personal.”
Latin Dream the movie. You were the protagonist, writer, co-director; it was your idea. Is acting a new dream of yours? Or another way to promote salsa?
Both. We try to send the message that we are professional dancers like hip hop, jazz, etc and there is a big movement behind this. So movies, TV programs, famous TV shows like the World of Dance, all these help our movement.
Why is the movie in Italian? Will it be in English too?
We will try to upload the movie on internet with subtitles in English and in Spanish and not only in Italian. It was released last year and hopefully soon it will be available with subtitles.
Tell us about your new project, “classes for teachers”? Why is this important?
I have been asked so many times about webinars, because the future of teaching maybe is in the internet.
We had prepared a methodology for each level, basic, intermediate and advanced. By taking these lessons, one can learn how to teach right a new group of students from the beginning; they learn the “Tropical Gem’s” methodology of teaching.
Talking about Salsa and the Future.
You were born and raised in Montevideo, very young you moved to Italy, travelled a lot but you returned and stayed in Milano. What kind of potential did you recognize in European and Italian audience?
Many talented masters and dancers have chosen to live here, like Adolfo Indacochea, Juan Matos, Johnny Vasquez, Mike Fonts, Marco Ferrigno. Since the masters chose the same country, it was inevitable for the students to do the same and consequently the country’s salsa level was raised. This is why Italy has become so important to the salsa world. For me, Milano is the place with the most talented people in the world for two reasons.
I think that the masters chose Italy for two reasons: the job, because there is a good salsa system here and the location of Milano is excellent to travel to other countries.
And what are the differences between NY and European (Italian) scene?
In Latin-America dancing has no financial prospects, but there is a lot of natural talent. In Europe the financial situation is better, but the natural talent is in a lower level. But the people here are more concentrated and focused to upgrade their level. Mentality makes the difference.
What about salsa in the USA?
In the USA there is a mix, because a lot of Latinos adopted the USA mentality, which is to “follow your dream and succeed”.
What is your opinion about the championships and competitions?
For the past three years something positive has taken place. There are not so many categories of competition any more, like before. Competitions are good for upgrading the culture’s level. According to this concept we are organizing a competition that is called Salsanamá.
I intended to ask you that, what is Salsanamá?
It takes place during the first week of February. The concept of this competition is to keep the sense of the “street dance battle”. The truth is that competitions with the salsa acrobatic and combination take salsa to another level. It is very attractive for the salsa world. But with the Salsanama our intention is to keep the roots, the urban Salsa. In Salsanamá, it is one-to-one, without choreography without costumes or make up, and the dancers don’t know the song – in fact they know the play-list but they don’t know the specific one that they will dance to. The inspiration came from the hip hop or break dance battle, but in this case it refers to salsa.
From your experience, travelling around the world to festivals and bootcamps, what is you impression about the progress of salsa?
I think that the idea of bootcamps is great and the top bootcamp in the world is in Las Vegas Salsa Bachata Congress. This is the top bootcamp in the world. Now everyone organizes bootcamps and this is good because people can “feel” the stage, the choreo, the teacher, the human interaction. In a bootcamp you have to work with the same people on a specific choreo for three days. And it is really good for the students to dance on the stage with their teacher.
What about the future of the festivals?
I don’t know, because there is an evolution of technology and maybe in ten years there will be online festivals. People from around the world attending through a video wall. But I think that the human contact is very important.
What has to be changed or added in your opinion?
I will not answer based on my experience of festivals, but based on what I do in my festival. In my festival the most important thing is the social part, then come the shows and then the lessons. If you organize a festival with 50 hours of shows, 200 hours of lessons and only 2 hours of social dance, it will not succeed eventually.
Dancers come to festivals and they want to meet other people and dance with them. In my festival Salseando beach “social is the first priority”. Each dance: bachata, salsa cubana, NY salsa, is danced in the same room with good music. Many people, many hours, great music.
What about Bachata and Kizomba?
Bachata has changed a lot because now we have Βachata cabaret, Βachata -fusion, etc. and this is the evolution and I am ok with it. Because we cannot stop the evolution. But we need to respect the original Βachata Dominicana and for me it is important to distinguish the different styles.
When I teach salsa there are the basic step, the suizy-Q steps etc. when I teach salsa fusion I can add hip hop or reguetton but name it “salsa fusion”. When I teach Βachata you have to point out the difference between traditional Dominican Βachata, Βachata fusion etc.
And I think that, ten years ago in Italy, Bachata was danced with a very close contact between the dancers; nowadays, it has evolved with dance patterns; the element of close and intimate dancing is offered by Kizomba.
What has pushed the Salseros to move to Kizomba and Bachata? Is it because they are easier? Is it because they are fresh?
They are easier. Salsa is difficult, and it is not for everybody. Not only in dancing, but everywhere people choose the easier things.
Is there anything that can be done to keep the Salseros to the salsa community?
Back in the 80s, Eddie Torres saw the big disco influence and said that Salsa would not die, and predicted that it would come back. After so many years, with all these ups and downs, Salsa is still here because it is a big cultural movement. Yes we have new styles, like Reggaeton, Merengue, Bachata, and maybe Zouk.
But Salsa will stay here.
But there are no salsa music bands…
Do you know why? In Europe there are no investments in music and new bands.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Hmmm…I think that I will be close to the end of my stage career as a dancer, because I will be 46. For me it is important to perform with the same energy, no matter if my choreo is liked or not. This is very important for me, and in five years I hope to be able to continue as a choreographer and not as a performermer. And to have another movie or start another project.
Recently you performed and also taught in a Greek festival. What is your opinion about Greek salsa level and Salseros?
I had been to Greece many years ago and this time I noticed that the level has raised. This is because of the personal investment of the teachers and dancers that travel abroad to take lessons and attend festivals.
I am very optimistic about European level.
- Fernando Sosa was born in Montevideo, Uuguay but at the age of 15 he moved to Italy. After meeting his maestro Alberto Valdes, he was inspired by Salsa Cubana and traveled around the world as a professional dancer.
- In the first years of 2000′ he got inspired by the Vazquez brothers and the LA style. With his business partner Rafael Gonsalez, they were both dedicated to upgrade the community and promote the cultural movement of Salsa. He has undertaken numerous projects, including: dance academy, festival, competitions and lately a movie about the salsa world called “Latin Dream”.
- With Tropical Gem – one of the top dance groups in the world – he evolvedthe salsa style to a complex of precision, speed, innovative movements and a mix of various dance styles like hip hop, afro-cuban etc.
- Today he travels around the world participating in festivals, designing shows, instructing, and organizing festivals (Bailando Beach) and competitions (Salsanamá).
- One way to be Fernado Sosa’s student is to attend his classes in Sosa Academy, or through www.salsabachataonline.com. If you are an instructor and you want to find out more about the Tropical Gem mentality and methodology you may find more information at world-mastery.com . For more information check his website.
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