We had the pleasure of watching Raymond (12) and Jenalyn (9) Saraza Pacheco perform and receive a great standing ovation at the Los Angeles Salsa Congress this past May, and wanted to interview them to share their story. Raymond and Jenalyn currently dance with Latin Energy dance company and have been taught by instructor Vanessa Stay. Watch them dance and read their amazing story!http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JI45AxAe9ME
How did you learn to dance?
Jenalyn (9 years old): My mom says I was always dancing, even before I was born in her tummy. As soon as I could walk, I was dancing around on my tippy toes every chance I got. My parents put me in dance classes (ballet, jazz, hip hop, acro, tap) when I was 3 years old and I really loved it! With partner dancing, it all started when we saw our parents taking salsa lessons and watched my parents and grandparents dancing the cha cha and swing at family functions. We thought this kind of dancing was really cool and my brother started practicing salsa moves in our rooms when my parents werent watching. But one day, our parents heard us practicing and asked if we wanted to take lessons. They brought us to the Canada Salsa Congress when I was 5 years old and my brother was 7 years old, we met Vanesa Stay and Oscar Naranjo from Latin Energy and showed them our moves. Vanesa thought we were pretty good and asked us to come for salsa lessons. When we got good enough, she asked us to join the Latin Energy dance team and we began performing at weddings and festivals.
Raymond (12 years old): I started taking hip hop and breakdancing lessons when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I was always around dancing because my mom and dad loved to dance as well as my parents and uncles/aunts. My sister pretty much explained it all but I want to add that after we joined Latin Energy, our big break was when performed exactly a year later at the Canada Salsa Congress run by Jennifer Auction and the MC was Albert Torres. He was just a great guy to meet and Ill always remember how we got our first standing ovation and Albert called us the future of Salsa. We were hooked on dancing and have continued to learn with Vanesa Stay and have taken other types of partner dancing including ballroom and other styles.
What was your favorite performance ever?
Raymond: There are so many to choose from. We have performed all over the place including Miami, Calgary, Montreal, Los Angeles and Bermuda. My favorite performance so far was the Los Angeles Salsa Congress hosted by Albert Torres. Weve never been to Los Angeles and it was such an exciting place to be and there were so many talented dancers to watch. We really learned so much. I got a special haircut just for L.A. - I had my hair tattooed with my initials R.J. (Raymond Jonathan). My sister thinks it my name and her name together. We also love performing in Bermuda because the people there are so nice its like another family. And the audience really has a good time when we perform there. We have had many competitions including the Dancing with the Stars kids ballroom challenge in Toronto in front of 15,000 people - that was pretty awesome too.
Jenalyn: I agree with Raymond but my favorite competition was Montreal because we won 1st place against all the adults! I got to wear this really nice blue costume that my mom and dad designed - it is my favorite costume! I was so excited because the crowd was really loud when we performed and was even louder when we won!
What do you think is the hardest thing about salsa dancing?
Raymond: We love performing but the practicing can be very difficult and tiring. Our teacher Vanesa is always pushing us to try new tricks and harder routines. In the end we get better but getting there is always hard work. But Ive learned you have to work hard to get things to look good.
Tell us about your other talents. How do they help your dancing?
Jenalyn: I love to sing and play the piano also. I think Im good at listening to the beat and the music so its not hard for me to find the salsa beat. I also dance other dance styles like ballet which helps me point my toes and acro which keeps me very flexible. I also take drama classes so this really helps me with my confidence and being in front of a lot of people.
Raymond: I play the violin and drums and I also take gymnastics. Playing instruments has helped me with listening to the music and the beat so its easy to count the steps and learn choreography. Gymnastics has helped me with my core strength for all the lifts and tricks with my sister. I also love acting and drama and this has helped me with being a character when I dance with my sister and also makes me less nervous when I am performing in front of a large crowd.
If you could learn any other dance style, what would it be?
Jenalyn: I really want to learn Lyrical, Contemporary dancing - I love watching it on TV.
Raymond: I really want to learn some of the Cali Columbia style of salsa dancing.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you want to go?
Raymond: I want to visit Las Vegas for sure!
Jenalyn: I want to go back to Hollywood again - it was so much fun. I would like to visit the Philippines and Portugal because that is where my mom and dad are from.
What is your favorite thing about salsa dancing and performing?
Jenalyn: We love the tricks - it is so much fun to do and we love how the crowd reacts when we do it in our routines. Salsa dancing is so different from other dancing weve done because it is so much fun.
Raymond: I think its great to be able to use our talents to help others also. Weve helped with fundraisers for Brampton Civic Hospital, Hospital for Sick Children and Haiti with our dancing. Were lucky that we can do something like that with something we love to do.
What would you say to someone else (your age or adult!) who was thinking about learning to dance salsa?
Raymond: We would say no matter how old you are, you should go for it and try it. Like Nike - just do it!
Jenalyn: I would say follow your dream! Why would you not try it! Its so much fun and great exercise. Youll be glad you tried it!
[Second Source:Addicted2Salsa Interview with Raymond and Jenalyn