Win, Draw or Lose with Liz Becerra Castro
1. I always start with "When did you first fall in love with Salsa"?
I fell in love with Salsa when I was 15 years old. My older sister Jessica started taking some classes and I remember seeing her and her boyfriend at the time dancing at a family event. I fell in love with it and told her I wanted to learn how to dance too. She was really excited and taught my younger sister Jackie and I a few moves and then took us to class at the Atrium shortly after. The Atrium was my first salsa dance school. Barbara Capaldi was my first ever salsa instructor.
2. When did you feel your dancing took a quantum leap? Have you seen many leaps over the years?
I've had a few leaps over my 13 years of dancing but this year alone has been the biggest one. Training for competition is hard but it makes you so much better. Over the last year Darlin and I worked hard together on our On1 number and trained with amazing coaches like Anya Katsevaman (2 x On2 World Champion), Tito & Tamara (PR), Billy Fajardo (MIA), Gaby Equiz-Jasso (Alma Latina) and more. I also trained with my amazing ballet instructor Sarah. All of my coaches taught me technique and flavor and opened my eyes to another world of dancing. Competition...
3. Who were leads that made you nervous in the early days?
Darlin used to make me nervous lol. Eli Torres used to as well. I think it was mainly b/c they both were so amazing and I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep up with them. But they were both really sweet and allowed me to enjoy our social dances.
4. Who does your hair?
Jady. She is on our pro team and she colors, styles and does my hair for shows. She's amazing.
5. You have a boyfriend?
No I do not. Kind of hard when I married dance. LOL
6. What was your most exciting Salsa moment?
My most exciting salsa moment was winning 1st place at the World Salsa Summit in the Ladies Shines Division this year. I knew that our routine was different and had a lot of potential. We worked so hard and when we won it was an amazing feeling b/c we proved that hard work pays off.
7. What was your most embarrassing Salsa moment?
I went to the World Latin Dance Cup in December and Darlin and I went up to qualify for On1. This was my FIRST big competition with Darlin. In the first two measures of the routine, my strap popped on my costume. I danced the routine trying to hold my costume from coming up on the right side. Once the audience realized what was happening they started cheering and screaming. At one point I was like... "Oh the hell with it..." I danced it and never showed it in my face. Unfortunately the costume malfunction messed us up a bit and we didn't qualify. I was upset but we got a standing ovation so whatever... it is what it is. And I SEWED that costume on myself every time after that lol
8. Who were some of the dancers you admired over the years? Favorite Leads? Follows to dance with?
Some of the dancers I've admired over the years were Griselle Ponce, Karel Flores, Julissa Cruz. I also admire David and Paulina and Karen and Ricardo. Some of my favorite men to dance with include obviously Darlin (I'm not just saying that b/c he's my partner... but I guess 13 years of dancing together makes the connection pretty awesome LOL), Oliver Hannah, Joe Figueroa and Lucas Lopez. I never social danced with these ladies but I can watch Melissa Padin, Ivona (Former Plan B dancer; Mario B's old partner) and Christina Garcia dance all day. They have so much flavor.
9. How would you describe your style of dance? Who are the giants (local and remote/youtube) who have contributed to your style of dance?
I have a mix of a jazzy, hip hopish, funky style. I incorporate a lot of body movement in my routines. Some of the dancers I look up to are Julissa Cruz, Anya Katsevman and Gaby Equiz-Jasso. I can watch videos of them and channel their energy and movement. There are some parts of my routines where I channel my inner Anya, and other parts I channel my inner Julissa and Gaby. LOL
10. Can you change a flat tire? NOPE. But I have AAA.
11. What can I find in your fridge right now?
In my fridge.... fruits, leftover dinner I cooked this week, yogurt, juice, eggs...
12. What get you in the mood for a night of salsa? In the zone?
ummmm what gets me going is a great song to listen to. A great song is a song that I can just see choreography coming to mind and how I would hit this hit and how I would hit that one. That gets me going.
13. Last time you competed I asked you what you learned in the Philly Fest competition. Do you recall what you said? And what have you learned from Miami? I remember I told you that my coaches told me you have to walk on stage like a champion. And I definitely did that in Miami at the Summit. I walked on stage acting like I already won. It kind of makes you way more confident and the judges know something is about to go down. What I learned in Miami is that you can never practice enough. There's always more that can be done so this year I plan to work even harder then I did last year. Don't get me wrong I worked my butt off this year but now that I understand competition more I know exactly what I need to work on.
14. Your favorite Salsa Song?
Salsa? Ummmmm There's a song.. I dont know the name but here is the link of Masacote's routine. This song is amazing and I know it so well so when I social dance it I have tons of fun with it. http://youtu.be/qRWsIx95W3k
15. What inspired the music choice of your latest ladies number?
When I had to find a song I knew I wanted to do something different. I didn't want a typical salsa song. I wanted a strong and funky song. Then I came across Rodrigo y Gabriella and I was blown away. Normally you have trouble finding 1 good song, but I found about 5 great songs and it took me time to narrow it down to the song I chose which was Hanuman. From there I let the song tell me what to do. Some people ask me how I came up with that choreography but the truth is I just did what I felt the music told me to do. :-)
16. How do dream up/find time for the chorography having a full time job and also full time dance job?
A lot of times when I'm driving to the studio and I'm stuck in traffic, I listen to the song multiple times and see what my brain comes up with. There have been times where I would take voice memos on my phone explaining what I would do... I would say.... "After the big hit, suzie q.. walk walk... syncopated step... walk walk... kick ball change. step step spin and split." (This is an actual section of the routine btw lol) That way I would know what I thought of for choreography and then do it later with the music.
17. Would you be a Ninja or Pirate? Ninja... I did karate for many years growing up... so definitely a ninja.
18. What ingredients do you think make this a world class outstanding performance?
This routine has a little bit of everything. It's sexy but not raunchy (Liz doesn't do raunchy), it has cha cha, mambo, musicality, jazz, flamenco inspired moves and intricate foot work. The formations blow everyone away b/c they move so well. The styling is unique and very classy which people really like. The synchronization is also what makes it so awesome. The ladies and I worked hard on getting it to look exactly the same. Lastly, the song. The song in itself is absolutely captivating. So I made sure to play with the music and really capture the audiences attention with the simple things we did.
19. Having taken 1st place, what do you see as fundamentals to make it to be a champion?
In order to be a champion you have to be willing to work really really hard. You have to be open to messing up and fixing it, testing things and seeing what works and what doesn't. You have to push yourself WAY past your comfort zone. I could tell you the partner stretches the ladies and I did where we were in so much pain but we knew we had to push ourselves to the next level. You have to study other artists, study past champions and train with coaches. You can't become a champion by yourself. You have to get other people's opinions especially people who have been successful in the competition world.
20. How hard is it to pull together 5 women and get them in dance synch? Tell us about that process.
This was really hard for me. Each of us have different styles. The way we each dance is different. So we had to find a median where we would make sure our arms, feet, body movement were the same and where we could dance it while still looking alike. If we dance it all out we tend to look a little different. For competition we had to hold back a little so we could make sure we looked exactly alike and in sync.
We did about 5 shows before we went to Summit. I would watch the video and take a million notes and share it with the ladies. It would say something like. "0:15 - Jady fix your arm, 0:17 - Sharonne point your toes, 0:20 - Trixy look up..." I went through all 2:30 of the routine and ripped it apart and fixed it. After we won in Miami the ladies admitted to me later that they were so frustrated with me after we performed at the Reef b/c once I saw the video I took it apart and told them the millions of things to fix. I kind of told them, "I love you ladies but that show was a hot mess." They were frustrated with me picking it apart but once we won and they saw how awesome it was at the competition, they finally understood my madness :-)
21. If you can be any super hero who would it be?
Super Hero??? Ummm... Mrs. Incredible lol. B/c I think she is incredible.
22. How long would you go before shaving your legs?
I can go a long time. I had laser hair removal on my legs so I'm good lol.
23. One word to describe yourself?
24. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself hopefully married and still dancing. I have plans on taking the studio and dancing to another level. So be prepared :-)
25. Finish these sentences for me
a. AIM Dancers are……..my family.
b. Maybe I should…….proofread this whole interview b/c I hate spelling errors.
c. I am totally terrified of………mice and rats. Thinking of them makes me cringe.
d. 2014 will………..be an even better year for me and AIM.
Salsa in the City are …….awesome supporters.
Stephen Choo Quan