Q & A with: Salsa dancers, instructors & performers, Tito Ortos and Tamara Livolsi

Salsa dancers, instructors and performers Tito Ortos and Tamara Livolsi have been dancing professionally for years and their advice to others is to, “never stop learning.” Both agree that any discipline you receive in life will enrich your knowledge and help you become a better dancer or in anything you do. “We’ve taught and helped many people with dancing but we still learn from others. There are many new things we learn ourselves.” Tito:Tamara perform 3.jpg

Who are some of the Spanish musicians/bands you’ve danced for and taught? El Gran Combo, Gilberto Santa Rosa, Victor Manuelle and Tito Nieves to name a few.

What was it like dancing for them and teaching Salsa? “First it’s always an honor to dance for musicians. The group El Gran Combo, they are very laid back, simple and mischievous. They like to have fun but are also very hard workers. Tito Nieves is also very easy to work with.”

The duo had danced and choreographed for other artists prior but one day their lives were changed when an opportunity began to open more doors.

How did you get the opportunity to choreograph for well-known artists? “Both Gilberto Santa Rosa and Victor Manuelle were doing a concert together named “Dos Soneros Una Historia” and we performed and did the choreography. Then it opened new opportunities because that is when “El Gran Combo” became our next group to work with and so on.”Tito:Tamara perform 6.jpg

The couple first initially met in New York but didn’t really get to associate with one another until 3 years after when they realized they had friends in common. In 2000, Tamara began a salsa dance group and Tito joined. At that time, Tito and Tamara began dating and began their journey together as dancers.

“The television show ‘Sabado Gigante’ held a competition for dancing one year and the network Univision paid for everything for us to show and perform. Tito won but I was just really there because for me it was for fun,” said Tamara.

Tamara was born in Argentina but at the age of 5-6 months old, her family moved to Puerto Rico where she was raised. Although she began a group in 2000, she has been professionally dancing since the age of 15. “My mother was a professional dancer and I never thought I would be one too because I was going to study and become a Veterinarian,” said Tamara.

Tito was born and raised in Puerto Rico and growing up his father was a musician. “In 1992, my dad created a band and wanted me to be involved with music. I then took a class with a teacher in Puerto Rico who was also a director and then I began rehearsing and became a part of my dad’s group.” Tito’s first teacher was Papito Jala Jala. Although Tito majored in Biology, another route was in the works for him when dancing took his time and he went with it. When I asked if they had world titles the two noted that they don’t dance to compete but do it for fun, to perform and most importantly, to teach.

Who are some people you both looked up to growing up? “Vivian Alaya and for reference Griselle Ponce.” said Tamara

“I would say my teacher, Anibal Vaszquez, Mike Ramos but today the list goes on.” said Tito.

“Tito likes to study music and dancers from before and is well rounded in that,” said Tamara.Titio:Tamara perform 11.jpg

After learning about Tito and Tamara’s story and becoming professional dancers, I was inspired because it didn’t happen overnight. Both, took chances and opportunities in their lives and it led to new journeys and amazing adventures. Here’s to their advice, “NEVER STOP LEARNING.”

http://chicagosalsacongress.com/

Chicago International Salsa Congress 2018 – Recap

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This year marked the 17th annual Chicago International Salsa Congress and this exciting 4-day event was filled with musicians, performances and dance workshops. The feeling once you step into the salsa congress is like no other. There’s a joy that comes over you and it doesn’t matter if you’re not a dancer because the overall experience is breathtaking. Many come for its sole purpose and that is to enjoy themselves, experience and witness what the event is all about.

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As always it never ceases to amaze me on how performers from different states, cities and around the world come together under one roof to showcase their best performances. Passion, creativity, love for music and dance is shared with the crowed. This year in particular there was more of a focus on the youth program and dance. I was stunned to see such young kids go on stage and dance their hearts off. After learning what Rosita Ragin-Alamin, co-founder and producer shared with me, she noted that it is important because these kids go on stage in front of many people and learn to become confident. I could not agree more because if there is something where kids can learn how to feel that poise within them they can conquer anything.

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During the day, DJ’s and guest DJ’s play music continuously throughout 3 ballrooms and the main hallway area to keep the energy going. The evening weekend line up featured, JR and his bachata band from New York, Orquesta Guayacan direct from Colombia, La Sonora Ponceña of Puerto Rico and Sunday night closed with the best of the best from the Midwest with an incredible jam session under the direction of Chicago’s own Edwin Sanchez and Angel Rodriguez.

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Each year I always look forward to the different workshops held during the day such as, SalsaArobics, Bachata Footwork, Ladies Styling, Mambo Shines, Cuban Salsa, Cha Cha, Brazilan Samba, Afro Mambo, Kizomba, Vogue and the list goes on! The classes are an hour long and usually there is one or two instructors leading the class in each ballroom for different classes. At the end of each workshop session the instructor allows the class to record him/her as they demonstrate the routine one last time. Instructors also offer a one-on-one private dance session.

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If you’re interested, then you definitely do not want to miss out on next year’s Chicago International Salsa Congress! February 7 -10, 2019. For more info, click on the link below and visit them!

www.chicagosalsacongress.com

Ericka Dip and Antonio

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Rosita Ragin-Alamin & Saladeen Alamin (Co-Founders and Producers)

Recap of the 16th Annual Chicago International Salsa Congress

This year marked the 16th annual Chicago International Salsa Congress, (CISC). The four-day event took place on Thursday February 9 to Sunday February 12 at the O’Hare Regecy Hyatt. The Salsa Congress is an event where different dancers from all around the world meet to share the same love and passion of dance. The event was full of non-stop excitement and features dance workshops, performances, competitions, vendors and social dancing to the live band and DJ.

Due to the many workshops available during the day I was able to go to a few even though I wish to have done them ALL! My first workshop was Vogue with Instructor Carlos 007 of Latin Rage Dance Company in Los Angeles. The class taught me how to incorporate voguing with salsa moves. Just like Salsa, Carlos explained the importance of moving your body and telling a story through vouging.  

“Using pain to create the creativity and to create masterpieces,” said Carlos 007. 

Another workshop that I took was Ladies Styling with Blanca Aviles of Latin Rhythms in Chicago. She taught the class how to style your hands, arms, and legs while dancing Salsa. The fluidity of each body gesture is what makes any dance unique. Another important tip I took away from the class is that each movement should come natural when dancing.

“Take the stuff that feels organic to your body,” said Blanca. 

A few other workshops that I did was Partner-work on 2 intermediate/advanced with Tamara Livolsi and Tito Ortos and Salsa Turn Patterns on 2 beginner/intermediate with Ernesto and Maritza. Both classes involved practicing with a partner and most importantly having the patience to get the steps right. 

“Keep training and discipline whatever you can grab your hands onto,” said Tamara.

Each workshop was tailored to what the instructor teaches and a great way to learn the many different dance styles. Although, some classes were more challenging than others it still gave people an opportuity to step out their comfort zone and learn.

“Never stop learning and have fun,” said Maritza. 

And that is exactly what each performance exuded from the afternoon and evening showcases. From the costumes to their facial expression each dance group and or solo dancers gave their all and showed. This year in particular was extra special and emotional for some of the performers because it was their last debut. Ericka Crespo who dances with Urban Vibe Dance Company in Chicago performed her last mambo routine. The group danced to Celia Cruz’s “Caramelo,” and you felt the love and passion that was put into the choreography. 

“This was an emotional and bittersweet performance overall. I’m grateful to have been part of the dance world in general and to have a oppportunity to show others the art of dance,” said Ericka.

Another dance company who closed the 16th annual CISC on Sunday night was Gifted Souls who also came to an end as they debuted their “Last Roar,” a Lion King inspired choreography. Director Rocky Quinones of Gifted Souls moves on to become a new father and at the end of their performance a machine exploded with pink and white confetti to reveal the gender of his baby to be, a girl. There was a total of 56 dancers who performed the “Last Roar” the majority being from Gifted Souls and some from other dance companies who auditioned. Overall, the performance was breathtaking and unforgettable. 

At the end of every performance each night the Grand Ballroom was cleared in order to have an open space to dance, hence the term “Social Dancing.” Some of the live bands/artists who closed the night were Jimmy Bosh and the All Star Orchestra featuring Yoko, Herman Olivera and Nelson Gonzalez on Tres, La Japonesa Salsera and all the way from Spain Tromboranga Salsa Orchestra.  

This year’s Salsa Congress was another success! And I hope to see you at next year’s CISC, until then DANCE!

http://chicagosalsacongress.com/Wordpress/

Video Credit to Media Team and Edited by Mabbo

 

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