CYBER-INTERVIEW w/Eddie Q
By Patricia McGowan (Originally Published On Salsa New York November 2003)
Eddie Q (Edward Quiros) was born in Manhattan. He is a first generation Puerto Rican. He began studying piano at the age of 10 and guitar at the age of 12. His father played piano in church and for weddings. As an accomplished jazz guitarist, Eddie formed and directed his own band, Progression, with the fusion of elements of Bebop, Funk, Latin Jazz and R & B. Some of the musicians that played along side Eddie Q in Progression were the likes of such greats as, Arturo O’Farril on piano, son of the late great composer, Chico O’Farril, and also on piano, Igor Atalita (who has played and recorded with all the major bands in the New York Metropolitan area).
Eddie Q started dancing in 1995 at Sandra Cameron Dance Center (SCDC) who closed their doors in 2013. Two years later, after consistent practice, Eddie was invited to teach Salsa at SCDC. Eddie applied his philosophy for growth in music to dance which was that true progress would come through consistency in practice. As a Salsa instructor at SCDC, he brought incredible energy and insight to the dance and the music. During his six year tenure he taught all levels of Salsa, breaking on the 1 and 2 and Cha-Cha. Eddie has given Salsa Dancing Classes and Private Dance Lessons for over 20 years at Forest Park Center (Queens); SUNY Downstate (Brooklyn), Dance Mosaic (Westchester), Salsa International, Cap 21, Rhythm & Soul (Queens), Studio E (Queens), YWCA (Westchester) and Island Raqs (Queens).
Even though a knowledge of music does not guarantee the ability to produce a great dancer, Eddie Q does attribute his musical background as being a major force in his ability to capture the rhythmic understanding of this dance.
PM: I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, Eddie Q, for taking the time to talk to me today. Eddie, what would you consider to be an important factor for the initial development and growth of a mambo dancer?
Eddie Q: With regards to socials I am a firm believer in strong basics. The first thing you have to do is to explain to dancers how the music works. What they are going to dance to, how many beats they are dancing to and the main thing is they have to hear their "1". They will not hear any other beat, in their dance pattern, unless they find the "1". Once you find your "1" you can find any other beat. If they don’t know where their "1" is they won’t know where their "2" is and they won’t know where anything else is. You need to be a stickler for proper dance technique from the beginning. I've seen “so-called” advanced mambo dancers that never really developed strong basics nor good techniques, whether it be form, spins, basic footwork, or leading techniques. Unfortunately, these dancers can’t hide their shortcomings on the dance floor. My motto is “you have to pay your dues” meaning "You have to practice." I am directing my comments to the person that wishes to develop into a strong Salsa/Mambo dancer. Even though the harsh reality that I became aware of is that probably 80% of the students at SCDC were there just to socialize and did not take the dance seriously. This seems to be the trend at larger studios that offer many different kinds of dances. Part of the development of the dancer should include a lot of trips to clubs that feature great dancers on the floor. You can learn a lot by watching. Case in point: I have observed one of the top mambo instructor/dancer in NYC at the Flamingo Dance Club videotaping dancers on the floor.
PM: What about a dancer catches your eye?
Eddie Q: For the dancer to be able to interpret the rhythm and groove of the music and great technique. Some dancers dance on "1", others dance on the Eddie Torres’ "2", but the reality is that these particular styles don’t work well with some mambo/salsa numbers. Rhythmically they are more challenging. Some dancers only dance what they have been taught and very few take what they have learned to the next level where they can make it their own and improvise with it, especially rhythmically. Last, but not least, the smile of a dancer. I have a personal acquaintance who is also an instructor, David Negley, who always has a smile when he dances and even when he walks through the dance floor.
PM: What do you mean by groove or rhythmically? What would you consider a good groove dancer?
Eddie Q: A dancer that does not have to think numbers anymore but, has an exceptional sense of the two and six. A dancer that can play and knows how to get out to a “2” or a “6”.
PM: Who were some of your influences in dance?
Eddie Q: Directly or indirectly, Eddie Torres has been an influence to most dancers and instructors for the last 10 to 20 years; whether it be through actual lessons with Eddie Torres or an instructor that has been influenced by his dancing. Any of the guys that teach, whether it's Jimmy Anton, and many other Salsa dancers, they all have come as a derivative from him, Eddie Torres. They might have decided on different styles, but they have all been influenced by Eddie Torres. I was directly influenced by a fellow by the name of Pedro Fernandez who I think has exceptional technique and groove; indirectly, by Jimmy Anton and Delille Thomas. Also, Freddie Rios was an influence when it came to groove and rhythm. Oscar Soto was the first cat that I saw on the floor that grooved. Ann Marie Parasole who, just by dancing with her, taught me about groove and Raul Avila who had a certain finesse about his dancing. Indirectly Angel Figueroa who not only is one of the best dance technicians but a sight to see on the floor. For those of you that think that white dancers can't groove, a fellow by the name of Jojo Saltpeter who just by watching is a lesson in groove. I continuously try to keep my dance evolving through practice, improvisation, creativity and constant influences from other up and coming dancers.
PM: What places would you recommend for dancers to get their "fix"?
Eddie Q: Socials are intimidating for new dancers but my advice is to stick it out. You usually get all levels of the dance at socials and it is a good learning ground. Currently there are about 3-4 socials that run on alternate Sundays beginning from the first to the fourth and sometimes fifth, Sunday of the month. Although sometimes certain DJs do not have a good sense of mixing the music. Some of the DJs tend to play consecutively 3-5 super-fast numbers. When looking across the dance floor, some dancers are racing through sloppy turn patterns and some dancers are off-time and ignoring their dance slot. But on the other hand, it is a good place to observe other dancers and get a good cardiovascular workout. Take at least one to two changes of clothes. Another spot is Flamingo Dance Club (Mondays) on W21st street (good dance floor and good dancers). The Copa on Tuesdays (good floor, good music). Club Babalu on Thursdays (good floor, good DJ) and La Belle Epoque, also on Thursdays (good bands, great DJ, Dave), Fridays and Saturdays, Wild Palms (good floor, good bands and DJ).
PM: What has been the most gratifying factor in teaching for you?
Eddie Q: Seeing my students having fun and dancing. Through the years, I have received letters, cards and momentos from students who have been affected in a positive way by their experiences in my dance classes.
PM: With a beginner's class what would be your biggest frustration?
Eddie Q: Lack of practice. They take one class, they come back the following week without having practiced one bit and it’s frustrating because not only do you have to review last week and hopefully build on that but you have a certain amount of time to cover certain material. Some people do practice and it is not fair to them because now they must slow down to accommodate those people that totally forgot what they learned the week before.
PM: What are your thoughts on mambo performances?
Eddie Q: Kudos to the performers. It is not easy to memorize an entire dance performance and execute it under pressure before a live audience. I recently had the distinct pleasure of seeing the Off-Broadway production Latin Madness, which featured some of our most talented mambo dancers. I was entertained through humor, and the level of the dancers and their numbers were inspiring. I truly appreciate the efforts of the performers. My only critique of some performances is that the performers concentrate only on tricks and lifts and are lacking in the presentation of the dance that they are representing which is mambo. Although I have noticed that some performers are better social dancers than performers.
PM: What is your preference in dancing? On the one or on the two?
Eddie Q: Personally, I prefer the Palladium 2. Which is 2, 3 4, 6, 7, 8. I can dance and teach all the other styles, but I feel this particular style the most. If you watch Eddie Torres, who has made the 1, 2, 3 5, 6, 7 style of on two famous, you will notice that he, when social dancing, will revert back to the Palladium 2, naturally.
PM: What musical artists stimulate you on the dance floor?
Eddie Q: First, I would like to say, that I am stimulated by great arrangements and great musicians. Unfortunately, some of the salsa or mambo that we have has either sub par musicians or lousy arrangements. In some of the recordings that we listen to, either the horns are out of tune, or the bass is sometimes out of tune. That will affect my ability to dance. Once, at the Copa while dancing I had to stop and ask the band leader to please have his bass player tune his bass. Some of the artists that I enjoy are Ray Barreto, Tito Puente, Eddie Palmieri, Los Soneros del Barrio, with the great pianist Ricky Gonzalez, Sonora Ponsea with the great pianist Papo Luca, Fania All Stars, Manny Oquendo y conjunto libre, Willie Rosario and too many more to mention.
PM: Do you have any issues with finding a partner to dance with or the young women, ladies that are dancing out there?
Eddie Q: What I feel is that at the socials there are those that are taking classes all over the place and are stuck on chachi moves and the styling things of the female dancers and technically they are horrible. They can't really go through any of the patterns and if you try to put them through the patterns, they are lagging behind on time. You can quote me on this the essence of the dancer is timing. It is essential that you have a good understanding of time, groove and the ability to move on the dance floor. Although, I do cater the dance to the person that I am dancing with at the moment. I have seen inexperienced male dancers ask a female with limited dance abilities, and the male is totally oblivious to the female’s lower level of dancing and is trying to put this female through turn patterns after turn patterns and the female looks like she is totally hanging on for dear life.
PM: How do you think beginning and experienced dancers should respond to attitudes and cliques on the dance floor?
Eddie Q: I happen to be a Caucasian looking Puerto Rican and I have gotten major attitudes from women in clubs who do not know me. They automatically assume that I cannot dance because of my skin color but during the first 30 seconds of the dance, they feel my groove. Guys, if one female rejects your invitation to dance, move on to the next female and do not take it personally. When you encounter a clique, try to infiltrate it by simply asking for a dance in a gentlemanly or ladylike manner. If either rejects, be persistent and ask again at a later time. Some dancers take their dancing very seriously, and will only dance with the better dancers. But people, if you are asking a good dancer to dance, whether it be female or male, at least try to have some of your stuff together. And guys, if you are going to ask a female that is with a guy to dance, acknowledge and ask the guy for permission to dance with the female. I have experienced and have seen that some men lack the basic knowledge of the rules of etiquette on the dance floor. Also, if you happen to bump into someone on the dance floor, politely apologize and smile. That will go a long way.
PM: How do you feel that mambo has evolved in the last couple of years?
Eddie Q: The dance has taken on more technical elements of other dances, such as hustle, west coast swing. I encounter old time dancers that are sticklers for their particular way of dancing and refuse and bad mouth where the dance has gone. On the other hand, you have the newer dancers that are into turn patterns only and fail to get the essence and authenticity of the dance. I have benefited from the original form of mambo to the current more technical style of mambo. It’s all good!
PM: What do you think about the borage of dance videos that are coming out.
Eddie Q: I think it’s a great thing to get so much information from so many different sources. My only critique is that some instructors, on the videos have a poor grasp of the English language and at times, stumble on their own words
PM: Thank you, Eddie Q for your valued opinion and thoughts on mambo. Hope to see you on the dance floor!