An interview with Darlin Garcia

By Stephen Choo Quan

Darlin Garcia is an instructor, competitor and choreographer of Salsa Dancing. He currently instructs at La Luna Dance Studio and at the starlight ballroom in which he's held his own classes for almost two years now. Darlin teaches some of the more advanced turn patterns and open shines in the area. He has participated in the La Luna Showcase since December 2003. Darlin is a founder of one of Philadelphia’s best dance troops “Art in Motion”. In this past year the dance group has performed and instructed in several congresses such as: New Orleans, Chicago, Texas, Boston, Detroit, NY, LA, Washington DC, Puerto Rico, Montreal, Miami, North Carolina, Toronto and soon will have its international tittle by traveling to Ireland in May of 2005.

Stephen: What made your first join a dance group?

Darlin: Well, like I said before I was already dancing Hip Hop and was part of a dance company so I guess the drive to be part of a team has always been there from the get go. I really like to push my self to do as much as I can in anything I do and that was just the next step from being just a Salsa student to being full out part of this revolution. Its still funny till this day remembering the weeks I spent asking Barbara (my instructor at the time) if I can join her dance team with only 5 weeks of dancing in me.

What was your first dance group and how has that impacted to as the dancer you are today?

Darlin: My first Dance group was Salsero's Unidos in which I was actually part of its creation, the name the logo and its first performance at a congress back in 2002. It helped in many ways because it was the foundation to the dancer that I am today. The wonderful lady who taught me my
beginnings was Barbara Capaldi and she was a strong mined person that when she wanted to get something done she did and I kind of have that same mentally. It also helped me meet more then half the members on my team now and develop great relationships with them... they just never new what they where getting into when they let this 17 year old Dominican into the Mix... lol.

Why did you leave that dance group?

Darlin: I was trying to make other aspects of my life "Coexist" with Salsa at the time and I had to see if pursuing other avenues would make my life happier and easier while still keeping Salsa fun and close to my heart.

Was there a signal that told you the inflection point is upon you to move on? How did you know?

Darlin: Shortly after leaving the Atrium about 2 to 3 weeks later Juan Calderon of Cultural Explosion asked me to join their team. I traveled with them for almost a year and got to meet many other dancers and experienced what it was like to be part of a well known team. I was then approached by other dance teams to help out or participate in some of there performances, but Cultural Explosion had an exclusivity clause that wouldn't allow me to do so. So, when the time came to move on and do my own thing we parted ways with no hard feelings.

What inspired you to form your own dance group?

Darlin: Well, I always wanted to have my own team but I didn't feel like I was ready before my experience with Cultural explosion. In the year I was with them, I was able to meet some of the big names and develop connections with the congresses, as well as develop myself as a dancer so when the time felt right to do so I just ran with it and decided to do my own thing. I began to train two girls, Alexis and Jay, and the fourth wheel, Butter. Then things just started to fall into place with Salsa but out of place in my normal life car, house, etc., which led me to move in with Mike and spark conversation about a new group. I felt like Salsa was lost in the roots the basics. There was now a big push for learning new moves and not enough on the feeling for the dance. I felt like it was being treated as a quick fix when the truth is, it takes time and I wanted to get back to that position. Then things started to happen Mike and Jessica left our original group Salsero's Unidos and Alex and Lilly were always free agents its was then we knew we had the talent now available to make this happen.

What was the best advice you got in taking the step to get a group going?

Darlin: Ismael told me while I was in DC that it was not going to be easy trying to do this Salsa thing now when everyone wants a piece of the "revolution". There are many more groups now compared to when he started, and that competition was stiff. I used this to guide our in a direction
that no one was going and to motivate myself to push us as hard as we could as a group forward.

How hard was it to form the group?

Darlin: It was very hard, but when something smells and feels right you just can't wait to act on what's meant to be. I know the players that I wanted on the team but the issue was getting two of them to be in the same room... let alone in the same group because they were not friendly to put it mild terms. Months had gone by and both of them knew of my hope and intentions but could find it in themselves to take the first step... pride I guess. One night at Lyrics, I made a bold maneuver and cross body lead one straight into the other. A very intense moment as the two of them bumped into each other, I guess I had a gut feeling that it would work or I just had big "cojones", they had same something but couldn't find a single word to say since its been over a year since the two had even said hi, but then the strangest thing happened they both started to make their way outside the club. That night jaws dropped because no one knew if they would just break out into yet another fight or exchange apologies with one another. Both of them came back laughing after some time. That was late Nov-Dec 2003 and the rest is now history!

Our next issue was with Jay leaving the group and Alexis moving to another state. Butter needed a dance partner but like I said this was just meant to be. Rona called me out of the blue and told me she was now freelancing. I invited her to join us and just like that we had all the pieces back in
place and had actually become stronger and now felt ready to attack the rest of the year head on.

What was the group’s first challenge?

Darlin: Our first challenge was meeting all the goal we had set for each other and getting a routine together for our first goal, Chicago Salsa Congress in February of 2004. Chicago Congress was only 2 months away so we decided to build on a routine that Mike and Jessica already were using Malanga Brava. This goal proved to be too ambitious since we were still trying to come together as a group, and we missed that deadline and to compound matters we lost one of our managers and weeks later we lost two group members Jay and Alexis. Faced with these challenges we had to regroup and set a new goal The Boston Salsa Congress in April. We made our out of town debut in DC (I never want to recall that event again) even though in a way it helped to get us ready for Boston our first real Congress as "Art in Motion". We were now officially a family.

What challenges did the group face over year 2004?

Darlin: We had to complete “Museum”. We started this piece before Malanga Brava but it was to be our signature piece. Our original intention had robbers, paintings and statues. The costumes were elaborate and we still had to figure our how it all fit together.

We finished this routine in Puerto Rico moments before we actually took stage to show the world ART IN MOTION for the first time on an established international Stage.

What are the challenges that see on the horizon as you look out?

Darlin: That has to be staying motivated and keeping the energy level high on the team. We have new members now and training them to come up to speed has sapped some momentum and energy. We are challenged to keep that energy high to move forward.

What do you see as the aspirations for the group and for yourself?

Darlin: I will be striving to be an International Teacher also to take the group international. We will also be aspiring to have a more Jazz influence in our team and routine (shhhhhhhhh don't tell anybody). Something to look forward to from "Art In Motion".

much respect
Stephen Choo Quan