For The Love of Dance
An Interview with Felipe Polanco
By Jose Reyes and Iris Castanon-Reyes
On a Wednesday night, I left to travel to the town of Carolina, Puerto Rico, to interview and share
with one of the most requested Salsa dancers in the World - Felipe Polanco. Our visit took place in his
humble dance studio adjacent to his home. His love for dance and his commitment to teach this art,
attracts people from all over the World. I also had the privilege to spend some time with Felipe's partner,
Pilar, who complements his performances.
Felipe began dancing at the age of fourteen. He learned to dance in the streets and in the parties
he used to attend as a kid. Felipe remembers that Salsa was as popular as "Rap" is today. During the
initial stages of his professional career, Felipe danced with the famous "Papito Jala Jala Dancers".
With this group, Felipe traveled to all Latin America and the United States and performed at places such as
the Madison Square Garden in New York City. Felipe and the Jala Jala Dancers performed for artist such as,
La Sonora Poncena, Roberto Roena, Cheo Feliciano, Ismael Miranda, Andy Montanez, Alex D'Castro, Tito Puente,
and Tony Vega among others.
Felipe considers Anibal Vazquez and Roberto Roena his favorite dancers but states that his greatest
influence came from Papito Jala Jala. After Felipe left the Jala Jala Dancers, he embarked on his own
to further develop his original style. In 1995, Felipe and his group, Los Bailadores D'Aki, gave their first
performance at the Centro de Bellas Artes, in San Juan Puerto Rico. They performed with El Gran Combo de Puerto
Rico and was a major success. This sparked the fame that Felipe and his group have acquired to this date.
Felipe has been referred to as an innovator of dance. His perspective on dance is very much connected to his
spiritual being. Felipe views his dance as a gift from God. He describes that at times his ideas for
choreography come to him in his dreams. He talked about the time when he only had two days to complete
his choreography for a show. Between the rush to complete his show and his worry to get the piece done,
he locked himself into a room. For two hours, he listened to his music and finally the choreography came
to him in a vision. He emphasizes that God has given him a gift. His goal is to develop this gift and pass
it on to others.
A way Felipe passes this gift to others is by teaching lessons to young people. Four years ago, Felipe began
to teach his dance form to children and adolescents. Felipe feels that his call is to pass his love and passion
for dance to future generations. Felipe affectionately and proudly refers to his dances as his masterpieces.
In fact his group, Los Bailadores DAki, is composed of students from his workshops.
Felipe's immediate plans for the coming months include workshops and performances in Italy in mid April.
He will be here in Denver at the Karen Lee Dance International studio, the weekend of May 7. Then on to
New York, Caracas, Venezuela, Los Angeles, returning to Milan, Italy; and continuing on to Miami. The
invitations keep on coming.
Felipe concluded by saying that Eli Irizarry and The World Salsa Congress event has played a very important
roll in his success. Felipe feels that the Congress has opened doors for dancers like him to the rest of the
World. We look forward to seeing Felipe perform this July at The World Salsa Congress in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Both journalists and photographers, Jose Reyes and Iris Castanon-Reyes are the
Denver City Editors for justSalsa.com