Come for the Lesson, Stay for the Entertainment! - an interview with Joseph Burgos, Salsa Instructor
By Marcus J. Brooks
March 2, 2003
Joseph Burgos, Mambo/Salsa On2 dance instructor, is truly blessed with the power of 10 men! You can catch him teaching at Manhattan Motion Dance Studios Saturday's from 4:00 until 11:00PM, Sunday's at Stepping Out Dance Studios from 2:30 until 7:00PM, in addition to numerous other locations throughout the week. The most amazing part is that instead of losing energy as the day progresses, he actually increases the level excitement and entertainment in his classroom!
Joe Burgos and the Piel Canela Dancers
Joe began teaching Salsa On 2 in '98 to his friends on Sunday's before football games in his apartment. As the word spread of his free dance lessons his popularity, and the demand for lessons grew. His more formal, in-studio instruction began with 3 students at Ballet Hispanico, where you can still catch him Wednesday evenings 7:30 - 9:00PM. Around this time Joe was working full time as a stockbroker and only teaching dance part time.
As the demand for Joe's lessons increased more so, he was forced to branch out and seek new studio space to accommodate his growing student body. Around the same time, Joe decided to use "Piel Canela Dancers" (literally translated into "Cinnamon Skin Dancers") for the name of his dance school. The birth of the dance school also coincided with Joe's decision to resign as a stockbroker and pursue dance instruction full time.
Over the years, Joe has gone from teaching 3 students to offering over 6 levels of Mambo/Salsa On 2 dance instruction throughout the week. In addition, he is the Artistic Director of his performing group the Piel Canela Dancers; gives free dance lessons at City College, La Guardia Community College, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, John Jay College, as well as Manhattan College.
I will warn you that I am biased. I am actually a member of the Piel Canela Dancers, and Joe has been my dance instructor for over 2 years now. However, I feel that my intimate knowledge of Joe and his growth over the years has enabled me to have a greater depth of him as a dance instructor. For those who attend his classes the first thing they notice is the amount of energy and excitement present in the dance studio. Joe said, "When I am in front of a group of students I feel that they not only expect to learn how to dance, but to be entertained as well." Through his humor and friendly approach to dance instruction Piel Canela has fostered a comfortable learning environment for students of all levels.
When I asked Joe about his teaching style he attributes his success to three of his previous instructors: Jimmy Anton, Claudine Curry, and Carlos König. From Jimmy, he learned to foster the friendly/family atmosphere while maintaining the excitement in the classroom. Claudine, taught him to accurately verbalize what he wanted his students to do. About Carlos, Joe said, "I loved his speed," and thought to himself "some how, I have to get faster." Further, Joe noticed how Carlos's smile would turn on a classroom.
Joe is not only an entertaining instructor, but also a shrewd businessman. His background as a stockbroker has played a valuable role in increasing the depth and breadth of Piel Canela. Over the past year Piel Canela Dancers has produced not only an award winning performing student group, but it has began offering Ladies Styling Workshops offered by some of Mambo's top dancers and instructors, as well as holding dance socials featuring Mambo's top bands. Joe sees the student group, offering the ladies styling workshops, and holding the socials as part of a larger plan to give back to his students and the Mambo community, while increasing his student base. The student-performing group was Joe's way of giving those interested an opportunity to take their dancing to another level while maintaining loyalty to Piel Canela. The ladies styling workshops give other dance instructors exposure to Piel Canela's students base while offering his students the expertise of Mambo's renowned female dancers. The socials are an opportunity for Joe to offer his students a friendly environment to practice moves learned in the classroom. Moreover, he loves having the opportunity to feature live musicians in front of students who may not be able to afford to pay $30.00 to see the same musician at a nightclub. Overall, through his love of teaching and keen business sense, Joe has created a positive feedback loop within Piel Canela. When I asked Joe what does he enjoy most about being an instructor he says "I love see my students dance." When I think back, Joe was the first individual who took me out dancing Mambo and presently, still encourages me to go out dancing.
When I asked Joe what he would like to see in the future of Mambo he responded that he would "like to see the Mambo[/Salsa On 2] recognized as a classical style of dance." He sees Mambo gaining that recognition through the unification of the Mambo community.
So there you have it. In the future of Piel Canela Dancers, Joe sees the continued expansion of his student body, his performing group as well as his socials. Check out his web site and I implore you to stop by a class of his. In fact, if you mention that you heard about his class through this article he will allow you to take one free dance class.
Piel Canela Dancers