De’Jon Polanski is featured in this edition of Dance Spotlight! De’Jon is a professional latin dance instructor and performer based in New Orleans, and he is the founder and Director of Tropik Vybe Latin Dance Company. He was nominated by Ricky ChaCha Picasso. Ricky said, “De’Jon and I started our careers about the same time. He is an awesome dancer and he motivates me to be a better dancer. De’Jon has definitely made a positive impact on the New Orleans latin dance community.” Check out some fun and interesting facts about De’Jon including goals he’d like to accomplish in his dance career and his #1 dance pet peeve.
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What (or who) originally inspired you to try Latin dancing? OR What are your first memories of latin dancing?
I went to a latin club here in New Orleans. I was about 16 and I had been dancing raw, street latin dancing prior to that. A woman asked me to dance bachata and the dance was great! I had been dancing Dominican style, street bachata since I was young. And then she asked me to dance salsa and I didn’t know how. She was obviously a trained dancer and I felt bad because I didn’t know what I was doing. I felt very out of my element. After the dance she was disappointed and said, ‘Man, I thought you could dance.’ I felt really low and I told myself, ‘That’s never going to happen to me again!’ I started seeking out latin dance instruction and opportunities to learn from that point on and here I am now.
Describe a moment in your dance life that made you feel proud?
When I finally was able to make the switch from On1 to On2! I was at the Houston Salsa Congress and I had been dancing Cuban/Casino style salsa and On1 for a long time, and I had been trying to learn On2. I noticed that the high level dancers who I wanted to dance like at congresses were dancing On2. I had been taking lessons, but it just didn’t click. One night I was dancing salsa at the congress (I remember the woman I was dancing with had a black dress on) and I finally got it!
Social Dance Pet Peeve: (Hygiene, No connection, People who talk a lot while dancing, etc)
Smell! I cannot dance with people who smell bad. I’ve danced with people who have smelled like urine and it totally throws me off. I can’t focus on the dance if someone smells bad (laughs).
You and your dance partner, Clo Ferreira, have a very positive and playful vibe when you perform and teach. Can you talk her importance to your duo and why it’s important to have a dance partner that matches your energy and persona?
We’re genuinely having fun when we dance, so that’s where our playful vibe and connection come from. I feel that it is extremely important within your partnership, no matter if you have a playful vibe and connection like we have or if you have a different type of vibe or priority in dance. I feel like you and your partner need to be on the same page no matter what. I see a lot of different vibes and connections from dancers that we look up to. We feel that our genuine connection is important because without that you really don’t have a partnership and it’s very visible. A lot of people compliment us on our connection. I’ve had different partners where there were similarities and things we were connected with, but it’s very obvious when you don’t have a genuine connection.
You are clearly a rising star in the latin dance community. What goals would you like to accomplish in your dance career?
That’s a really great question. I would like to continue to inspire. I would like to grow as much as possible in the realm of social dancing and the connection to the music. I want to become a better teacher, performer, student and event organizer. I would like to provide spaces for people to connect and enjoy dancing, so that I can inspire people the way that I was inspired.
You said in a recent Facebook post, ‘In Salsa and dance in general; there are lots of things that look amazing, but do not feel amazing…understanding energy is a separate art’. That’s a great quote because it’s speaks to the mental and physical demands of dance. Can you talk a bit about how your understanding of energy helps you with dance?
It’s so important! Dance is life! I truly believe that. There are so many different wave lengths of energy that you come across. Matching and understanding energy is important because there are so many levels. Not just in the physical space, but also understanding the personality of the dancers that you dance with and the energy they give. You have to understand how to connect with that as well as connecting to the physical energy. We teach our philosophy of connection in all parts of dance. Dealing with a dance partners timing, flow, their understanding of the dance, weight change, body movement – all those different things are so important. We want dancers to connect all that to the music so they’re on the same page. We put that as a priority within our teaching and dance style. You can see the flow of energy and the connection between Clo and I, and it’s definitely a priority in our dancing.
You played college football and were a strength and conditioning coach. Can you talk about how those experiences helped you with the physical aspects of dance?
The physical demands of dance (particularly salsa) at the level that we are is like a sport. There are definitely similarities with other sports when you talk about working with dancers in a team environment, whether it be with the Tropik Vybe dance team or with our students. I’ve had a lot of experiences that have been similar physically within my football and dance journeys. It’s the same with the strength and conditioning coaching. It helps a lot to understand the human body and the importance of recovery, and how those activities correlate to the latin dance community.
Favorite dance video you’d like to share?
Any video of Michael Jackson. Maybe one of him doing the moonwalk!