Edwin Ferreras is featured in this edition of Dance Spotlight! Edwin, International Ambassador of Dominican Arts, is a Dominican-born dancer, producer, and educator – and one of the most gifted bachata dancers on the planet today. He and his equally talented and knowledgeable partner, Dakhota Romero, founded Areíto Arts and together they form a powerhouse duo that is one of the most influential in the global latin dance scene. They travel the world performing and educating dancers on bachata, bolero, son, merengue, and dembow.
Edwin was nominated by Jason Haynes (one of the Go Latin Dance admin’s). Check out some fun facts and information about Edwin including some of his favorite bachata songs and his advice for dancers who wish to follow in his footsteps.
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What are your first memories of dancing bachata?
Definitely with family. My earliest memory of dancing bachata and merengue was in 1989 at a small farewell party my great aunt threw for my mom, brother, and I before we first left our home town in the Dominican Republic for our new life in New York City. Bachata made up a huge part of our lives while we were living in the Dominican Republic and to our surprise, we found its influence and presence even in Washington Heights. Bachata is more than just a hobby or an interest; music and dance is generally an integral part of our every day lives.
You’ve traveled the world inspiring others to be better dancers…Do you have any particular dancers that inspire you to be a better instructor and/or performer? If so, who and why?
If I start naming the dancers that have influenced or inspired me, this interview will last for days!
As an educator who works in public schools and also teaches adults around the globe, some of my main influences are my college professors in the Music Education program at City College such as my former program director, Stephen Jablonski, my music education teacher, Janet Steele, former director of the Dominican Studies Institute, Ramona Hernandez, and Patricia Ruffin, my student teacher from the first school I worked. All of these individuals have in some way helped me to develop core content (standardized and cultural), build my curricula (multicultural music and dance), and develop techniques for teaching with pedagogy and inquiry based learning, which is still utilized in our content to this very day.
As for performers, again there are way too many to mention, but I have been influenced by Michael Jackson, Misty Copeland, and The Nicholas Brothers (for general dance) and, as far as hip hop goes, Ellen Kim, Keone & Mari, and Kelly Peters. In the Latin dance scene, my influences include Mykel Fonts, Bersy Cortez, Shani Talmor, and Karen and Ricardo. I have admired them all not only for their stage presence and ability to connect to the audience, but also for their rigorous work ethic and commitment to their craft which I find admirable and motivating.
As far as the core of my own dancing, my primary and earliest influence is my mother, Izora Madrigal. She not only taught me my first steps in Son, Bolero, Bachata, Merengue, etc but has also in many ways influenced and inspired content that my partner and I teach around the world.
My dance partner and co-founder of Areito Arts, Dakhota Romero, has been a huge influence on me as well as our work. We teach world-wide, and her multicultural experiences and variety of talents contribute to the core of our content and our approach when we teach around the world.
Additionally, we have been influenced by our peers and colleagues: Adam Taub, Carlos Cinta, Ciara and Andrea, Bailamar owners Maria and Alexander, and the President of Alianza Dominicana Ivan Dominguez, the latter being a Dominican folklorist, and a personal mentor. These contemporaries of mine have helped with my personal growth as an educator, dance instructor and as an ethnomusicologist.
What are your current favorite songs to dance to? Top two or three…
Oh man! In every single interview I am asked this question and I am never able to answer it because there are just too many, but for you I’ll try my best.
I’m currently in love with everything from merengue artists Miriam Cruz as well as Fefita La Grande. As far as Bachata music, I personally know and work with many of my favorite Bachata artists so I’ll mention the ones I do not work with and do not know personally in order to avoid bias. I’m loving every hit song of Alexandra from her days with Monchy, all the Haitian Bachata artist, such as Felix Cumbe, and pretty much everything by Raulin, Antony Santos, and Luis Vargas. I’m still loving Romeo Santos’s “Utopia” album and no song gets me in my feels as much as “El Beso Que No Le Di” with Kiko Rodriguez and “Amor Enterrado” with Joe Veras.
Favorite local places in NYC to dance?
Although NYC has a ton of places to dance, I only frequent one of them. This place isn’t your typical “Latin dance social”. It is held inside a cultural center called “Centro Cultural Manoguayabo” and organized by a Dominican gentleman named Pablo Abreu, who hosts this event every Sunday. It is a mature people’s party so it is quite the hidden gem for us younger people (which is part of why I love it so much).
The average attendees are Dominican, Cuban, and Puerto Rican. I have a very special bond to this place because of my mom who is a member of this club. It’s a family style party with the best Bachata, Merengue, Son, Bolero, and Salsa music. It is my favorite party in the world! All my close friends and peers have at some point gotten an invitation to this place from me and each and everyone of them end up loving it. It is difficult to do describe just how incredible the atmosphere is with words.
Outside of NYC, I have truly enjoyed party’s like Friday nights at La Rumba in Denver. In Dominican Republic, we frequent the car washes in Santo Domingo, and the town of Los Pescadores in Las Terrenas where we take the guests of the cultural excursion we manage twice a year. My favorite party in Dominican Republic however is in Las Ruinas of Zona Colonial in the Capital. This party happens outdoors every Sunday with Grupo Bonye and it’s simply amazing and a must see attraction for anyone visiting my country.
Describe an accomplishment in your dance career that made you proud.
In 2017, I was nominated for a position as an International Ambassador of Dominican Arts & Culture. The nomination alone left me speechless, so you can only imagine how I felt when I won. This was by far the biggest accomplishment I have received and being awarded for this feat at the Dominican Cultural Center Manoguayabo on my favorite day, Feb 27th (Dominican Independence Day), added to my joy. Later that year, at the 2017 Dominican Day Parade in New York, I was inaugurated for my ambassadorship and my partner was also honored as an Advocate of Dominican Arts. Pleasant side note: my dance team, LFX, participated and danced in the parade along with our close friends and supporters. 2017 was a year that will be remembered as one of my proudest and greatest. This honor has opened up so many doors for me and created a path to my cultural enrichment and since then I have been working to become an official diplomat of the Dominican Republic.
What advice would you have for someone who wants to be a professional latin dance instructor?
First, keep digging, keep learning, and when you feel you know something inside out, forget everything you thought you knew and re-learn it from scratch. Go straight to the source of what you want to learn. Develop good work ethics and positive working relationships. Be kind, have empathy, be inclusive, and don’t resist your own growth. Learn to network, collaborate, and help others grow. You don’t have to do everything alone, in fact you will go much further when you learn to work with others. Remember that there were instructors before you and there will be plenty more after you. The mark you leave today will only last as long as the amount of people you inspired, supported, collaborated with, and helped grow. This is the advice I continuously give myself and the one that I give to others wishing for success in this business that’s intermixed with culture.
What dance goal are you still striving to achieve?
My partner and I are striving to build a stronger online presence. A way we plan to accomplish this is by expanding our content to an online platform, AreitoArtsOnline.com. In the past, I was passionately against creating an online platform, in part, because of my feelings against standardizing dance styles. As a tenured music and dance teacher in the Department of Education, I have very strong belief that teachers need to be present, and that teaching should be personal. I believe it is difficult to explore effective teaching methods without the aesthetics and practicality of being there in person with your students.
Thanks to my partner Dakhota and our platform partners, however, I’ve come to learn that online content provides more accessibility and inclusivity, especially to those who cannot afford to come to the events where we teach, or to those who don’t have the luxury of time to attend classes in person. This method of teaching/learning may provide a more inclusive approach where students of all ages, backgrounds, identity, and special needs can learn from the comfort of their own safe spaces.
Dance video(s) you’d like to share?