Matthew Steffens: I AM NOT LATINO

I am not Latino by any stretch of the imagination. 

But when I am came into the R.Evolución Latina community in 2010, this Italian/Irish/English mutt felt like I was more part of the Latino community than of ANY community I had ever been part of. Growing up the son of a Navy SEAL, there was definitely a strong, supportive community, but R.Evolucion Latina took the word COMMUNITY to a new level. Not only did they want me to be ME, but they challenged me to DARE TO GO BEYOND. I have subscribed by a similar approach my whole life, but never had it been articulated so definitively or become a mantra for me as I approached not only my art, but day to day life. Sometimes, when I’m tan people ask me if I’m from Puerto Rico. Or on the dance floor, I might be able to convince some people with my knowledge of salsa (until they see my white boy hip hop). Or even at the Stiles’ fruit market, I might be able to convince the cashier with my simple Spanish (that sounds really good, but I only know about 4 sentences).
Under the wing of Luis Salgado, I first came into the RL family during the Beyond Workshop Series in 2011 as an assistant to the teachers and choreographers. There I learned MANY skills not only about creating work, but about different ways of inspiring students to push themselves to go even farther than they think they can. In helping create the Choreographers Festival that year, we brought together 28 performers from NYC and 18 performers from Peru. A ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY!

Over the next couple of years, I began to teach for the Beyond Workshop Series and was honored to be co-head of the dance department with Rickey Tripp in 2014. I ALWAYS come home from teaching the BWS students more inspired to create art and push myself to be a better choreographer and person. I look forward to working with them each year and that partnership has actually cultivated opportunities to teach in Campeche, Mexico the past two summers. (You think my Spanish is bad at the fruit stand, you should see me try to teach a dance combination in Spanish!)

This past year, I truly felt the support of R.Evolución Latina, as I took on a new role as Associate Choreographer of the new Broadway musical DOCTOR ZHIVAGO. Never when I left my job in advertising ten years ago, did I think I would perform on two Broadway stages, yet alone be a Broadway choreographer. Each day, as we approached this epic musical, I thought I must D2GB! And there in the room next to our rehearsal room, I could hear the latin beats storming through the walls into our rehearsal. On a break, I peeked around the corner to see who was producing this great energy and ran into Heather Hogan and Luis Salgado. OF COURSE IT WAS THEM! Two giant hugs and smiles that not only filled my day, but reminded me why I love doing what I get to do each day. CREATE AND INSPIRE!

As R.Evolución Latina has always done, this year they once again challenged me to DARE TO GO BEYOND by asking me to be a part of the Children’s Performing Arts Camp. While I’ve worked with kids my whole life, I’ve never been able to be at the camp, so I was excited when they asked me to be part of this summer. AND THEN MY STOMACH DROPPED when they when they asked if I would be interested in LEADING the camp. The camp has had amazing success under the leadership of Luis Salgado, and filling his shoes will most definitely be a daunting task. HOWEVER, I know with the AMAZING Revolucion Latina team this camp is going to be even better than last year and will challenge each student to DARE TO GO BEYOND!

Whether it is the Beyond Workshop Series, the Dance-A-Thon, the D2GB Children’s Performing Arts Camp or just coming together to celebrate the memory of a great soul who the arts community lost, R.Evolución Latina brings ALL people together. I am proud to be part of a community that strives not only to CREATE GOOD ART but to CELEBRATE LIFE!

THANKS-A-LOT!