Originally published on SalsaNewYork on 4/02
Photos courtesy from Minnie Ruiz
month we interview Hawaiian Salsa Queen Minnie Ruiz. Originally a native
New Yorker of Puerto Rican decent. She traveled out to Hawaii and fell
in love with that island paradise. Minnie has actively been promoting
the art of Salsa Dancing and has been duped "The Salsa Queen of
Hawaii". She is a promoter of NY On2 dancing and has been
responsible for bringing both the Addie-tude
Dance Company and Descarga
Latina to Honolulu. Its with great pleasure that we present her
interview to the SalsaNewYork readership. -Manny
Hawaiis Minnie Ruiz
How popular is Salsa Dancing in Hawaii?
MR: It has become
the hottest dance in Hawaii. Everybody wants Salsa! When I first arrived
in Hawaii in 1990, I was the first Mambo Dance Instructor here & I
gave free dance lessons at the Ala Wai Golf Course. There were not many
clubs that play Salsa. Only one club called Acqua with live music.
It was then I met Rolando Sanchez & Salsa Hawaii, Nancy Ortiz &
Ray Cruz. They are the true pioneers of promoting Salsa in Hawaii. They
have been promoting Salsa for over 20 years.
Why do you think that Salsa Dancing has become more popular in Hawaii
over the last few years?
MR: With the exposure of some Salsa websites & having Univision
bring one of the hottest Miami base shows "Caliente" to tape
in Hawaii, it has giving us exposure all over the world
Who have you helped bring to Hawaii to help promote the art of salsa
MR: Well, we had Addie
Diaz and her Addie-Tude Dance
Company for the 12th Annual Latin Music Festival. They were the
first to promote the "On 2". They updated me on some of these
hottest moves. I also, had the pleasure of working with Nelson
Flores & Descarga Latina
Dance Company. We are have having more & more dancers coming to
Hawaii. We are having someone coming in the months to follow that
has been around for a long-long time but just keep checking out the the
websites for more information.
Where do you see Salsa dancing going in Hawaii over the next few years?
MR: I see Hawaii as one of the hottest Salsa places
to dance. We have many Japanese that come here to dance Salsa,
especially for the Hawaii International Latin Music Festival held each
year & the Hispanic Festival held at the Kapiolani Park hosted
by Hispanic Chamber of
Do you ever envision a congress being organized on the island?
MR: Of course! Hawaii would be a great place to have a
congress, not only do you Salsa but you can enjoy paradise too
& also learn to dance the Hula. We are getting alot of exposure. Here
is not like New York or Los Angeles but a mini congress would be nice.
(center) with Addie-tude Dance
Company Director Addie Diaz
How often do you teach and what is the average size of your classes?
Right now, I teach mostly privates but I do have a beginner/intermediate
group class on Wednesday nights. I get anywhere from 10 to 30 students.
Each week is different, sometimes less & sometimes more. I go out to
shopping malls, parks, special events & give complementary lessons
to promote Salsa. I teach them the application of clave
timing & how to feel the music. That is very important to me. When
the students feel the music they will know how to play on the dance
Do you perform? Can you name some of your gigs?
I do not perform like when I lived in New York during 70's & 80's.
That was my prime time. I have done some performance here like for the
Cinco De Mayo festival a couple of years ago with the legendary
Tito Puente, Sheila E, Pete Escovedo & our very own hottest Salsa
band Rolando Sanchez. I have also danced at the Hawaii Music
Awards, Parks, Schools & some of the hottest Salsa Clubs in Hawaii.
I basically love to teach & when I feel the music my students also
feel the music
What are currently the hottest nights and clubs for Salsa Dancing?
We have Salsa everynight of the week so please do checkout the different
website for Salsa. Some nights have 2 & 3 Salsa clubs to chose from.
They are all HOT!
How big would you say the Salsa Crowd is in Hawaii??
It is growing immensely! Not only latinos are dancing Salsa, we have
Japanese, Hawaiians, Koreans, Samoans, Philipino. We have a much larger
ethnic group dancing Salsa/Mambo.
SNY: How long have you
been dancing mambo and what got you into it?
I have been dancing mambo for about 20 years now. When I was 15 I use
to go to La Villas in Upstate NY with my family and I would watch this
named Lenny dance. He was fabulous. He noticed how I stared at him so he
asked me to dance and my legs were shaking, but I wanted to learn so bad
that I could taste it. He lives in the Bronx.
Where did you originally learn how to dance mambo and who was
(were) your mentors?
MR: I learned to
dance mambo in NYC; the place was the Palladium. My mom
was a mambo dancer along with the Tito
Puente Band. So I learned from the
SNY: How long have you been teaching
mambo and what made you decide to teach mambo?
MR: I have been teaching for about 15 years now. I started with the
hustle. I learned the
hustle from the dance dimensions and I followed the yellow brick road
into the mambo.
What do you like most about teaching?
The fact that I am introducing salsa to another human being. Letting
them know how passionate and exciting this dance is.
SNY: Why do you think people come to
learn from you?
MR: They are learning from the best here in Hawaii. The comments
that I received are very positive. They said wow! You are a very good
teacher; you explain every detail about teaching. I let them know how to
lead and how important it is because if a guy can not lead, his partner
will not be able to follow. I show them the way you hold your
partners hand, the footwork, style, etc.
SNY: Are most of your students men or
women? and why is that?
MR: I have more men than women only because they feel comfortable
me and from my side they ask what the female partner loves to do on the
floor the most. I help them and inform them that the ladies love to have
the dance floor.
SNY: Do you still like to go to clubs
and dance socially?
MR: I do sometimes only because I love salsa with a passion and I
hear the music. When you understand what the song is saying it is more
to dance. I don't go dancing every week like I did when I lived in NY.
SNY: How about performing? Do you
still perform and who have you
performed for or with?
MR: I've done a few performance here but mostly solo Palladium
we have good dancers but I have not found the perfect partner. I
performed for the Miss Latin Hawaii Pageant along with Rolando Sanchez
and Salsa Hawaii. They play the best in Latin music.