Dance Spotlight – Brielle Friedman

Brielle Friedman is featured in this edition of Dance Spotlight! She is from Florida, but currently lives in New York City.  She was nominated by Jason Haynes.  Check out some fun facts about Brielle including her social dance pet peeves, her favorite places to dance in NYC and her thoughts on competing at the 2020 World Salsa Summit!

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What are your first memories of Latin dancing?

The summer after my sophomore year of college I spent five weeks in Guatemala attending a Spanish language school in Quetzaltenango (often known as Xela). About three weeks into my trip, I went to a local club with the school’s coordinator and some of the other students for an introductory Salsa class. Immediately, I liked the music and movements, and then later, when the local dancers showed up and started social dancing, I fell in love with Salsa. One couple in particular really caught my eye. They looked so beautiful and connected as they moved across the floor. I knew at that moment I wanted to be a professional Salsa dancer.

I spent the rest of my trip dancing as much as possible. I’d take private lessons every afternoon, go out social dancing every night until 3 or 4 in the morning, sleep for a few hours, and then head to my language lesson in the morning. That fall, I spent the semester studying abroad in Paris, but all I wanted to do was dance Salsa! I spent hours trying to find classes and socials (this was before social media and all the online Latin dance communities existed in the way they do today). I was living in a tiny apartment and I didn’t really have a place to practice, so I’d go to different bridges on the Seine, put my headphones in, and start dancing. I probably looked insane to Parisians and tourists who walked by, but I didn’t care. I was just so happy moving and getting better at this thing I loved so much.

What I find especially cool about this story is that I’ve seen a lot of the dancers I met during my trip to Guatemala at different dance events and classes in New York and California over the years— entirely unplanned!

You recently competed at the World Salsa Summit…what do you find rewarding about competing?

So many things! I often compare competing, especially at a big event like the World Salsa Summit, to the adrenaline rush you get when skydiving. There’s nothing quite like it. Competing is also a great way to grow as an artist and as a dancer. It gives you a concrete goal to work towards and provides a framework for skill-building––after a competition you know what you need to work on, where you’ve made progress, etc. Every time I compete, I discover a new aspect of myself as a dancer and performer I didn’t know was there before. I’m then able to take that back to the studio or into other performances and gigs. Of course, this can happen when you take class regularly or train with a team, but there’s just something different about the way it happens within the context of competition.

Competing is also a great way to gain performance experience when you’re just starting out, and once you’ve competed, doing a show can feel a lot less nerve-wracking!

What are your current favorite songs to dance to?

I love Salsa Romantica and anything with a strong drum or saxophone sound. Si Tú Me Besas (Victor Manuelle), Vente Negra (Habana con Kola), and Candela (Buena Vista Social Club) are a few of my current favorites. Others favorites include:

Favorite local places in NYC to dance?

I wrote up all my favorite NYC socials on my blog here and all my favorite outdoor summer events here.

(In addition to Brielle’s suggestions, you can also check out the GOLatinDance Event Calendar for New York). 

Describe an accomplishment in your dance career that made you proud.

Dancing in the finals of the Professional On2 division at the 2020 World Salsa Summit. That’s been a goal of mine since the very beginning and the experience was really magical. Not just because I had been dreaming and working towards it for years and it finally happened, but also because I feel like I danced with such joy. I truly enjoyed every part of the experience, from getting ready, to walking on stage, to actually dancing and performing. I felt very present and happy, and I think it shows in my performance. That’s what I want to bring to each and every future show or class.

I’m also just really proud of myself for pursuing and building a dance career in general. When I started, I felt like I was too old to “be a dancer,” that my physical skills would never be strong enough, or that pursuing dance would mean “throwing away” other parts of myself. Letting go of all of those beliefs wasn’t easy, but I did — and keep doing — the emotional work to move through them and give myself permission to be a dancer and to live this life. Now I know I’ll always be reaching for new goals, working on becoming better and stronger, and growing as an artist, but that doesn’t mean I can’t share and fully enjoy where I am right now.

What are your social dance pet peeves?

  • Dancing off-time. I would much rather spend 3 ½ minutes doing on-time basics and cross-body leads than a bunch of off-time, complicated turn patterns.
  • Tons of spins on sticky floors (or when I’m in non-dance shoes with rubber soles and I specifically ask the leader to keep that in mind at the beginning of the dance).
  • Feeling like I’m being pulled or thrown around on the dance floor with no regard for my physical safety.

What dance goals are you still striving to achieve?

Winning a professional category at the World Salsa Summit. Teaching and performing at more events/studios around the world. I started performance classes this year, but I’ve thought about starting a formal performance team, so that might be a future goal. Technically, right now I’m specifically working on my spins and ability to stay connected to myself through my back at all times. I also really believe dance is an insanely powerful tool for practically emotional and physical self-discovery connection with others, and I’d love to find a way to bring this to people who don’t consider themselves dancers in the future.

Dance video(s) you’d like to share?

Our performance in the finals at the 2020 World Salsa Summit and the very first time I competed at the event back in 2015, with my director at the time Luis Aguilar.

One of the best things about dance is how you can physically see the progress you’ve made––I see the differences in my technical, physical skills so much in these two videos. And yet, that woman who walked onto the dance floor in 2015 had a fire in her eyes and the kind of confidence I think only comes from having nothing to lose and no ideas about how anything is or should be. When I feel overwhelmed or out of my element in some way, sometimes I’ll think, “Who was that woman? And where did she go?” It helps me reconnect to that side of myself and remember how much all of this means to me and the passion I have for it.

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