Barbara Capaldi is one of the cornerstones and the most highly credential dance instructor in the New Jersey/Philadelphia/Delaware area salsa scene. Barbara has been a dance instructor and coach since 1987. Additionally, she has a Bachelors' degree in Education from Rutgers University. In July 2004 Barbara received the Licentiate degree from the United States Imperial Society of Dancing for International Style Dances. Obtaining this Licentiate degree has been a goal five years in the making. Barbara consistently strives to use her continued education to be the best teacher for her students. Barbara's next goal is to attend the World Salsa University, which is offered at the Puerto Rico Salsa Congress this July for which she will receive an International Certification in Salsa Dancing.

Stephen:  When did you start dancing?

Barbara: I started taking lessons when I was a teenager. I took lessons in jazz, tap, ballet as well as modern dance. I really found that I loved dancing and got good at it. I continued to take lessons and eventually got small teaching jobs.

Stephen: When did you decide to make a career of dancing?

Barbara: I was still dancing and taking dance lessons while I was studying in college as a history major pursuing my teaching certification. I was offered a job at Arthur Murray dance studio. That was in 1987. I was given this opportunity to do the two things I loved the most: teach and dance. I remember thinking, "what a dream to teach and dance and someone is actually going to pay me to do it!"

Stephen: What made you decide to dance professionally?

Barbara: I started dancing professionally when Andy Fortuna and his wife positioned me to become Andy's dance partner. I danced with Andy for the Pro-Am scholarship level in International Latin Division.

Stephen: Why did you give up professional dancing?

Barbara: I never gave up professional dance. Teaching and competing with my students is considered professional. I gave up competitive dancing when Andy Fortuna's wife and previous dance partner made the decision to come back and compete again. At that time I went on and did some professional work in TV commercials, industrial commercial and casino productions.

Stephen: What is your favorite dance today?

Barbara: I actually have two favorites: Salsa, of course, and Cha-cha. The tempo of the Cha-cha allows the time to express the music and rhythm inside through body movement. If I could have a third favorite, I'd have to say swing.

Stephen: When did you first fall in love with salsa?

Barbara: When I was teaching at the Crystal ballroom a student invited me to a Latin night at Mahorn's in Cherry Hill. Then on another night we went to a club in Philly called Las Esmeraldas; the soul of the dance captivated me. The guys in suits, the ladies in sexy dresses, just the sheer sensuality and focus of the couples being guided by the music. I was a non-Latino, but found myself absolutely loving this show. It was a big difference from ballroom for me. In ballroom dance I did not feel the soul of the music but danced only for competition. This had all the components I was looking for; dancing for the love of the dance and soulful interpretations of the music.

Stephen: How do you describe "Barbara" style of dance?

Barbara: I feel like my style has really evolved. I consider myself a street dancer who has been formally trained. I learned all the proper steps and timing as a student of dance directed by proper technique and competition, then... I became a student of the dance guided by the music! Ultimately, we are all students of dance and our goal is for our bodies to become an instrument of the dance. A good friend of mine, Henry Knowles, once told me, "the music will be you best instructor."

Stephen: What do you think makes a good partner?

Barbara: Someone who I feel is dancing with me. He's allowing me to feel the music and not rushing me into every turn pattern he's ever learned. This partner looks at me and enjoys my style. This encourages me to play off his style.

Stephen: What was the inflection point that put you on the Salsa map?

Barbara: I was teaching the salsa lesson at the Stardust ballroom Latin night for Paul Loftland, who introduced me to Jose Rodriguez the DJ at The 8th Floor Night Club in Philadelphia. Jose set me up teaching the salsa lesson to kick of the Latin night party on Friday nights. I had already been teaching salsa for 10 years before salsa became mainstream and had built a good reputation for teaching in the Delaware valley.

Stephen: Why did you opt to teach "On-1" as opposed to "On-2" being trained in ballroom mambo?

Barbara: I wanted to teach what my students wanted to learn. Everyone in the clubs in this area was dancing "On-1".

Stephen: What would you rather do in dance: lead or follow?

Barbara: As a woman... I love to follow. It makes me feel very womanly, very sexy and sensual.

Stephen: What prompted you to start your own studio and how did you arrive at the name "The Atrium"?

Barbara: I knew it was time to open a studio because I was tired of the gypsy life. Teaching from club to club, borrowing and renting space here, there and everywhere. Most importantly, I needed a home for my students who were so loyal to me over the years. I thought if I were to create a studio it would be warm and comfortable and nurturing for the dancers who wanted excellent training, but were not necessarily interested in competition. Students would not feel pressured or scrutinized, but would have an outlet where they would feel free to practice and socialize. I called it "The Atrium" because people would find and recognize my studio by the atrium, which is at the front of the building.

Stephen: What is the factor(s) that differentiate the Atrium?

Barbara: The music never stops. It feels like home. There is no judgment or competition.

Stephen: How do you describe your journey along the "Salsa Road"?

Barbara: Life never takes a straight line. I never imagined opening a studio but now that I am here I can't imagine my life without this studio or doing anything else. I never dreamed that salsa would change my life and make me grow in a way I never expected. It's a very winding road and you don't always see what's ahead. Sometimes things spring up on you. I've had some very interesting things spring up to say the least. It has been an amazing journey so far. As I go, I continue to be a student of the dance, which is what keeps me fresh and carries me through. I have learned that everyone can be replaced, the DJ, the dance instructor, but in the end the music will go on.

Stephen: Do you ever feel that you have been rewarded for all your sacrifice?

Barbara: I never feel like I've sacrificed. I have received tenfold of what I've given. When I teach we both learn, the student and I. You never know until you teach, that there are 50 ways to say the same thing and eventually you learn which ones work the best. I would actually like to do more for the community. Currently I am interested in sponsoring and participating in an after school program to give students, particularly young people, alternatives and possibilities in salsa and hip-hop.

Stephen: Who are your mentors along the way?

Barbara: Lots of great people... Sandra Fortuna, John Clark, Peter Kadel, Eddie Torres, Nelson Flores, Victor and Amanda of Karisma Dancers, Samantha Erskein, Frankie Martinez and Edie the Salsa Freak.

Stephen: Signature Trini Jungle Juice question. One word to describe Barbara.

Barbara: Just one word?! I'll give you two:
Sensual... in style.
Determined... to accomplish goals I have been called to do.

Love to you Barbara and wishing you success