Originally published on SalsaNewYork on 4/01
month we interview NY Mambo Instructor,
Dance Company Director, Performer, Latin
Madness cast member and New Kid on the block Frankie Martinez.
How long have you been dancing mambo and what got you into it?
FM: I have been dancing Mambo since 1996 and curiosity got me
into it when I visited a nightclub in Florida with my father for the
first time. I decided that
I could do that as well or better than the dancers on the floor.
It was just a whim.
Where did you originally learn how to dance mambo and who was (were)
FM: I learned Mambo at
the Dance Club International on Metropolitan Avenue in Queens, a
Ballroom Dance School. They
didnt offer much when it came to Mambo and so I started to visit
nightclubs in the City and picked up quickly by looking at the dancers.
I would then sort of improvised my own moves.
I later started visiting schools in the City and decided to start
lessons with Eddie Torres. My
Mentors have been many, including Eddie Torres; I cant deny anyone I
have come in contact with during my Mambo years the gratitude for their
kind and not so kind words which have brought me to where I am today.
SNY: How long have you been teaching mambo and
what made you decide to teach mambo?
FM: I have been teaching
since 1997 and started with ballroom (Mambo) dancing.
Teaching has always been in my blood.
It is the easiest thing I know how to do.
I was confronted and pursued by dancers to teach them my way of
dancing. I had a large
following of dancers waiting for me to start teaching privates.
I left a career behind to better my dancing because I feel a
strong need to perfect everything I do.
I have always been praised for my teaching methods, my
understanding and my patience but also because through my hard work and
incessant energy I drive dancers to realize their best.
What is it like to learn a choreographed routine?
FM: It is easy for me to learn others choreography because I
understand what they want immediately and I envision a finish routine
before I start. I become
one mind with the teacher and go one step better to make their
choreography shine. I find
it very easy indeed to learn from others.
What is it like to travel as a performer? What do you like best about
I Like the euphoria of an
entertainer, the expectation of something big about to happen.
It all starts on that plane.
Traveling is fun and exciting but with organization and a
previous plan of action. Unification and respect among dancers is most important
otherwise it can be messy, tiring and boring.
some of your performances
1999 July 2000: World
Salsa Congress, San Juan, P.R.
Manhattan Center with
Tito Puente stage dancing
2000 - 3
Day Mambo/Salsa Tour of Italy
Milan, Brecia and Bologna
1999 - Tito
Puente Music Video Mambo Birdland
1999 - SALSAWEB
Dance Conference in Washington D.C.
1999 - New
York World Salsa Congress Manhattan Center
1999 - Los
Angeles Palladium with FANIA ALLSTARS Memorial Concert for
1998 - Roseland
5, 1997 -
Madison Square Garden
Concierto del Amor
Which bands have you performed with on stage?
FM: Tito Puente, Jose
Alberto El Canario"
What got you into performing and what was your first time on
performed for large audiences at the Dance Club International during
their get-togethers and choreographed all my routines.
I was first on a stage Mambo dancing when Eddie Torres asked me
to join his dancers.
What groups have you performed with?
Eddie Torres Dancers
What did you feel when you first performed live on stage?
Performing on stage for me is not new.
I performed for large audiences all over the United States in
Shotokan Karate Competitions. I
started Karate at the age of nine and was teaching at the age of 12. I have always felt that it was this body discipline that gave
me an edge in the world of dancing.
I felt quite uneasy though while on stage dancing Mambo
first I couldnt get used to the audience screaming and clapping
through a performance since you dont see that in Karate.
I very quickly adapted, though, and it has become second nature.
What do you like about being a dance choreographer?
FM: I have an ear for music and I can hear and feel every beat of the
drums and Congas. This
makes it easy for me to choreograph the steps.
It is hard to describe what I see and feel when I hear music, but
a stage play is always present in my mind.
I never realized that this would one day lead me to choreography.
It is hard work because you have to work with a group and make
them feel what you feel but I love the challenge of making a dancer feel
what I feel and express it through their dance.
What do you look for in a song when you are putting choreography
together for it?
FM: Let me first start by
telling you that many years ago I found many albums in my mothers
closet and never gave them a second thought (sssh they had little love
notes on them). When I
started choreographing I went into that closet and pulled out the albums
and spent hours just staring at them.
I immediately ran to the record shop and purchased CDs of all the
albums (Willie Colon, Ray Barreto, Ismael Miranda and
..). I have
realized that I prefer old Mambo, Cha Cha Cha and Salsa for my
choreography. You can hear
the beating of congas and drums clearer and the words more pronounced.
Today some music has drowned out the words and it becomes too
repetitious. I find that I
like to choreograph to a story, a clear thought a beginning and an
end. I dont just like to dance on a stage - there has to
be depth and meaning to what I am doing.
What advice would you give those just getting into mambo? How can they
work at getting better at dancing?
FM: I highly
recommend that they go into dance with an open mind.
They need to first watch quietly, patiently and apply to dance
their original freedom of expression through dance which we all process.
A good dancer is not learned; you only learn the basic steps and
shines. There is something
in all of us that comes out through dancing that sets us apart from each
other. How we feel music
and express it is unique to each one of us.
Therefore you need to be true to your feelings and of course
practice makes perfect.
How best could you describe your way of dancing? of teaching? and of
My way of dancing is a mix of
basics and instincts applied to modern day music blending yesterday and
I teach with passion and fervor. I want to transform the student in front of me to a copy of
me. I want the challenge of
teaching from step one to a level of stage performance.
I want to say I did it and I did it well when I see my
FM: I perform with clarity of mind always aware that others are also on
stage and need space and respect. I
perform as an extension of my personality.
I have never known any other way of being. The stage, the people, the music and the lights have always
been and will always be a part of who I am. I perform with the intent to
entertain and tell everyone through my performance that they can also be
Do you still like to go to clubs and dance socially?
FM: Believe it or not it has
never been my scene. I
actually stayed away from the nightlife until the age of 20.
I do not drink or smoke and it bothers me to be in that
atmosphere. I now perform at Hush or SOB and prefer performing to just
hanging around the clubs. I
dont like dance competitions and I stay away from the politics and
the crowds and prefer being alone most of the time.
How is New York Mambo dancing different from mambo dancing in other
parts of the country?
York has a rich zest for taking things to the extreme.
Mambo is rolling along with the energy and excitement of the
City. You dont find this
in other States or Countries.
Do you think that dancers get treated with respect? If not why?
FM: I was shocked when I
realized that I would have to take time out of my busy schedule and to
top it off pay for my own performances.
The day I decided to do this full-time I also decided that no
dancer in my Company would ever have to struggle to perform and
represent my company without any compensation.
In my dance company we have a set of By-Laws and we live by them.
We share every penny. If
you have happy dancers it will show in their performances.
Respect comes from the inside out.
No one will respect us if we are too busy trying to pull each
other apart within our own dance groups.
We need organization from within the dance companies. Respect reflects the way people see us. A change is coming soon but until then we first need to
respect each other and then request that the world respect us in return.
What would you like to see happen to mambo within the next few years?,
next decade? within your lifetime?
I want to see Mambo on stage
portraying who we are and where we come from.
I want us to incorporate yesterdays tunes into todays
modern dances. Once Mambo
is danced or seen as a modern thing it will lose its value to our
younger generations. The
Mambo I feel deep in my heart comes from the original basics derived
from early Cuba. I want it
to stay that way. In the next decade I want to see Mambo transforming
dancers all over the world as did the Twist.
In my lifetime I want to see Mambo return to its proper roots,
never losing what makes it Mambo in the first place which is culture and