July 18, 2021
Trailblazer in the the Latin dance industry
Gabriela Equiz of Alma Latina
Gabriela Calderón Equiz, Originally from Mexico City. She is the daughter of Nancy Equiz and Pablo Calderon, graduated in political science and law respectively, Gabriela grows up in a political environment, and from the first year of life, she moves with her family to the city of Tijuana, where she studies Ballet and Flamenco from the age 4 in the Gloria Campobello Dance Company. During the summers she attends artistic training courses (singing, dancing and acting) at the Milton Gio school in Mexico City and Flamenco Dance courses in Madrid, Spain. As a university degree, she studied electronic systems engineering at CETYS Universidad Tijuana and a master’s degree in robotics at UCLA. She obtained studies in Industrial Engineering and production at Loyola Marymount University and undergraduate studies in Economics from the Autonomous University of Baja California.
She is the world champion of Bachata and director of the largest and most award-winning Latin dance company in the world. She is currently studying Engineering in Software development and is developing an app to streamline the exchange of dance knowledge, and connectivity between the communities of dancers and the local salsa and bachata industry. The beta version of this app can now be found in the Apple store and google play under the name “dancedrills The App”. Gabriela Equiz has a TedXTalk conference and numerous presentations at universities and business groups in the state. Gabriela developed an online dance class distribution platform and her most recent project is “Salsa Bachata University”, an educational institution that seeks to legitimize and provide structure to the Latin Rhythms industry and whose ultimate objective is the creation of the first Bachelor of Dance specialized in Latin Rhythms of the country and the world. Gabriela seeks to enter the world of motivational speaking through a podcast called “Dance Boss Lady” in which she shares her passion for helping people to follow and fulfill their dance dreams..
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Currently, Gaby is one of the most recognized female dancers in South California and Mexico. Currently is 1st place in Latin Dance championships, Univision 2009.
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Sonia Kyriacou. (Host). (2021, July 18). Trailblazer in the the Latin dance industry – Gabriela Equiz of Alma Latina [Audio podcast episode]. In Choreograph Your Life with Sonia Kyriacou. Parcast. http://soniakyriacou.com/gabriela-equiz-of-alma-latina-trailblazer-in-the-the-latin-dance-industry/
Welcome to the Choreograph your Life podcast, where we dig deep into the journey of people’s pursuit of their passion for dance. Join us as our host and guests discuss their dance journeys, the business of dance, obstacles they face, and even lessons learned along the way. Now, here’s your host, Sonia Kyriacou.
Sonia Kyriacou 0:30
Alright guys, welcome back to my podcast. Today’s guest is a professional dancer. She’s an actual world Bachata champion. She’s a judge on an international level. She’s also a podcaster, and she’s a TED talker. And I’m really, really happy to have her on my podcast today. Please welcome Gabriela Equiz. How are you?
Gabriela Equiz 0:52
Sonia Kyriacou 0:55
Welcome. Welcome. Thank you for joining us today.
Gabriela Equiz 0:59
Thank you so much for inviting me.
Sonia Kyriacou 1:02
It’s my pleasure. So tell us where you are right now. Are you in Tijuana, Mexico?
Gabriela Equiz 1:06
I am because this is where I live.
Sonia Kyriacou 1:09
And what’s it like right now to be in Mexico? Is it? Would you say now that Mexico is having? I’m not sure about your particular place or all over Mexico? Are the dance events starting again?
Gabriela Equiz 1:21
Yeah. Like I mean, people here are very relaxed in terms of everything. You know, they’re never gonna follow rules. Yeah, especially if you think about it, like our dance community is very just like, you know, very nonchalant, like, whatever. So yeah, it’s been, it’s been open for a long time.
Sonia Kyriacou 1:45
Wow, that’s awesome. I mean, I get it. When it comes to where I live. It’s crazy. We’ve had we don’t even have socials, like, forget about events, like the discussion is, can you even gather more than 20 people in one location to dance like, it’s really, really been super tough for us in Canada. So we’re, like, deprived to the max. And we’re looking, I’m starting to look at like, okay, where can I go? Where can I go? I need to dance. I need to like get an event. I’m getting these like messages on social media, seeing everybody dancing everywhere. And I’m like, Please, God, let us go back to dancing. So I’m glad to hear that you guys are back in the swing of things.
I want to go back a little bit Gabriela to when you started dancing. I see some super interesting things. You’re you’re a dance child. You started at age four. And you started in ballet, right?
Gabriela Equiz 2:40
Uh huh. Ballet and Flamenco.
Sonia Kyriacou 2:44
Flamenco and ballet. Okay. And was that your initiative? Or was that your family saying, oh, why don’t you go take dance classes? How did it start for you?
Gabriela Equiz 2:53
No, it turns out that I started dancing before I started walking or something. That’s what my mom says that I was always like a little monkey, like always, you know, jumping around. And then my dad used to have a lot of music around the house was playing music and I will be just dancing. So first, before I went to ballet, I don’t even remember how they took me there. I don’t even remember the day or anything. But I remember being in gymnastics somehow. I remember that. And then I guess I went to see some gymnasts doing competitions, you know, those, like the rhythmic kind, the ones that are dancing, and I was like, I want to do that. And somehow, like, I do not remember what my aunt took me to Ballet along with my, with my cousin. And she didn’t continue and I did. So it was not my mom who took me. My mom is just very, my parents are very supportive. But they’re my mom is is a is like an intellectual. She was a politician at that time. She was not, you know, like focused on art or anything. She’s never been so but they’re very supportive. So then they took me and then from then on, they started taking me everywhere. I wanted to go for dancing even like overseas and even they started taking like sending me out, you know? But yeah, they don’t dance or they don’t know or Yeah, nothing.
Sonia Kyriacou 4:28
So it’s it started like that. And then you just kept going. So at what point in time, did you say switch over or add Latin dance to your repertoire to your training? When did that happen?
Gabriela Equiz 4:41
I was already older when I went to school. So I went to my my undergrad I did it in Mexico as an engineer. And one year out of that one I went to UNLV which is in Las Vegas as an exchange student and I met a, I met a girl there was from Colombia. So she introduced me to Salsa. This is I’m already like 23 at this point. Then she introduced me to Salsa dancing, and then music as well, because where I live, they don’t play Salsa dancing. Let’s remember that I live in the north of Mexico, we don’t have that. Now we do. But like it’s not popular, like in the center of Mexico. So that’s when I started listening to it. And then when I went to do my masters in in LA, that’s what there was a lot of Salsa, their clubs and the whole thing. And at this point, I’m already I don’t know, I’m already like, pushing 30 I think like, I was like, perhaps like, 26 when I started going to, you know, Salsa clubs and stuff. So yeah.
Sonia Kyriacou 5:57
So you were exposed more to the would you say the LA style of Salsa? Would that be your first kind of interesting? The Johnny Vasquez days?
Gabriela Equiz 6:09
Well, before I remember when I performed for the first time I was there.
Sonia Kyriacou 6:15
Wow. Are you serious? Yeah. Like, he was a little kid. He was perhaps 17. And I do remember that I was there. We were at we were doing a, we were doing a video for Marc Anthony. It was the “I need to know”. And they had hired a bunch of dancers. And I was not even a dancer. At that point. I was a singer. I was a professional singer. But I was just like, Oh, yeah, I’ll just do in whatever, you know, like, just because I didn’t have anything else to do that day. And I was already like, taking classes with Los Rumberos. And so then they brought in, I remember the day that they brought in Johnny. And then they brought in Olivia Odasso. They were like little tiny little kids, but only that came from ballroom I believe our swing dancing. So we’re very impressive. But yeah, like I was before. Before Johnny. Johnny was like, ridiculous. But But you know…
That’s some history right there. That’s an awesome, that’s an awesome memory. You said two things that are really intriguing. First of all, you said you were studying engineering. And and I find that so special? Because I don’t know if it’s an if it’s a world thing. But I find a lot of engineers dance, have you? Have you realized that? What do you think that is about? How come on engineers to dance?
Gabriela Equiz 7:50
I think the fact of Latin dance is very structured. If you want to see it that way. It’s something that you can either, you know, have it in your veins, like, some people say, Well, I don’t believe in But okay, whatever. But then also, it’s a thing that you can definitely, you can definitely study and break it down. And then if you do the right steps, you’ll get to downs properly, almost identical to a person who has it in their base. You know what I mean? Because it’s a very structured, I mean, the fact that it’s like counted, and that. Yeah, I think it’s that’s what attracts a lot of engineers to it, but it’s very easy to study.
Sonia Kyriacou 8:43
That’s super interesting. And then you also said, you were you were a professional singer. I have never heard you sing. Could you tell us about that career?
Gabriela Equiz 8:52
Yeah. Well, I had, this is back in 1999. I went with it. I was at school at UCLA, right doing my Master’s in robotics. And then, at that point, there was a flyer there saying, you know, something about like, he was, you know, he was the Spice Girls time. So there was a I mean, the girl bands were all, you know, and master was not in just yet master started at if I’m not mistaken in 2000. So, you know, recording, recording companies were like it right. And so they had an audition for one recording company to do a girl group, sort of like the Spice Girls, but it was like they had this specific audition for Latinas, because they were looking for one Latina. So I went to that audition. And I sang and there was a lot of other Latinas and apparently there was other four girls from other countries. So when I went there, There was a girl from England, one from the United States. There was a girl that was black, but she was from Israel. So she was Gemini. And, and there was an Asian girl like she was from the Philippines. So I was the last piece of the puzzle. So then I got in, and then I’ve got the recording contract. And then after that, I went on tour. I mean, I did record an album. Some of the songs I wrote, in some of them. We bought from other big, big names, you know, cuz back then, that recording companies had like, a lot of funding, right? I mean, we’re talking about $1 million of like, you know, so I think, I think our album was like, around something ridiculous, like $200,000, something done like that. And they put us on a tour with Britney Spears. I started in a tour with LFO. I don’t know if you’ll remember who they are. And then they moved us to Britney Spears. And then we ended up going. Then we went to Nickelodeon, the Nickelodeon tour, and then some radio tours. And then we ended up in the end sing tour. The one was the longest one. So that’s how I got to see to, you know, to see the whole United States, because we traveled everywhere. And yeah, that was like, it was a fascinating experience. That was like a lot harder than then doing congresses a lot harder. Because the those concerts are like every single day. And you wake up in the morning, and like five in the morning or six and then you have to go to the radio without eating or having coffee.
Sonia Kyriacou 11:55
Because you say no coffee. Oh my God, that’s torture. That’s torture.
Gabriela Equiz 12:00
Exactly. You know, exactly. That’s what I say. That’s what I remember the most. And then you’d have to be like, other learn how to put my eyelashes on within a moving in a moving tour bus, you know? So I get
Sonia Kyriacou 12:20
your eyelash being like on the wrong spot. Oh my god. Now when people go like, Oh, my God, Congress. Yeah, right. So So you had this artist’s life completely separate from dancing, where you were living. And those are the parts that most people don’t see, right is how you just see the person on the stage. And they all look glamorous, and beautiful and so happy. But you didn’t see every single little thing they had to do to get there. Including waking up at 5am not eating, not drinking coffee, being rushed to a radio station, you’re kind of half awake, and you’re talking to people. And then you got to go go go get ready to go, go Go saying Go go go and practice and rehearse and then go, you know, started all over again the next day. So that’s intense. That’s intense. I guess it gives you a certain level of, you know, discipline and an experience that once you like you said, once you get to Congress life, it’s like, so easy compared to, right.
Gabriela Equiz 13:17
It’s easy, but it also gives you like a lot of perspective and in terms of like, what things should look like, you know, and so it’s like, that’s why a lot of things like in the salsa world, like, drive me crazy. Because I know that there’s just like, no way I’m like, this is not the only way to do things. I know that things should be done or could be done. If they’re done differently in other in other areas, you know, so why shouldn’t we do it like more in a professional manner? Right? Because I have this, this other perspective. So it just makes you a little bit less tolerant? I guess, or I don’t know, or it just gives you a lot of perspective and then also helps you because then you know what it takes, you know, you know what it takes?
Sonia Kyriacou 14:11
That’s correct. Would it be would it be too much for me to ask for a little sample? No, I don’t get I don’t sing anymore. Ah, at all. Is it something that is it something that you when you stop like you kind of lose the you know, the wheels get squeaky Is it like that, like I don’t know cuz I don’t sing and I’ve never tried to?
Gabriela Equiz 14:31
Yeah, I was I was taught mezzo soprano, and I lost my voice when I started teaching. Because I didn’t know how to like I mean, I just didn’t I guess I didn’t love singing so much so that I didn’t really take care of my my voice and you’re not taking care of your voice. So Mexico soprano specially in my voice was very just my courts were just very like thin. It was not like I don’t have this like Power voice I must have like, at least an octave of my voice. And then even when people like my speaking voice is very, very low now, compared to before, I actually have a novel that came out, like not not too long ago, and he was like, recorded right after I was in the pop group. And it’s so funny because my voice is so high. And people are like, is that you? And I’m like, I know, right? And, but I lost, I think within the first year of me teaching gas, because I was teaching kids. And I was being you know, like, screaming and just being, you know, wasn’t that lady on on Desmos? So
Sonia Kyriacou 15:49
I guess we can have more empathy now for the school teachers that are constantly saying, quiet pay attention. Yeah, I totally understand that. That’s okay. We’ll have to get your album in that case to hear. Go out and get it folks go out and get it. Okay. So the way that I kind of got to really know you and know of you and start to like, you know, admire you from a distance was through Alma Latina. So, tell us how this came about how it was created. And, you know, when what inspired it to become a franchise, which then took over the entire planet? So I’ll let you tell that story.
Gabriela Equiz 16:29
Okay, so, first, I started, as I mentioned before, when I was a kid, I did a, I went to, to like, some schools, my parents would send me out to one of the performing arts schools, right. So and when I went back to Mexico to live in Tijuana, I noticed that this is after I was a singer and the whole thing, right? So then I noticed that there wasn’t anything like what I had been in when I was a kid. And I was like, you know, this is what I’m going to invest my, my leftover money in. So then I started this performing arts school. And because I had already like, learned how to do salsa and whatnot, then I added salsa dancing to it. Um, so I called it Alma Latina, because I just wanted to be like, you know, I don’t like it, I guess I wanted to niche myself in Latin dance says there was nothing like that, either. So that was that in that I started that in tool 2005. Then all the kids that you see in the protein came in, but they were like, trainee, they were like, the oldest one was 17 is muy bien. And all the other ones were like 10, eight, three, I mean, we returned and they were like, tiny kids. So then I build this team. And, and that was that like, as I started doing classes for singing, acting, he was singing, acting, ballet, jazz, hip hop and, and salsa dance, right. And then we started with that. And I think by the end by 2006, we started competing. And I started taking them to congresses and whatnot. And I had seen the Congress back when I lived in LA, I went in 2000, I went to Puerto Rico, salsa Congress. So and then, this is when I’m when I already have longer Latina, it’s already 2005. So in 2006, I believe I took them to to the first Congress that I could take them to. And then from there, we started, like, just building and building and building and you know, I think that all is for me was a natural thing. Because, you know, a bowl my my preparation, I guess, and you mentioned something about being disciplined. happening from the singing, but in reality, I became disciplined when I was when I, when I was a very little I started being like, very, very disciplined, because I was always in like swimming competitions or like, whatever. But I was also very active into, you know, a study I was like, and then to be an engineer, you have to study like, it’s, you have to give up your entire life. If at least I did, you know, for me, even when I was studying engineering, I didn’t gaps for a long time. Because for me that was like, This is what you do. If you want to succeed, you need to focus on whatever you’re doing right. So when I when I have on Latina, it’s very easy for me to just be very disciplined, and have all these kids become very disciplined because I don’t know any other way to do things right. And that naturally, just building To like a good thing, I suppose, right? So, and then the franchises in reality, I didn’t invent that concept. Apparently there was another, there was some, some people in Spain who put together that concept of the franchises, and then they brought it to a tequila lemon, I brought it to the US. And then so I had a friend it was he was a promoter of one of the events that he will take us to it was a big event. And then he said, Why don’t you do a franchise? And I can become your first franchisee? I’ll help you do it, right. And I was like, Sure. So he helped me do it. And then he said, this is how you do it. You just got to do a, there’s manuals and what, you know, whatever contracts, and it was easy, because remember, also, I had steady engineering. So for me, it was easy, because it’s like a production line. It’s like, that’s what I what I went to school for. So I was like, yeah, let’s let’s do it. And then that was I think in 2009. And they just, like naturally, everything started evolving that way. Everything just came out, like, in a very natural way, I think.
Sonia Kyriacou 21:24
Yeah, because it took it took the world by storm. I mean, everywhere. I would go when it came to festivals. There was always an Alma Latina, you know, franchise group performing or competing, or both. It was like, everywhere you were like, Oh, I’m a Latino. I’m a Latina, I’m a Latina, I was like, wow. It was fascinating. And I was very impressed with while your choreographies First of all, amazing, beautiful, always very, you have a way of capturing not just, you know, the discipline, the technique that you speak of and you know, transferring that to the dancers, but the creativity, the openness in the movement to the point where Yes, it’s, you know, mainly bachata, but there’s, there’s so much more that you see there, you know, that goes outside of the typical bachata, let’s say, right? So I think that that was such an attractive model. And so, so easy for someone to say, hey, I’ve got the stars in my eyes, I want to get on a stage. And this is, this is the way to go. Because, you know, they would get on board. They were surrounded by the system. And then now they’re on stage. And they’re part of this huge global family. So who knows girl kudos. That was amazing. And as it continued to be, what is the situation today?
Gabriela Equiz 22:47
Right now I closed Allah for a full year. So so that I can put together a the manuals, and I’m I’m actually working with the government of Mexico for the educational system, because I want to put this like, I want to fix what’s going on in, in the salsa scene. So one of the things is that we need to make things correctly. Like if you’re going to be a teacher, you need to study to be a teacher and study in university, like just study like a real professional, right? So that because if you think about it, like now in the pandemic, and I don’t know if you guys call it pandemic, in the in this time, right? Yes, we
Sonia Kyriacou 23:35
call it a pandemic as well.
Gabriela Equiz 23:37
Yeah, so in this times, a lot of downstrokes. Like, realize that, like, we don’t have a good job, like we don’t have,
Sonia Kyriacou 23:48
like the way you said that, yeah,
Gabriela Equiz 23:49
we don’t, this is not a good job. So then I was like, You know what, I need to make it like legitimate for teachers to be teachers, so that they have something to back them up something where they can retire when they can like just kind of like a normal, like, as if you weren’t to study engineering, then you can study also to be to become a dance teacher for Latin dance, right? So part of that is like just making everything like bringing it back and just taking everything away from people that are like letting things just go all over the place. Because as much as you might think that it was like very organized in my eyes is very disorganized, is like, it drives me crazy to see people you’re seeing a gentleman your
Sonia Kyriacou 24:39
Gabriela Equiz 24:40
ah, ah, so then I want to make it like, I just want to make it that then I decide what goes and what doesn’t go and like I get the directors like a proper training, you know, so I’m putting together this training that is going to last at least six months and then when Give it to them, then they’re gonna be, they’re gonna feel like very secure that what they’re teaching is exactly what I want them to teach exactly the way I would teach it. So it’s more like a confidence kind of thing and more professional. And, you know, just, so that’s what I’m doing. And if I mentioned that, you know, at the very beginning, I mentioned to you that I worked with this little kids, right? Well, now those kids are adults. And they’re like, incredible. I don’t know, if you like, follow any of them. But my team, for instance, being one of them. I mean, I have like, there’s seven of them and are insane. Good, right. So we’re working on this project that is a is a documentary series, documenting all the 16 years that we’ve been going on, and how we build the choreographies. Because I didn’t feel the progress myself, by myself, it was a conjunction of everyone, right, and you don’t just do something out of your head, you this whole thing is like, it’s magic. Like, it’s really, there’s so much behind every choreography, and in the fact that we’ve been together for so many years, right? So we’re putting together this documentary series that we’re gonna put in a YouTube. And in the meantime, we’re also working on our on our syllabus, and the whole thing for I’m gonna have to come back in 2022. And be ready to now just offer it to people like in a very professional manner, I’m even thinking about like, making a franchise for dance studios. So I mean, it’s it’s a very ambitious project, but that’s where we are right now, where we’re building building and like just correcting and then doing, documenting. And
Sonia Kyriacou 26:54
yeah, that’s the way to go. I find that no matter what, whatever you’ve pursued in your career, you always go to the to the furthest point, right. I see that in your when it comes to the singing or when it came to your just everything you do you seem to always you don’t see any limits. Am I right?
Gabriela Equiz 27:15
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So I’m very fear. I’m very fearless. And I’m like, just I don’t want to. I don’t I just thought where, where people? Like, I don’t just go and see what other people are doing. And then just try to imitate, I just go beyond because for me, that’s just risk just the only way.
Sonia Kyriacou 27:36
There’s risk risk does not scare you, you you you’d rather try. And if it fails, it fails. But you tried you learn something, and then you just adjusted or tweaked it and then kept going.
Gabriela Equiz 27:49
Yeah, I don’t I don’t believe that I fail. Like when I when I see that something is not working. I don’t I don’t think that is a failure.
Sonia Kyriacou 27:56
I don’t perceive it as a failure. That’s great.
Gabriela Equiz 27:59
No, like, Oh, this was preparation is like, is the fundamentals is like what you, you know, and that’s another thing like I see that the sauce, the seam is lacking that understanding of, you know, what goes behind? Or what goes underneath success, you know, so then it’s, it’s affecting a lot of people in terms of what is it but it’s also affecting the whole community in terms of quality, and standards, because we want things so fast, because we think that age should be fast, you know? And if you have, if you have the knowledge that things take time, and that nothing is failure, then you will work towards something you’ll aim higher than just like, No, no, no, no, you know what I mean?
Sonia Kyriacou 28:53
So in advice, that’s great advice. I love that. Tell us about your online dance program. Is this for dancers? Or is it for students?
Gabriela Equiz 29:04
I have different online programs. I have one that I teach myself, it’s a technique and flexibility for sale sign with charter dancers. And the reason why I built that one was because as a judge, and as a coach, I see a lot of people mainly as a judge, but like I see a lot of people on stage that are trying to do things that they don’t know how to do. And the fact that they they think it’s okay to do them is definitely not okay with me. And then also like, I know that if they just go and take a ballet class, it’s not really going to be useful, because we do things differently when we’re on dance heels when we’re like bending our knees. So then I build this program where I teach people how like I had You know, moves that are like from ballet to or from ballroom to salsa dancing, but chatter. So is is like actionable, that and then you can get flexible because we do need flexibility, but not just like people think flexibly is is like a control flexibility with with proper turnout and the whole thing. So that’s what I teach, I teach that every Saturday. And that’s a subscription that I have invest for anybody, but especially for people who really want to hone on technique and flexibility for salsa and bachata, mainly for stage because I mean, a social dancing, you do not need any of that, right. And then also, I’m building this program. Not I’m not doing it by myself, I’m doing it, as I said, with a government of Mexico, and this is school, salsa bachata University. And we’re building this certificate program with like, that is based on the school, like whatever they teach in school and university for dance. So I’m taking a four lap dance. So I’m starting with certification to become a dance teacher, Latin dance teacher, this one takes a year, it’s 11 hours per week, it’s very intense. And the classes are given by the faculty of the University of Mexico. So I’m taking it myself as well. So it’s like serious stuff. That’s what I’m doing. And it’s also online. So I think that in Canada, we’ll we’ll have it because I’m we’re trying to get it to bring it there with following up with us with Polina, what we’re doing is that we’re bringing the same thing that we’re doing in Mexico, we’re gonna bring it to Canada, All she needs is a connection with the educational ministry in Canada, and then we’ll, we’ll work it out. And then it’s going to be open for Canadians to take it as well. I’m also talking to a very important person in the south in the bachata scene, I don’t want to say his name just yet, but he’s, he’s getting us certified by the government of the Dominican Republic. So it’s like, it’s something very, like, academic, correct. It’s getting out of the, out of the, the celebrity area, or the world of celebrity just becoming more like professional. So I’m offering this to everyone who wants to become a teacher, and, you know, in a proper way.
Sonia Kyriacou 32:53
So that’s really good news for everybody that wants to pursue dancing as far as becoming an instructor or even just for them to invest themselves as future competitors, or performers, if they’re being if they’re, you know, in a system where everything is being developed and really studied, while the results, of course will show that it’ll reflect in how they dance or compete. And, and I think that’s wonderful, because it’s been a long time coming. And, you know, we’ve we’ve witnessed that, I think, all over the world where people, there was, I would say, a split between people that had some type of training, when it came to dancing, and people that were just adopting it, because they were taking festival workshops, or they were, you know, watching YouTube, whichever, and they were bringing it and they would just take their natural talent and then mix it together, right? So not to take away from natural talent, or, you know, the capacity to, to be a great learner and learn by watching and being able to imitate, but there’s nothing, I think, stronger than being completely aware of what you’re doing and having a an awareness and being able to execute from a place of, Oh, this is what my body does. This is what I wanted to do. This is how I’m going to do it. And then mix that with the creative side. Right? So yeah, I’d also like to
Gabriela Equiz 34:15
have that kind of respect, because for instance, what I see is like, let’s say we’re Mexican, right? And so we’re not Dominican, we’re not Puerto Rican, Cuban. But yet, we are appropriating this culture, but we’re not we don’t know anything about it. So we need to study history. So and we’re dancing, but we don’t understand the music. So we need to study music. So we were teaching but we don’t know anything about kinesiology. So we need to study that. We’re teaching dance, but we don’t have any doubts to terminology. So we need to study dance terminology. But I mean, like, you know, things just to give respect to whatever you’re doing, because what I what I think is that the fact that the status quo is like, mediocre is fine. Or just like celebrate whatever, that the stem school is not the only way to go. It is not what’s gonna take us there. You know what I mean? Yeah. Oh, we we should do better? Yeah, I think this is benefiting from it for so long, we should give him more respect,
Sonia Kyriacou 35:21
right. And it will also create a sustainability, right? Because one of the things I mentioned, one of the things I mentioned, I was having a conversation, I said, you know, a lot of people that I saw investing themselves in Latin dance in Montreal have stopped, you know, they’ve just given up or moved on. And there’s a couple, there’s a handful that kept going. But everybody else just kind of I remember seeing them and the passion and time and energy they put into it. And now they’re just they’re not nowhere to be found. And I’m like, That’s sad. Like, why did we lose these people? Why are they not there anymore? And it comes back to what you said there was no strong foundation or very little of it. And there was no seemingly future in it. Right? It’s really hard to see the future when there’s no, you know, if I were to take a comparison, in the ballroom world, where people you know, could study ballroom dancing and go from this level, to this level, to this level to this level, they can take the route of competing, they could perform, they could just keep it as a social activity, but it’s structured, and it’s available. So if I start, I could see that path, you know, I could see that road, oh, this is where I can end up. That’s amazing. I’m gonna like, go for it. But when it came to what we do, it was a bit convoluted, like your, let’s say, big, big deal, your top of the line was being at a Congress as a paid artist. And that’s it. That’s like, so what’s the next level for top professionals? Where what what is going to be the, the, the height of the summit,
Gabriela Equiz 36:56
right? No, not only that, but also like, how long does it take you to get there one year? I mean, right now seriously, you can be like, you can start guessing. And if you play your cards correctly, in one year, you can be in the top, you know, so then the levels are completely switched. And therefore there’s no substance sustainability. I mean, there’s, it’s just a lot of implications, you know, that the added demand has been this has disappeared. The, you know, the quality standard has, like been erased. I mean, or like, just very like you the word you use convoluted, it’s just very, the line is very, it’s just very blurry, blurred, blurred, and then people who, people who really wanted to do things correctly, they were like, you know, what, it’s too much for so little. And so the highest point you can get to in Southside right now is to be famous, but that’s not what’s gonna get you what’s gonna get you Social Security. That’s what that’s not what is gonna get you a future. That’s not what what’s gonna get you retirement. Even I’ve been speaking about how the fact because I was a singer before. I see how people treat artists in other areas. And they let you take care of your of your vocals, they respect you, right? In salsa, they don’t respect you, you’re like, you’re an entertainer. It doesn’t matter. If you’ve been rehearsing 17 hours, you still got to do certain things, like as if you were just like anybody. And it really affects the full the full value of what you do. People don’t see teaching as an as a important thing. Therefore, they don’t take classes because they don’t need to. Because why would I take classes? Why would I have to take classes if I can just go pay $10 at a congress and dance with a load from my co chair just because I say so. You know, I mean, like, there’s nothing to look up to. When you’re a singer. You sign autographs for one hour. And that’s it. People don’t come up on stage with you. And they start singing just because they want to.
Sonia Kyriacou 39:19
I like that comparison. Yeah. I’m on stage and sing. Yeah.
Gabriela Equiz 39:26
Yeah. It’s like you don’t hire somebody to sing and then bring them down to your karaoke. And then they had to sing what absolutely every single attendee who paid $10
Sonia Kyriacou 39:36
Yeah, no, you know, you’re making me think, Gabby, I remember. This is way long ago when I started bringing my teams to Puerto Rico and we would do shows we had a lot of corporate events as well. And I would always tell the dancers, you don’t want to ruin the magic, you know, we’ll see you in a certain light and that is the the magic of An artists right you should, should keep that magic Don’t, don’t let them see you, you know, arrive in, like, in a manner that is so like, Oh, I don’t care, I look like crap. And then you go in the back, you get your costume on, you get ready, you do this fabulous show, everybody’s like, Wow, look at this amazing dancer and Oh, I feel so they’re inspired by you, right? And that after you go and you just put on jogging pants, and you have a drink at the bar and start laughing and snorting You know, it just takes away that whole. I don’t know, it, just the mystery is gone, you know. So I would always tell my dancers Don’t, don’t get out, like finish
Gabriela Equiz 40:38
the show and get out save time. So imagine this, your girl, right? And you, like you have taken so many lessons, you’re teaching people how to dance. And this, people don’t take your classes because they don’t need to write, and you go and then anybody can just dance with you and then pull your arm who is gonna pay you for that who’s gonna pay your your doctor? Like, you know, because these guys don’t know how to dance. And they, they think they they own that they they own you just because they want to pay for the ticket. This is a culture that we’ve built around art. So artists are artists, artists we are. You know, in Mexico, we used to have a thing called features is its if they weren’t kind of like, not prostitutes, but they were like, ladies that were hired to dance with people. And then they gave them points. So that’s what they call them features like, like coin ladies, right? And they would people will pay for to dance with this with this, ladies. And they were kind of like hired talent, college
Sonia Kyriacou 41:49
dance escorts in a way?
Gabriela Equiz 41:51
Yes. And so then their job was to dance with people, right? And I feel like that’s exactly what they’re making us do. And I’m like, do you understand how that how bad that is? that these people expect me to dance with them? Regardless of what happens to my body, regardless of how late it is. And I need to rest I need to drink water, I need to take my vitamins. I’m an athlete, or I’m a teacher. And then when I ask them, where do you learn how to dance? Because obviously they didn’t learn, right? They’ll go like, I taught myself. Because that’s the culture that we have right now.
Sonia Kyriacou 42:33
Yeah. Oh, yeah.
Gabriela Equiz 42:35
You know what I mean? And all this cultural work pushing it. And especially promoters are pushing it, you are a promoter. I’m a promoter too. So we like work push to be in this culture. And it’s just not sustainable in the long run for anybody, you know. So yeah. So long. I thought about those it can.
Sonia Kyriacou 42:58
I want to talk a little more about what you just did what you just mentioned about the, the kind of like the feeling of I have, I should have the privilege of, of dancing with the, you know, the artists that you bring to your festival, because I paid a ticket, right?
Gabriela Equiz 43:18
Yeah. And then the thing is, remember how like, like, back in the day, we will take classes so we can social dance, remember, I remember that we used to take classes so that we can learn how to social dance. I remember taking so many classes for spinning, social dancing, for anticipating, I remember even like, in in Canada, I took a class for social dancing when some Asian dude who was like I was living in Toronto, and he taught me something that I’ll never forget how to how to follow salsa dancing, because it was not about competition. It was not about show. It was about social dancing, because we had to be good enough to in order to dance with a good enough people with the artists. Now it’s the opposite. Raul is like, you know, and it’s just not good. Because in the end, what happens is that we’re killing the the, the we’re killing the educational need that the need for education, because people don’t think they need to, you know, they don’t have anything to look forward to. Yeah, it’s more accessible. You know, you’re right. And also at the same time, I
Sonia Kyriacou 44:33
believe that what I’ve witnessed in Montreal, I can’t speak for other places. But what I’ve witnessed is when students sign up for recreational dancing, right, and it’s clear, they’re just coming to learn how to social dance enjoy themselves, and that’s a perfectly valid reason to take classes. They always want to go faster and skip levels and go over the like the foundation so quickly because they’re like And then I noticed I could do this next, next next, and they just want to race through the levels. And then there’s, there’s two sides to that coin. Number one, the teachers are letting them do it, right? Because there’s, there’s a certain amount of I mean, as an instructor, my opinion is you need to, you need to qualify your people, you know, they need to be ready to go to the next level. And if they push this, well, if you don’t let me go to this level, I’ll go to another studio, well, then let them because if you keep focusing just on, well, I can’t lose my student, I need the money. You know, I need to keep, I feel like sometimes there’s there’s organizations or instructors that want to look popular, right? So they’ll just let people or whatever, just to make it look like the group is huge, and it’s full, and they must be the hot teacher or the Hot Dance Studio. But where’s the quality? What is the content? Right is are you teaching people how to not just dance properly? But how about dance floor etiquette? How about how not to hurt someone when they’re dancing? How about, you know, not to be rude and refuse people to dance? Because you don’t like the way they look? You know, there’s just so many things that we need to teach it, the etiquette is just as important. Basically don’t follow that, yes.
Gabriela Equiz 46:21
It takes a long time. And the thing is that we are not understanding the impact that we as teacher, and promoters are having on the future of this industry. We’re killing it. We’re killing the industry and not in a good way. We’re killing
Sonia Kyriacou 46:41
up a good killing it. Yeah.
Gabriela Equiz 46:46
And we need to be more responsible. But definitely I totally understand, you know, yes, we, we win money. Yeah. But that’s, that’s another thing that I’m building in this in this program that I told you for teachers. So while in essence, what I do is I don’t, this is what I do in my, in my lives on Facebook, on Fridays, most of the times. And then also I do this in my podcast, but like, I don’t only complain, I also give out like, I think I think about solutions before I complain, okay, if I don’t if I don’t have a solution, that I don’t complain about things, because unless I want other people to give me more feedback on like, if I’m, if I’m right or wrong about this complaint, if it’s like
Sonia Kyriacou 47:36
you’re stimulating, you’re stimulating conversation, right? You want people to participate and say, Well, this is what I think or this, this might work or etc. And that’s and that’s how anything evolves. Yeah. Is the through communication,
Gabriela Equiz 47:50
dialect, dialectic or process, right? Yeah. So what I’m doing right now, and this is basically also what I’m doing with Alma, is because like, in Iowa, what happened is that I did, I’m the only franchise that has levels, right. But people don’t want to take the levels. People go like, Oh, no, no, I want your professional chronography. And I’m like, bitch, you can’t even do a level on your students. No, no, my students won’t take the amateur choreography. And I’m like, by you are amateur. So I like that. Yeah. Right.
Sonia Kyriacou 48:26
So self awareness. How do you how do you propose that? a dancer?
Gabriela Equiz 48:33
I was like, You know what? No, we’re just gonna take this out. Thank God that right now in the pandemic, everybody stopped paying. And and everybody started stopped hiring me because you know, there’s like, no work, and I didn’t die. So now that I don’t have that money, I can do whatever I want to do with my company. So now is a time to just be like, you know what, let’s do this. And let’s do it the right way. Right? Same thing with social dancing, teaching. If you think about it, when people go to your studio, they’re not coming in. They never never come in and tell you, hey, I want to be a professional dancer to dance on stage. No, they came in because they are recreational dancers, right? So they’re asking you to teach them how to dance socially? why in the hell like, do you teach them choreography in the second month, just so that they can give you money, just so you can compete with the other studio that has all competitors? Well, I have like different two different news for you. One is you’re killing the industry. And second, like those people that have a lot of performers, they’re not making a lot of money because that we built this community in a way that the higher you go, and as I mentioned before, you can go higher in six months. The higher you go, the less To pay. So this people that are having so many teams are doing, especially the higher teams are doing them at the expense of that they’re their own their own pockets. They have to pay for the studio. I mean, it’s a lot of like, you know, things that people don’t see sacrifice. Yeah. So what I’m building is this program where I teach people how to teach and the whole thing, I have all this teachers teaching us, but also I build this. It’s a thing that I took word that you that you mentioned, like, I’m building this breaks like this stairs, in which your your students go by levels, and you qualify them, you qualify them with a syllabus exams. So like, I’m teaching people how to provide exams on what, what to what to examinate on, and therefore, people will be like, Oh, got it. I’m not on level two, because I didn’t pass this and listen, this, be very specific about it. But obviously, that you’re not going to get that from taking a class in like in a Congress. You gotta be like, intentional and respectful about like learning at yourself. Right? Right. So yeah, it’s a it’s a big process, but it needs to be done. And it’s to be done. And we’re doing it.
Sonia Kyriacou 51:30
Gabby, tell me something. I was gonna ask you before you mentioned how some people would approach you and say, well, we want the pro choreography and your your responses? Well, if you’re not able to do it, how you’re going to teach your students to do it. How do you propose a professional that is active? You know, that has been active, pre pandemic for whatever length of time? How do you propose they assess themselves? How should they go about figuring out Well, what do I like? How do I, I don’t want to say compare, because I always tell people don’t compare yourself at the same time. There’s industry standards, and you want to know where where am I in the industry standard? Like, do I have this? Do I have that? What are my weaknesses? What are my strengths? How do you propose a professional goes about that?
Gabriela Equiz 52:15
That’s it’s very interesting, because I was actually going to do a conference about that, like I was thinking about doing it with myself, like going over how I I, how I would go and do a SWOT analysis. And one choreography, let’s say, right, so then when people go, and I think I’m gonna do it, when people go, let’s say that you stopped dancing for a year, right?
Unknown Speaker 52:46
a pandemic? Because, right, right, yeah. Well,
Gabriela Equiz 52:51
so what I’m proposing to myself, because this is this is my case, right? Is that I don’t come back and just like start going, like, Oh, my God, I can’t do anything. No. Right. Yeah. So what I’m proposing to myself is have like a different scenarios, and do 25% of the time that I lost, I take it like forest, I give myself 25% of that time to be in a strict comeback. Strict for 25% that will be three months, right? So if I say I’m going to come back to the point where I was pre pandemic, then I’m going to give myself at least three weeks, three months, those three months, I’m talking about, like strict. Okay? Now, realistic. 50%. So if I, if I lost the whole year, then I’m gonna give myself six months to come back, not one week, six months, and then lose and just like balance, because now now you realize that there’s more important things in life than just be the most famous person, then give it a full 100%. So then it’s like, you lost a year, give it a year. Give it a year to come back. Right. That’s so that’s, that’s the number one thing. Second, you need to be you need to detach from from the industry standards, because the industry standards are wack. I mean, you don’t I mean, like when people when I see people on stage, with like, their legs are completely crooked. And then let them go on stage right next to the best dancer, like because of that angle or whatever. And, and people might think they’re the same. Or people just like, applaud and just, it’s crazy, you know, so then nobody really knows. So you should not really focus on like what is out there and especially If you’re going to be looking at somebody who like women with the out there, like, I meet that samples, like, currently regarded like somebody who was really out there, don’t compare yourself to them because you really don’t have any idea how much they work to get there. So it’s not just like putting videos on on YouTube or on Instagram is a lot. There’s a lot, so don’t compare yourself to that. What I would do is, if you’re, if you’re knowledgeable about dance, then do a SWOT analysis. And I would do in your weaknesses, I would have like, I will break it down in tasks that are drills, to strengthen your weaknesses to make them not weak, but like because you know, the chain breaks and the weakest link, link Hmm. So I will go. One thing that happens in salsa is that we think that rehearsing is what is the way and rehearsing it’s not the way rehearsing is for rehearsing. But the training, people don’t understand that the training aspect and also the drawing aspect. For instance, if you lack flexibility on one of your sides rehearsing is not gonna fix it, what you’re going to do is work on that flexibility for that side, over and over. So then you need to do certain drills for that kind of thing. If you lack agility, if you like, I don’t know, like flavor, if you let if your arm is one arm is more flexible than the other. Like, it’s not like running the choreography 100 times a day, if especially if you do running out wrong. Well, it’s
Sonia Kyriacou 56:47
one it’s one dimensional, it’s only it’s only going to work the parts that are in that choreo. But what about the rest of it? Right?
Gabriela Equiz 56:54
So and, like, in all honesty, like, for instance, is what I see I take ballet classes and contemporary classes. We’re not in a in a gas company that is professionals, right? So everyone who’s in my class is a professional dancer, and is a professional teacher. And it really surprises me to see how humble these people are. Like they have degrees from university to do that. And they also teach like, they’re like, badass, right? And they take ballet classes do the same exact thing over and over 100,000 times, our teacher is pushing 70 years old, one of her legs is not does not move. And she is a queen, she’s insane. As a teacher, but she’s not like on stage being famous. She’s just an amazing teacher. And everyone who takes the class is a teacher themselves. And they don’t come in, they don’t come in like thinking they’re their God. They come in with their bun, with their tights with like, early like there were
Sonia Kyriacou 58:03
nothing Yeah, humility,
Gabriela Equiz 58:05
humble. And therefore you see, you know, the results. I don’t see this in the salsa world at all because people just don’t understand what it takes. Yeah, that it’s it’s not about what you do only in rehearsal is like what you do outside of rehearsal that is going to make you move, like, you know, move the needle. And I say move the needle because we expect things to be fast. And it’s just not a smart way to think about things. But in any other case, I have a podcast episode that is I just did it last week. I’m pretty sure that I just did yeah, this last weekend. Not last week, I did it. It’s a word in English, because I do first in Spanish. But this is the one that I did is how to become a professional. So it’s things that right now in this standard make you a professional. I don’t think that makes you a professional but that’s the the roadmap, pretty much but but yeah, that’s I don’t know if that was
Sonia Kyriacou 59:14
too much. No, no, never. For all the for all the listeners listening check out her podcast. It’s called dance Boss Lady. And it’s on Spotify. Correct. So there you can get a lot of valuable information from Gabby and hear her speak about different things. And of course, if you understand Spanish, well, you’ve got a little advantage. Yeah. It’s Spanish and English. There’s two. Oh, are they all all episodes are bilingual?
Gabriela Equiz 59:44
Yes. So the the pink ones are Spanish and the green ones are English. So what I do is that I I do it in Spanish first. And then the following week I do the English version. So I always do. I do it. record these on Mondays, and I record both episodes. So I record the Spanish, and then that earlier, and then that translation of the earlier one. So I’m always one episode behind in English because I want to take that time to translate it since English is not my first language. Awesome. So,
Sonia Kyriacou 1:00:20
so lots of valuable information there. And if I can ask you what, what led you to start the podcast? How old is the podcast now?
Gabriela Equiz 1:00:29
The podcast is in very new. What made me I listen to a lot of podcasts. And I and a friend of mine, one of the kids in my in my group, he said, because I was doing a lot of videos on Facebook and people were like, really, really taking to them. You’re like very excited to hear all this like information. And just like I was wanted to, like motivate people to follow their dreams and just not think that it things are too hard. Because because you’re too old or because you’re too This or you’re too bad. Like I don’t believe in that so that I want people to get out of their comfort zone and just move on and just do it, you know. And so I thought about doing this podcast just for motivation. So all the politics and all the technical things that I talk about. I do those on other days, but not on the podcast. So the podcast is more like FOMO for motivation. That’s why I do it on Mondays. Then on Tuesdays I in my Instagram, I do technique Tuesdays and I always answer a technical technical question about salsa bachata, or technical moves. Wednesdays I do World Champion Wednesdays also on Instagram. I’m starting to, I probably will start doing it on YouTube as well. And then I do that for I talk about competition. And then you know, sometimes I do feedback on competition, I do it live Thursdays I I do tips and hacks that when I’m starting to do it on YouTube, I just did one that was a how to make a contract as an artist. And I did that one for Mexicans because they don’t, they don’t charge and that’s just like men, you need to eat. You need to be like, this is not a hobby. This is a job. So I’m helping my Mexicans get back on point. Like a newsflash, this is how you do our contracting started making money. And then Fridays, usually I do on Facebook, I do. Like, frankly, on Fridays, today, I don’t know if I’m gonna go live. But today I have a I have a meeting with any cats, Yvonne. And also with Aubrey Rs, about like some very important topics that we want to talk about so that we can fix, we can do something about fixing this industry. So maybe I’ll talk about something like that. And I’m just gonna be on Facebook. So if you see me on Friday, I might just, I might just be opening my mouth and being very frankly about things I need to be addressed. Right, Frank Fridays.
Sonia Kyriacou 1:03:27
Yeah, I love it. I love it. I think honesty is the best policy and it gets. It’s the fastest route to growth. You know, we got to stop talking in circles and being worried about people being offended. I think that now after we’ve gone through this pandemic, and we’ve seen that time is so precious, and we all have a purpose to fulfill. And we need to roll up our sleeves and fulfill it because yeah, we just don’t know what lies ahead. So I appreciate everything you’re doing. I’m very, very grateful to have this time with you today. And I’m sure that my listeners will benefit largely from listening to this episode. And so, on that note, I want to wish you an amazing, amazing future and keep on keep on being you.
Gabriela Equiz 1:04:10
Thank you so much. Oh, thank you. Thank you. I love that this interview. Thank you for letting me be myself open up and even practice my English. Thank you like I feel I feel good because I’ve been in the US for over a year. So this is like it’s good practice your English.
Sonia Kyriacou 1:04:32
Your English has been worked today. Well, I didn’t practice my Spanish but we’ll have a little we’ll have a cocktail at some point. I’ll speak Spanish you speak English and we’re going to have a nice little exchange. Thank you. Bye bye. Bye.
Thanks for listening. Find Sonia on Instagram at SONIAKY RI and on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. Sonia Kyriacou Check back weekly for new episodes. Until the next time, keep dancing.