May 25, 2020
Erick Jael Fuentes is a dancer I'd see in local dance classes and on my Instagram feed. One late night in 2019, we both attended a party. He impressed me with his different styles on the dancefloor. He's Hispanic like me, and in this NYC Dancehall space, Hispanic male dancers are few and far between. I was curious to speak with him; we got a chance to do so before the pandemic.
Erick is originally from Guadalajara Jalisco, Mexico. He feels he was born into dance as his parents, Alejandra and Galdino, met at a block party. Erick's parents came to America to make money and support him. He stayed behind with his grandmother, Silvia, who raised him. Silvia would teach dance classes to the public at the 'Casa De La Cultura.' She taught what excited her, such as Cumbia, Mambo, Swing, and more. Erick started following along at four years old.
There is a stigma with young men dancing, where it can be interpreted as feminine or gay; Erick wasn't exempt. His step-grandfather ostracized him. That later turned into encouragement after he met Erick's first girlfriend.
His peers didn't support him either. Erick's parents would send VHS tapes of dance videos where he would learn new moves. He'd present them to friends but was ridiculed.
At the age of 14, he finally made his way to the U.S. In 2013, Mr. Fuentes took his first Dancehall class with Korie Genius(former podcast guest). He fell in love. Erick appreciates how the roots of Dancehall are still celebrated in songs, dance, classes, and parties present day. Something he feels current Hip Hop does not do.
The Mexican born dancer wanted to dig deeper. Erick signed up for the first semester of DH Evolution 876 in 2019. Curated by another former podcast guest Bling Evo. Bling breaks down a portion of Dancehall's history through lectures and dance moves.
After dancing for close to 20 years of his young life, why does Erick still dance?
It brings him joy and distracts him from his daily routine. It's an outlet to exercise his abundance of energy. He doesn't attend parties often due to his work & travel schedule but continues growing his dance vocabulary by taking 5-10 classes per week.
Erick doesn't want to be a professional dancer but would jump at the opportunity to do so. He sympathizes with others who wish to be pro dancers but stresses having a backup plan. The bills must get paid, and you got to eat.
His advice for other dancers. Keep up the hard work, build your foundation, knowledge, culture in your particular dance field. Appreciate, don't appropriate.
You can reach out to Erick here on his Instagram account at https://www.instagram.com/erick_jael_fuentes/
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