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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 DÂ’Aki, 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

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