If you’ve ever fancied witnessing a Latin dance-off – a frenzy of sensual snake-hips, shimmying and shaking – then, strangely enough, the First Group Theatre at Madinat Jumeirah is the place to go. This week, the theatre plays host to Salsa Explosion, a Latino spectacular put on by the Ballet Nacional el Firulete of Colombia (BNF). BNF is a Dubai-based dance school run entirely by Colombian teachers and choreographers, so the show will be serving up a genuine taste of Latin flavour. Edwin Rojo, choreographer and director of BNF Dubai, tells us why we should all get in (conga) line.
What can audiences expect from Salsa Explosion?
It’s salsa cabaret. In salsa cabaret, the dancers are free to do whatever they want to salsa music. So the audience is going to see a lot of tricks, freestyle and Colombian salsa. Colombian salsa is really strong around the world right now.
How is Colombian salsa different to other salsa?
It’s the music. The music is a mix of mambo, cha cha cha, and boogaloo songs. It’s very fast. It’s something quite different because of the combination of all the different rhythms, that’s why we call it Colombian salsa.
BNF has two schools – one in Medellin, Colombia, and one here in Dubai. So why come to Dubai?
My manager was invited to Dubai for a workshop in December 2005. He came for the workshop and after that he stayed for a month teaching private classes. He saw that Dubai was this new city that is just starting to grow. There are events every night, they like entertainment and there wasn’t any other dance company like this in the city. So that is why he created BNF Dubai.
Do you think Dubai needs a bit of Latin flavour?
What gets taught here most are standard dances – the ballroom, the cha cha cha. It’s quite mechanical, it’s monotonous. It’s not from the heart. You learn the steps and you do the steps. With our dances, it’s something free. Whatever comes in your mind, in your heart, is the way you dance.
So BNF is a different kind of dance school?
BNF is like a family. If you ever go to the school, you will see that everyone is always singing and dancing, smiling and talking – it’s a very good atmosphere. Even the person who answers the phone, if he has to move from his desk to the phone he will do it dancing!
Can anyone join the school?
Of course. When you see the students dancing in Salsa Explosion, you will see that everyone can do it. We have managers, we have normal people who aren’t dancers, they just started to learn one day from zero and now they’ve reached the point where they can be in a show. Everyone can do it and your life changes completely once you start to dance. I’d really love more people to know what BNF is doing with salsa.
What do you enjoy most about dancing?
I love to create choreography and see people become excited just watching that choreography. I love to see the crowd happy, to hear people clapping, and to think that it’s because of my job, it’s because of what I do. When people go to watch dancing there are many feelings. I really love to wake up those feelings.
What do you hope for BNF’s future?
I hope that people continue enjoying it because there’s something sad here in Dubai. People just stay here for a while, people come and then they have to go. It’s sad to say goodbye to students. I want to see the school always full. I would love to see every time more and more people enjoying and falling in love with Latin dances and the Latin atmosphere, and the family of BNF.
The student’s view
Joyce Baz joined BNF two months ago and will be appearing in Salsa Explosion.
‘I joined BNF because I love Latin music and I love to dance. I heard about it through a friend. She said there was this school with all Colombian teachers and I was like, “Wow, sounds interesting.” The best part is there’s a sense of family. The teachers are all friends from before they moved here together from Colombia. They welcome everyone.
There are beginner and advanced classes, group and one-to-one classes, so they put you where you belong. There are levels and if you’re serious about it you can move up levels. I think people who come to the show would be inspired to dance as well, for sure. You can’t just sit there and not move, you know? It’s a natural, feel-good music. With BNF, I start to feel all excited before I even reach class!’
Salsa Explosion, May 1, The First Group Theatre, Madinat Jumeirah, at 8pm. Dhs150, www.timeouttickets.com 800 4669. BNF Dubai, Knowledge Village, Block 14, Office 305, 04 368 8488/881, www.elfiruletebnf.com.