Summer & Caribbean Rhythms

A short feature about a young dancer stirring Louisville’s dance Culture

It all started on a typical summer night. It was the summer after high school and Josh walked into Sky-Bar to their weekly live-band salsa on a Thursday night. It was then that Josh looked at his feet and back onto the dance floor & thought to himself, ” I have to learn how to move like that.” A typical Thursday transformed into a routine, and routine transformed into much more than a hobby. Since then, Josh Gonzalez, now 24, has swayed through the Caribbean inspired rhythms across Louisville and the US.

One step after another, it was hard to balance the juxtapositions happening around him. Moving feet, body and mind, but that was it- he was hooked. Thursday nights became a sanctuary and he began pushing boundaries through dancing. Three weeks later- he encountered his long-term dance partner; and just a few months after, he performed in front of an audience. “I still remember my first performance, I was nervous like I’ve never been before,” said Josh as he laughed reminiscing his first public performance at church in Louisville, “It was bad.” Though his first performance marked an accolade to his dance take off, he reminds himself to lookback refresh his transformation.

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Empezando

Gonzales believes an epiphany during the summer of his sophomore year, spurred his journey into dancing. He attended Oldham County High School, a school with a low number in Latinos. “I attended Latino Leadership and College Experience Camp in Lexington, Kentucky where I related to all of Latinos who were my age. I learned a lot about my roots and that I should always feel proud of them.” Prior to this, the only connections to his roots were his parents. Who have resided in Kentucky for over 25 years. The longing for connecting with more Latinos brought him to work at a Mexican restaurant in La Grange after his graduation. There, he connected with two of his co-workers who danced to unwind after long work nights. He saw them fluently translate the music into dancing. He had never danced before, but the aspiration to sway the way his co-workers swayed, left him with perseverance.

He booked lessons at Dance Louisville in order to fully learn the foundation step. It wasn’t easy, but once he grasped it; he began doing his own research and learning through YouTube and persistently dancing every Thursday. One year later, he began traveling to different conferences and dance events that continued to inspire him- and taught by professional Bachata and/or Salsa dancers.

City after city, he began to realize that coming back to Louisville was especially hard when Latin dancing spots where limited. “In bigger cities, there’s a [dance] scene and resources like university dance clubs” he said talking about cities such as Chicago, Cincinnati, New York and Florida. “There’s nothing like that here and I think it’s awesome to be able to introduce that to Louisville.” His most recent performances have been at Rocket City Latin Festival in Alabama with his team and at Tampa’s International Dance Conference, where he once stood as an attendee. “It was really a dream come true, because the first dance event I ever attended was in Tampa, and I remember watching people on stage performing. While I watched, all I could think was how incredible they were, and think: everyone’s so good!” he said, “Standing on that stage and performing was kind of unbelievable; being able to give all that hard work and dedication to pay off like that.”

 

DSC_0606Más que un pasatiempo
“Let’s watch, from the top! One, two, three- five, six, seven,” Josh told his class . Alongside, Chelsey Owen his current dance partner and co-instructor danced to La Murga and their students stood in parallel lines behind them, “Step one, bring her back-two, three and I am to immediately ask for her hand,” he continued. The sleek wooden-floors reflect the fifty-fifty juxtaposition between Chelsey and Josh. “We separate the lead and the follow, which we both know but we separate those when we teach.. It’s very collaborative,” said Chelsey, who has been part of the salsa scene for a few years and has known Josh for about three. Their dance collaboration fruitioned in 2016. Like Josh, they both believe that the salsa scene in Louisville is very important, “Culturally, it’s so vibrant and important. I think that it signifies community and friendship,” she said, “it brings people together.

Five years later, Josh still attends Sky bar for salsa Thursdays. In winter 2016, he was approached by Latin Louisville’s owner, who proposed the idea of him teaching a class at the Louisville Athletic Club (who partners with them.) He always knew he had been persistently focused on improving and learning; kind of like a gym-enthusiast takes the gym seriously. Yet, this made it clear that this was more than a hobby. Josh now teaches every Monday for beginners and every Wednesday for Intermediate dancers along Chelsey Owens. “I believe everyone can dance,” he said, “it’s just wanting to learn.” Coming from learning dance from no experience, this is something he is mindful during his classes and teaching style.

Bailando, Louisville!

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Alongside Latin Louisville, Josh hopes to help grow interest and support from the community. They have organized events such as: Salsa in the Gallery, at the River House, Salsa on the Belle of Louisville and others. Coming up: Salsa on the Belle- 2nd edition. Tickets available: here “Even though it’s not directly in my culture, there is something we commonly share in the music. [I think] It’s important and beautiful to have these connections,” Josh concluded. To learn more about the Latino Leadership and College Experience Camp, visit http://www.thellcec.org

 

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