Interview With Jorge Contreras

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Que Rico! If you’re a bachata dance enthusiast living on the west coast then you’re probably familiar with that phrase and the bachatero who has brought it to the latin dance community.  If you’re not familiar…then meet Jorge Contreras.  He is the director of Que Rico Dance Company located in Los Angeles, and he is also the Co-organizer (along with Leslie Ferreira) of two Los Angeles Bachata Festivals.

Jorge is a young guy (age 27), but he is a veteran of the bachata scene and has been an influential figure in the community for several years. In fact, he was an instructor at the first bachata festival held in the USA, the Reno Bachata Festival organized by Rodney “Rodchata” Aquino in January of 2009. (Picture below).

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From left to right: Jorge Elizondo, Leslie Ferreira, Jorge Contreras, Seemore Johnson (back left), Cristina Pujol (back), Billy Bob (back), Giedre Sarunas Souls and Sarunas, Alejandro Rey( orange t-shirt), Summer Sando, Camille Yannatuono, Lee “El Gringuito” Smith, Nohelia, Rodney Aquino (front left), Juan Ruiz (front right).

He is a California born, Mexican-American who comes from a large family (5 brothers and 3 sisters). Although one else in his family dances professionally, he credits his mom and uncles for setting the dance example he would follow.

Jorge – “My mom loves to dance. She is a really good Cumbia dancer. When she finds someone who is a really good lead she will put on a show. “

Jorge ContrerasBJorge has had training in a variety of dance styles including jazz, ballet, and hip-hop. He started taking Salsa lessons at age 14 because he was going to be in a quinceanera, and he wanted to make sure he was prepared. A quinceanera is a Latin American tradition that serves as a celebration of a girls 15th birthday and marks her transition from a child to young womanhood. He admits his Salsa lessons were inconsistent during his early teen years, and that his passion for latin dance grew when he got to college and was introduced to bachata music.

 Jorge – “A friend introduced me to Aventura. I had an instant connection to the music and it just felt like I belonged to the community.”

Jorge’s dance instructor career had humble beginnings. During the day he served as a personal banker at Bank of America, but in his off time he would teach free bachata classes in a friends back yard in Orange County. He learned the intricacies of musical theory while taking choir in high school and college, and this aided him in his early days of teaching.

Jorge – “Our choir director really wanted us to understand music. Bachata basically is in a 4-4 count. This means each beat gets one step. Its pretty straight forward, and it was easy for me to pick up the timing. So I started to create movements and patterns.”

Armed with his new suave dance moves and a strong business background Jorge eventually got his first teaching job at EZ Dance Studio in Anaheim. His classes grew quickly and he was soon getting invitations to travel and teach. Jorge had been supporting himself since he was 16, so he new the demands of financial responsibility. He had a stable job at Bank of America, but he also couldn’t ignore the opportunity to build a career he was passionate about.

Jorge – “I had to take a risk. I knew if I wanted to do it I had to just jump. It’s interesting in that I wasn’t as financially stable as I would have liked, but as soon as I jumped things started lining up for me. I started getting more teaching gigs. I met Leslie Ferreira. We started Bachata Caliente and began traveling together. I started an event as Stevens Steakhouse. It was the first regular event dedicated to Bachata on the west coast…Then we started the Bachata festival. Everything just snowballed. It was great timing.”

Jorge established Que Rico Dance Company after a three-year partnership co-directing Bachata Caliente Dance with Leslie Ferriera came to a cordial close. The name Que Rico was born when Jorge began using the term as a slogan. The term Que Rico is a Spanish expression meant to reinforce the positive attributes of something. It could be used, for example, to describe a really good meal, or a beautiful woman. Jorge brought this term to the dance arena.

Jorge – “I’d do a sexy bachata move and I’d say ‘Que Rico’. Like Rico Suave. It stuck and I began to incorporate it into my social media and whenever I finished a post I’d write ‘Que Rico!!’ So when I went to start my own dance company the name Que Rico just made sense.”

Jorge Contreras

Que Rico currently has eight dance teams ranging from professional to amateur level. When dancers join Que Rico Jorge hopes to help develop the entire person, and not just dance skills. There are five specific words listed on the Que Rico dance website that speak to Jorge’s vision for Que Rico: respect, professionalism, prioritization, communication, and commitment.

Jorge – “We focus on dance, but also on personal development. This past year we did a five-year vision board in which we focused on health and fitness, personal relationships, and career. It was very detailed.”

JorgeContrerasAubreyAresJorge’s current dance partner, Aubrey Ares, has an extensive dance background as well. She has trained in ballet, contemporary jazz, and hip-hop, and she also was a member of the famed Los Angeles Lakers dance team.They met at a jazz dance class they both were coincidentally taking in LA. He was attracted to one particular quality when he initially met Aubrey.

“She had so much confidence when she danced. You could tell she had worked hard and she captivated everyone in the room. She was fierce. She was sexy. I was looking for someone like her who could bring those qualities to the stage.”

Jorge admitted that convincing Aubrey to be his dance partner was awkward because at the time she had little experience in the bachata world…and Jorge was very well-known. So after a few texts, Facebook messages, and YouTube video proof for good measure, Aubrey agreed to join him at the LA Salsa Congress. The rest is history.

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And speaking of history, one of Jorge’s favorite moments in his professional career was teaching in Monterey, and Oaxaca, Mexico. Up until that point he had traveled across the world sharing bachata, but going to Mexico was his first opportunity through dance to connect with the people he most closely identified with.

“What I loved about the festival was that on the last day we had a two-hour session where we got to share our stories. It was really beautiful to be able to connect with the audience and share moments that inspire on both a dance and personal level.”

Jorge and Aubrey spend a lot of time on the road, and one of the challenges they’ve encountered is finding balance between teaching at out-of-town festivals and giving the proper attention to their students at home.

Jorge – “I dislike not being there for them because we made a commitment to each other. When you travel to Europe, for example, it takes a long time to get there. So if we leave on Wednesday then we miss our Bachata Wednesday class, dance team rehearsals, and our Friday bachata event. It’s very challenging.”

Between traveling, performing, and directing, Jorge finds time to organize the Los Angeles Bachata Festival along with Leslie Ferreira. The festivals take place twice a year; once in February over valentines day weekend, and the other typically in August.  However, both festivals aren’t identical and different activities are planned for each event. The event features an international flavor of participants as Jorge advertises the event when he travels.

Despite the challenges that his job can bring, Jorge definitely feels it is what he was called to do.

“I feel we all have a purpose in life, and one of my purposes is to inspire and heal people through dance. Through dance you give people who might be going through hardships a getaway that contrasts their daily routine in life. If you make a difference in them, then it makes a difference in you.”

To that wonderful sentiment I say, Que Rico!

For more information on Jorge visit QueRicoDance.com.

FUN FACTS:

– Would select Kobe Bryant first if starting the ‘Que Rico’ Basketball Team.

– Would pick “Wolverine” (or Hugh Jackman) to play him in a dance movie about himself.

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