Are you a social dancer with a desire to perform or compete? Do you think you have what it takes or are you unsure of where to begin? Perhaps you could use some inspiration. Two dancers from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada are working hard to prepare for the World Latin Dance Cup (WLDC) later this month. While Regina may not be a North American salsa hub like L.A., New York, or Toronto, the dance community here continues to expand and many dance schools are thriving. Vaughn Wlodarczyk and Chloé Dufour are two dancers from Latin Fusion Studio and they will undoubtedly put Regina, SK on the Latin dance map.
I had the pleasure of interviewing these two about a month prior to their departure. I was grateful they took the time out of their very busy schedules to chat with me. Both work full time, teach dance lessons, and are currently “amping it up” during their rehearsals by practicing anywhere between twelve to fifteen hours each week. This is easily three times the amount of time they usually spend in the studio. Vaughn and Chloé are preparing a routine as a couple and Chloé will also be competing in the solo division. Although Chloé has been dancing for over twenty years as a ballerina and for four years as a salsera, Vaughn entered the salsa scene only three years ago with no prior dance experience. He is certainly proof that one does not need to start dancing at a young age in order to make it as a performer. The two joined the Latin Fusion Studio team in 2014, then began performing as a couple in January, 2015. In one year, they have come a long way. In my conversation with them, it became clear that their core principles as artists have helped them on their journey; these are four habits which any dancer must consider in order to develop the potential to perform and compete.
- Set goals.
Chloé and Vaughn are constantly striving to become better dancers. Despite their short time working together, they decided they wanted to dance competitively after a goal-setting discussion with their team. Chloé describes how although it was one of Vaughn’s goals to compete, it was not originally one of hers. She wanted to perform as a solo artist after being encouraged by a teammate. She was told the preparation would help her become a better dancer and give her the opportunity to work on her shines. She started to do some research on ladies’ salsa solos and as she watched some of the routines, she noticed there was a competitive element and the dancers were incorporating jazz and ballet moves.
She reflects upon the experience and says, “I was like, oh! I think I could do it! I think I could create a fusion for myself.” So, the two continued to research competitive dancing, talked about it some more, and then they went for it. As a couple, they were encouraged to compete by their friends and mentors from Cubanisimo Dance Company in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Regan Hirose and Harold Rancano. Regan and Harold thought competitive dancing would help launch Chloé and Vaughn, to help them get better faster and amp up their discipline and dedication. So, they said, “Why not?” and reached their goal by qualifying for the WLDC at the Saskatchewan International Salsa and Bachata Congress last May.
- Seek professional advice.
A great teacher is essential for every dancer, but especially those who want to improve and refine their art. Both Vaughn and Chloé emphasize the importance of going back to the fundamentals, suggesting that all dancers must develop a strong foundation, then build off of that. Chloé urges dancers to consider: “Taking classes [is important] because you can always think that you’re doing it properly but without an instructor to guide you and let you know what you think you’re doing right is not so right…go back to the basics and get everything broken down.” Vaughn and Chloé have been inspired by many dancers, but Harold and Regan have been their constant mentors as there aren’t many accessible professionals to consult with in prairie Canada. Another Canadian friend and mentor is Mario Acosta-Cevallos of SalsaVitus dance company in Edmonton, Alberta. Both Vaughn and Chloé describe how their experiences with professional dancers have been a fundamental aspect of their learning process. For instance, Jhon Narvaez and Liz Rojas from Salsamania Dance Company have been very helpful throughout their journey. With a smile, Chloé says, “What would I do without Jhon? He’s really encouraging, he always says ‘keep going, keep working.’ Jhon’s our ‘Yoda!’” In addition, Magna Gopal came to Saskatchewan to teach workshops and perform earlier this year and Vaughn describes dancing with her as a highlight in his dancing career. He adds, “You see all these videos with [Magna] performing and dancing socially with all these great dancers…she was so graceful on the dance floor and to be able to dance with her was an honour.” Vaughn also admires Scarlet Sanchez Fuentes and Patrick Moriarity from Dance Vancouver (and the Dance Dojo online) and hopes he will be able to meet them someday.
- Go out and dance!
Part of being able to meet and take classes with professional dancers is travelling to other communities. Vaughn and Chloé look forward to travelling to Miami for the WLDC and in the past, they have had many opportunities to travel and learn. In the pursuit of dance, they have gone to Canadian destinations such as Saskatoon, Prince Albert, Winnipeg, Calgary and Toronto and American destinations such as San Francisco, LA, San Antonio, and Dallas. Chloé describes the LA Bachata Festival as her personal favourite, saying “California stole my heart that time–you can write that!”
She went to Dallas most recently, dancing the night away until 6 AM and “It was wild!” Vaughn hopes to be able to travel to New York, Las Vegas, and Europe (Milan and the Netherlands) in the near future. With their upward slope of hard work and success, I have no doubt they will continue to share their talent all over the world.
4. “Dig in” and never give up.
Although dancing is a passion for these two, preparation for competition does not come without struggle. If you are hoping to compete someday, it is important to be aware of this reality. Both admit it can be hard to find balance, especially staying alert and pushing through late practices after working all day. “Dig in, we say that a lot!” Chloé says with a smile. It can be a strain on relationships as well, as dance takes up so many hours each day. Vaughn mentions how, “The time you do spend with family is precious.” Luckily, both dancers have family and friends who are very understanding. They describe how community support has been wonderful. Friends from all corners have reached out by attending their fundraisers and contributing to their Go Fund Me page. Note: if you would like to contribute to their page, click here! Chloé adds that although training for competition is hard work, it is possible. It takes a great deal of sacrifice including sleep, time, and money, but it’s possible.
Vaughn is looking forward to the WLDC as “the experience of a lifetime,” and both dancers anticipate how incredible it will be to get to see some of their favourite performers in person. Chloé closed our interview by saying, “We’re really excited and we are going to do the best that we can, coming from the middle of nowhere…We are hoping to inspire.” I think it’s clear they have already inspired many. Good luck, Vaughn and Chloe! Your friends in the Latin Dance Community will all be cheering for you!