José de Leon, our newest salsa instructor, was born and raised in Puerto Rico, one of the two Caribbean Islands given credit for the origination of Salsa. As the youngest of three siblings José credits his parents as his inspiration for dance. He has vivid childhood memories of his parents dancing together at every occasion. They have been together and dancing for 47 years with the same love and joy for dance as they have for each other.
Those that know José can be assured that they will have a wonderful time with him on the dance floor. When he dances salsa he doesn’t focus on the technical side of the dance but rather allows the music to move him emotionally then physically from one smooth coordinated step to the next. José explains that this is the way it is done back home in Puerto Rico. He likes to tell his friends who are interested in Salsa to close their eyes and feel the music inside of them before they begin any dance movement. He believes that it is not as important to focus on the technical side of the dance as it is to focus on the emotional part of the dance.
JPAS: When did you first know you wanted to be a dancer and how did you come to know it?
Jose: Since I was a little “Salserito” I always liked the music and the rhythm. It is funny yet so true. I was always in front of the TV imitating Menudo (a Puerto Rican boy band that was formed in the 1970’s) all the time or listening to their music. I look back on it now and laugh.
JPAS: Who was the teacher or mentor who most inspired you when you were growing up and what did you learn from that person?
Jose: Two people: Mike Brooks (High School teacher) and Bernard Dougherty (Shito-Ryu Karate Instructor). During my High School years I learned so much from these two mentors for sure; that even today what they taught me keeps making sense. I am able to say today that what they did for me was: “Teaching Life Lessons That Lasts a Lifetime”.
JPAS: What dance performance have you attended that changed the way you think about dance?
Jose: After seeing West Side Story…it made me realize that dancing and music is for everyone. It doesn’t matter where we are from — music and dancing can bring everyone together peacefully.
JPAS: If you could have your students visit any place in the world, where would it be, and why?
Jose: Three places for sure: Puerto Rico, Cuba and Dominican Republic. Honestly, here you can truly see the passion and dedication in the way that we let the music move our bodies with the beat. It is so amazing!
JPAS: What are your non-dance related interests or hobbies?
Jose: Doing video production, spending time with my daughter, volunteering at Sagebrush Community Church (security and video cameras)
JPAS: What is your favorite thing about New Mexico?
Jose: The beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
JPAS: If you weren’t in the career you are in, what would you be doing?
Jose: I will like to be a Law Enforcement, Karate Instructor or an Air Traffic Controller.
JPAS: If your students could only remember one thing from your teaching, what would you want it to be?
Jose: Enjoy the music and let the music move your body.