Alejandro Rey (Losa Angeles, CA) and Jessica Trujillo (Long Beach, CA) are helping lead the next generation of up and coming bachata dancers. They infuse their bachata routines with an urban dance flavor, and their goal is to help make bachata mainstream. Also, most importantly, they’re really good dancers! Alejandro’s physique is more reminiscent of an Oakland Raiders linebacker than a seasoned latin dancer, and Jessica could easily be mistaken for a Raiders dancer if sporting a black and silver cheerleader costume for Halloween. We had a chance to speak with them before their performance rehearsal at the Dallas Bachata Festival.
ALEJANDRO: It says, ‘To whom much is given, much is expected’ and on the back it’s a shaded outline of my mothers palm. It’s a visual reminder that I was given a lot from my family and friends as a child, so they expect a lot from me. I expect a lot from myself as well.
Let’s talk about you two. Where did you meet and how long have you been dancing together?
ALEJANDRO: Jessica’s brother, Ted Trujillo, was a principal dancer of ours for many years. He came into the studio and immediately made an impact. Eventually, he also brought his sisters along. I was heavily recruiting Jessica because, at that time, she was part of a championship salsa team. They were headlining all the clubs in L.A. I told Ted that I had to get his sister on the team…and Ted said, ‘Sorry, you have to talk to her’ (laughs). Eventually she made her way on to the team and she started from the bottom. Now she’s here. (laughs).
JESSICA: I’m a tough recruit! Like he said, I joined the team because my brother was there and I wanted to be close to family. I was very much into latin dancing. I thought I could open up my range of dancing and figured I’d try bachata out. It wasn’t a planned partnership and it’s surprisingly worked out very well. We have a lot of fun in classes. It’s been a good two years!
Why do you think you have such great dance chemistry together?
JESSICA: I think we balance each other out when it comes to teaching and working together.
ALEJANDRO: Even outside of dance there are a lot of things that we have in common. That’s hard to find with someone you have to dance with, work with, and travel with.
When all that’s done, we’re like ‘Let’s go to the gym or go to a hip hop club. Or watch Love and Hip Hop on VH1. ‘ (laughs). We’re in to the same things and its really cool.
Let’s talk about you dance classes. Whats most important for students to take away from your classes?
ALEJANDRO: I believe what’s most important the mindset. You should always see yourself as a student and to always be open to different instructors, ideas, and techniques. And that you should ultimately find your own dance identity. I believe having an open mind is key to that. I’m still a student of the game and I’m willing to admit that. If Jessica or myself have the opportunity to take a workshop from another instructor, we’re going to jump on it. Something as simple as having a conversation with an instructor in the break room is beneficial.
As a duo how would you describe your dance style?
JESSICA: Our style is very open. I believe we can do anything depending upon the type of creative mood we’re in. If you come tonight (Dallas Bachata Festival, 2013) you will see two very different performances. We will have a bachata fusion routine that’s mixed with folklorico, and it will have a very Spanish feel. And the next routine will have an urban, intense, high energy bachata mixed with upbeat merengue. We bounce off every wall, but we are very urban (laughs). That’s what fits for us and that’s where our home is.
For both of you…do you have a favorite dance memory that stands out?
JESSICA: I think every dancer has that moment on stage. It doesn’t matter what routine it is, but you hit a point in that routine where it feels really good to be onstage. You feel like you’re supposed to be in that moment and everything is going good. The dancing. The music. Your moves. You’re not even thinking about the moves anymore or what comes next. Everything is just flowing from you to the audience and the audience is reciprocating. Those moments are the best, at least for me. When all your hard work comes together and you deliver it on stage, and the audience appreciates it.
ALEJANDRO: For me it was the San Francisco Bachata in 2012. Jessica and I brought eight couples on stage. We brought a serious urban bachata/merengue choreography. We totally out did ourselves choreographically with the formations, the layers, timing and the music. Everything came together with the costumes. Everyone was in shape. We put our whole team on a diet. Fitness is important to us.
Really, I can’t tell! (Joking.)
ALEJANDRO: (laughs). We put the whole team on a diet. Both the guys and girls had weigh-ins and measurements. Everyone met their goals and everyone made weight…like a boxing match. We stepped on stage and immediately we had stage presence. Everyone looked good and was dressed well, and they sure as hell danced good!
ALEJANDRO: A story. Very interpretive. We can’t speak, so we’re speaking through our movements. We want to tell a story, and we definitely want to entertain. We want the audience to know that we appreciate their time. They could be doing something else, but their watching us. I appreciate the hell out of that. So best foot forward. Head to toe!
You were featured on a new MTV show Bachata Nights. Talk a little bit about that experience and how that all came together!
ALEJANDRO: I was the common thread in the cast of the show. With the exception of two cast members, all of the cast have been a part of Paso De Oro or worked with me. Bachata is something that we all have in common. It was about our personal lives exaggerated about 10-fold for the MTV audience. It’s intended to entertain as opposed to educate. It was a unique experience. Anytime you get a group of young, talented, Latin individuals on a major English programming network it’s a positive for the entire community.
JESSICA: It was definitely a unique experience. We’re hoping that if it does continue or become a series that we can use it as a platform to educate and to show how hard instructors and performers work. For us bachata doesn’t seem like an underground thing, but it’s definitely something that the world needs to see and be a part of.
Let’s talk a little bit about Paso De Oro. When did the dance company start ?
ALEJANDRO: Paso De Oro was started by my mother, Alicia Mendibles, in 1994. I was a kid so I came along through the dance studio. I’d have lessons four or five times a week, and performances along with football practice. It was something that was expected in order for me to be allowed to play ball which was my passion. My mother gave me my own division when I was 18. She told me to lead the latin dance department which was merengue and reggaeton…now its bachata and salsa. When I was in college I was really soaking in a lot of dance style, and different cultures. I was in school so I was learning about the music and the specific histories of each country within Latin America. I felt like it gave me an edge in terms of presenting music and dance. I knew why people moved certain ways, why they danced the way they did, and the social history of each dance. It’s more than just going up there and moving to music. Dance precedes all of us and you have to show that respect.
JESSICA: I think, for us, it’s to continue to grow. Like Alejandro said, we’re always students. We’re always opening up our minds to new dances and ways to make our dancing better. As a dance couple we’re not happy with just being where we’re at. We always want to continue to push further and find our true limits. We hope there are none! (laughs).
ALEJANDRO: Mass appeal. Main stage. Commercialism. Sponsors like Nike, Pepsi (laughs). That’s my goal. Muscle and Fitness magazine. Sports Illustrated. For people to see dancing as athletic, not just recreational. That’s my goal.
For more information on Alejandro Rey & Jessica Trujillo visit StepsOfGoldDance.com.