A glimpse at the dancing silhouette of Angela Mariano and this breathtaking Bachata artist will hypnotise you with her unique style, energy and charisma.
Born and raised in Lecce, Italy, Angela has taught bachata and salsa in London, as well as directed the London Touch and Ladies Touch performance teams. She is now based in Boston, Massachusetts, where she continues to teach bachata and salsa.
Along with her dance partner Julian Esteban Marmolejo Quiceno, Angela has helped develop London’s bachata scene into one of the world’s most revered.
Angela’s dancing style takes root in a multifaceted journey: ballet, jazz, contemporary, street, hip hop, tango, salsa, bachata, dancehall – she has done it all, and more.
It is this rich dance background that has given rise to her idiosyncratic Bachata style; beautifully smooth, elegant and oozing sensuality.
What makes Angela Mariano such a special dancer? She speaks about her journey into bachata, her aspirations, difficulties and opinions:
How did you begin dancing?
My parents were dancing ballroom as a hobby, with their friends, and I loved watching them. It was a passion for them. I was 5 years old and I used to spy on them, I loved the music, I loved the dancing. It’s something that you feel, and I was growing with music and dance. So I started myself. I took my first ballroom class at 5 years old and it became a full-time hobby. I was travelling abroad for competitions in the weekend, winning trophies too..
At 10 years old, I had to stop as it was getting expensive. But after my father passed away, when I was 13, my mum took me to dance classes again, to make me happy. Jazz, hip hop, ballet, tango, I started again. It became a strong passion. Dance was the only thing that made me avoid difficulties at the time.
Music has always been an important part of my life too. My dad played the guitar, my mum was always singing, one of my brothers plays the guitar, the other the piano and both are Djs, one on the radio and the other in parties. Classical Italian, soul, funky, R&B, house, jazz, I grew up with so many different types of music and I liked dancing to everything!
How did passion turn into profession?
At 22, I went on a holiday with my mum in a village in Italy and one evening I was dancing salsa, just to have fun. A salsa instructor saw me and told me to come dance with his team. So, I started dancing with them and it opened a whole new world for me. Then things started to develop. A school contacted me for a TV program, they needed dancers to dance on TV Rai which is one of the most important TV channels in Italy. With that school, I became a teacher of Cuban salsa.
In 2011, I left Italy and came to London. I wanted to experience something new and also learn English properly, and actually coming to London had been my dream since I was 19… I started teaching Cuban salsa in Streatham. Then, one year later, in 2012, I met Julian at Bar Salsa, where he was Djing. We danced together and we instantly connected.
He was looking for a partner at the time, to teach salsa and bachata in Fiesta Havana Club in Fulham. So, we started teaching together, both salsa (Cuban and cross body) and bachata. Bachata was still rather basic at the time. The Bar Salsa manager then suggested to have a bachata night there, on Tuesday night. Tuesday was a Brazilian night at the time, so it was a big change for the manager, and for us too. It was really a new concept. But it worked! People really loved it and the bachata community slowly grew…
You teach both Dominican and modern bachata, which do you secretly prefer?
Dominican! I’m always into the traditional aspects. I like traditional, cultural things, I really like to understand what’s going on, how the move developed in the past, study the history, the culture. I like to know why this dance is like this.
My responsibility as a dance teacher and the quality of my teaching is to give the history about bachata and in the Dominican Republic it’s a big culture. Before dance I love music, I correlate culture, music and dance. There are so many things behind a dance, I study, I like to know more, ask people, why is modern bachata so different from traditional Dominican…
‘That’s not bachata at all’ is often said about modern and sensual bachata. What do you think?
There is this war between what’s bachata and what’s not bachata. We have to look at the music first. With Dominican bachata, the music is not made by a studio, it is played with real instruments, especially the guitar. Music evolved and we got modern bachata. People like Romeo Santos and Prince Royce were born in the USA, where they were exposed to a mix of cultures. They were exposed to traditional Dominican bachata music through their families and then went out and listened to hip hop and modern music, so there was a merge. They are like a new kind of stars, because they grew with traditional music and developed music with new styles.
As music evolves, we cannot dance bachata as they danced it twenty years ago, we need to evolve the dance. With Dominican, there is no time for body waves for example. In sensual, body waves are very important, the music gives you the time for it.
So, there is a sort of war between traditional and modern, which comes from the difference and evolution in the music. I understand the Dominican side of the debate; they want to keep the culture, the bachata how it used to be. But at end of the day, it’s all about how you feel the music. Fortunately, there are many tastes. There are people who like salsa, traditional Dominican bachata, modern bachata, etc. It’s up to you and how you feel!
(part 2 coming up!)