By: Exenia R.
Nelson Flores is well-known in the salsa community as a dance teacher, dance competition judge, and he is the founder and creative director of the very-creative Latin dance production company Descarga Latina. In 1997, the team began as a small Salsa dance troupe (with many previous members of Santo Rico Dance Company), and then slowly evolved into something much more. Members may perform shows including singing, dancing, acting, and comedy, and they displayed such talents in an off-broadway musical comedy called Latin Madness. The group has performed on many prestigious stages, including with the Fania All Stars at Madison Square Garden in 1999.
Nelson shows his versatility as well by wearing many hats managing his group, serving as a choreographer, producer and project manager. He has also served as an official Judge for the World Salsa Competition, sponsored by sports network giant ESPN, and he worked as an event planner for the NYNJ Salsa Festival consecutively in 2005, 2006, 2007. This year, he’ll also be running the NYC International Salsa Congress “Survival Challenge.” He has been seen on Univision, and has even traveled overseas to share his love of salsa beyond NYC, teaching and representing the salsa community internationally. He and the team have even given training to great dancers like Super Mario and Maria Palmieri. Known for his smooth style, which continually honors the roots of salsa, Nelson teaches authentic, musical choreography and combinations. Get to know a bit more about Nelson, including his personal history, plans for the 2010 NYISC Survival Challenge, and upcoming work with Descarga Latina, in this Q&A interview!
Q: How did you get into dancing and teaching yourself?
A: In 1991 I met a couple named (Evelyn DeLeon and Angel Rodriguez) dancing in a club called Side Street, doing this On2 style, [but] I had no clue what timing they were dancing. I caught the bug and started to learn then. In July of 1994 I started to teach in the city.
Q: Describe your style and method as an instructor.
A: How to describe my style , well I have been influenced by Hip Hop, Jazz and Latin Hustle while growing up. So I would tend to say those are the styles that have influenced me. As an instructor we like to teach the technique of the lead and follow.
Q: Tell us all about this year’s “Survival Challenge.” What’s the plan?
A: This year Survival Challenge I plan to do the Evolution of Latin dance in NY, from the 70′s to the present time. I will attempt to take them through different styles that have influenced our style of dance. We will start with a little Latin Hustle and hip hop and proceed to MAMBO as it is done today. We will challenge the participants to learn something different and new. Last year we started with 14 and 8 ended up performing. So we hope that we do [at least] the same this year.
Q: But, how are you going to bring a show out of these newbies and beginners?
A: Last year was my first time doing this and I had no idea what would happen. Fourteen dancers joined and eight ended up doing the show, which was great. This year I will put them on the spot as it will be filmed while the rehearsals are going.
Q: Is there a strategy for the choreography in this case?
A: This year I am planning a couple of different tracks to do the [different] eras, show each time period.
Q: You’ve been dancing a long time, and you’ve even judged some major salsa events. What do you look for in quality salsa dancing? What makes a great performer?
A: Well, I have been on the ESPN World Salsa judge panel for three years and the Puerto Rico Salsa Open for four years. We are looking for presentation , good connection and clean choreography. Someone who can connect with their partner or who has the attitude to entice the audience into their performance. [Someone who] brings them into the world [that] they have created in their piece.
Q: Describe a couple mistakes you would like to see corrected, or bad habits you’d like to see removed from today’s dance floors.
A: Well I think all dancers get better and better the more they dance, and that what we have to do is to teach better LEAD and FOLLOW, and what to look for on the dance floor. But the only what to do it is to do OVER AND OVER again. Practice Practice Practice.
Q: How did Descarga Latina come into being? What can we expect from you and Descarga Latina this year?
A: Descarga Latina came together in the year of 1997. We were all in a group called Santo Rico and due to some problems we left and created this team. The original members were together for ten solid years. We traveled all over the world and we created an off-broadway show called Latin Madness, which we ran for three years in NY, and [we] had the privilege to do it in the UK, Zurich, LA, and in NJ to sold out [crowds]. This year, after three years of just performing with my dance partners Maribel Maldonado and Veronica Castilla, I have once again created a team to perform in this year’s event. We shall see what happens!!!
Q: Why do you like being involved with the NYC International Salsa Congress?
A: It’s home, and I feel [that with] a few of the NY dance teams that do alot of the traveling all over the world, we promote bringing these people back to NY to have the whole ‘New York experience.’ They ALL end up LOVING IT!!!
Q: How can we find more info about your lessons and endeavors after the congress?
A: I teach at 2 locations on a regular basis, 1 is my academy called Time 2 Dance in the Bronx (El condado de La Salsa) and the other is in the city called Roy Arias Studios.
You can also find out more about Nelson and Descarga Latina by visiting http://www.descargalatina.net – or visit them on facebook here! You can also view videos of Descarga Latina on YouTube here. Don’t miss this year’s Survival Challenge – it’s sure to be a fun surprise, as always, and a hit with the crowd. And of course, be sure to look for Descarga Latina’s performance at this year’s congress!