“Every door I have opened today has opened because I’m a dancer. Dancing is what made me, what opened those doors. I am everything else because I was a dancer first.” –Luis Salgado
Luis Salgado has opened yet another door.
BOUNTIFUL: A Teacher’s Journey, conceived and directed by Luis Salgado, premieres tonight at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center. Nine choreographers and a group of more than 50 dancers, including Proyecto Milagros (Project Miracles) and D1 Dance Company, who flew here from Peru, have joined forces to tell the story of a journey that is universally shared.
Luis is committed to making art with a purpose, and that commitment has led him to become an established director, choreographer, performer, and teacher. His company Salgado Productions, for example, has demonstrated an ongoing dedication to storytelling that features Latin American culture. Some of his recent directing work includes Amigo Duende (NYC), Candela Fuerza y Pasion and Aniversario Sin Cuenta (Lima, Peru). Luis has also appeared on Broadway in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Malik), the Tony Award winning In The Heights (Jose), and currently—ON YOUR FEET! Next up, Luis will be co-choreographing ABC’s remake of Dirty Dancing with Andy Blankenbuehler.
R.Evolución Latina Co-Founder Gabriela Garcia, as well as Vania Masias, Matthew Steffens (performing as Santiago, BOUNTIFUL’s central character), Rickey Tripp, Amanda Turner, Valeria Cossu, Rebeca Tomás, and Daniel Fetecua-Soto have been Luis’ choreographic partners on this journey.
Luis took the time to share with us how art has shaped his spirit.
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What was the first dance performance you saw and how did it impact you?
The truth is that, as a kid, I always wanted more time with my dad who was in the army and not around a lot. I remember a local magazine promoting a production of Pinocchio and it just so happened that my dad was home and he said he would take me. I don’t remember now if I went with him or if I went on a school group, but I went and ‘OMG’ I was IN LOVE. I was also in a horrible state of terror due to a character named “EL MAGO CALABERA”. He was the “bad guy” and I had nightmares of him hunting me for weeks. It was a theatrical experience that thrilled me, made my mind wonder, and created a subconscious ground that made me have DEEP RESPECT for the impact of the work one presents. Later on, I was a student of the actor who played “EL MAGO” and worked on productions in Puerto Rico with the lead actor, who played Pinocchio. Dreams had started to come true.
I auditioned for my first off-Broadway musical at an open call where there were more than 500 people. I waited all day, and two weeks later I was on that stage performing Fame. I had no appointment when I went in for Dirty Dancing 2 auditions. My roommate said they were looking for a dance double and I should go. I had to teach, so I passed by just to drop off my resume. The choreographer stepped out at that time. She just said, “what’s your name?” I replied “Luis”. She grabbed me by the arm and took me in the room. I auditioned in 5 minutes, without waiting, and booked it. During Fame my friend Natalie Cortez said, “you must audition for the Mambo Kings.” I said, “no, I want to do other things.” Well, after a few more talks with me she eventually motivated me to go. That is when I met Sergio Trujillo for the first time! Our show Mambo Kings didn’t make it on Broadway, but ten years later here we are doing the conga at ON YOUR FEET!, a show filled with my community. I think my life is BOUNTIFUL in every way! The title of R.Evolución Latina’s 2016 Choreographers Festival couldn’t be better.
Where do you look to find inspiration?
THE HERE AND NOW! I am view pointing New York City as much as I can. EVERYTHING here can be inspiration. When I wrote Bountiful I started in my bed. The next scene happens on 145th Street (where I live). Then we take the A train to Columbus Circle, where I used to get off when I first moved to NYC (back when Broadway Dance Center was on 57th Street). The journey in the show is literally a real journey. It’s an experience of paying attention to the details in our day. I think the best source of inspiration is: being here and now.
How do you overcome choreographer’s block when making a dance?
Jajajaja (Hahahaha)… I PLAY!
What do you hope to communicate to audiences viewing your piece?
That’s a tricky question. There is so much to celebrate in this piece. I am wearing many hats for this production, so there are several answers. From the R.Evolución Latina standpoint, it is important to share the growth and mission of empowerment in every step. As a director, choreographer, and writer, I must discover—How do I do that?
For me it is in THE JOURNEY. We invest in the students’ training and the importance of the process, not the end result. We believe that more growth will come from that mentality. As I write the show I try my best to create that emotional arc based on the universal problems we confront daily. The potential feeling of loneliness, the eternal battle with time, the desire to find answers, and creating an awareness of the always present NOW. Inviting the audience into the present scene, to take in that pause, that rain, that wind… At the end, in the NOW is where we might find the answers. Our hero’s journey (like in the book The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo) is about finding the answers when not looking, while the person tying to force results might never quite get there.
What advice would you give to dancers hoping to perform or choreograph professionally?
Train your ENERGY. Explore it, test it, challenge it. There is something in it that goes beyond technique. Dancers these days must be actors, just like actors must have more awareness of their body movements. We are in a time when ARTS divides itself less and integrates itself more. Be a versatile Artist and your work will evolve.
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—By Rachel Aylward