This may surprise the entire bachata dance community, but Rufino and I had been planning to meet for over a year now. How the idea started was pretty much a mutual respect between two individuals that truly are passionate about bachata. Carlos is pretty dogmatic about the way Dominicans dance bachata, and I am a proponent in preserving what's original, authentic and traditional yet very much open to fusion, innovation and creativity.
Carlos and I go way back. I mean we have been debating bachata dancing since 2010! Most of those debates were pretty heated and some times calling each other names (when you are passionate on something you believe in, certain uncontrolled comments becomes the norm during a heated debate.) And it wasn't just my youtube videos he criticized, he probably called out almost all "bachata teachers" in the world dancing "the wrong bachata."
After a year of going back and forth with Rufino, I decided to invite him at one of my festivals so we can meet in person and that I could actually see him in action with his style of bachata. He declined. A year later, I offered another special invitation to visit my festival. Again, he declined.
In 2010, before Carlos, I've already embarked myself, out of curiosity, about authentic bachata and how they actually dance it in DR, or how Dominicans actually dance it. I began to study the culture, even going further to study merengue, it's music, its musicians, its culture. I've co-organized the 1st bachata festival in DR, which gave me a lot of time and opportunity to interview and exchange training philosophy about bachata with the "powers-that-be" in Santo Domingo, La Vega, San Cristobal, just to name a few. As a result, I posted a video of the "stationary steps" in bachata. Of all my dance videos, Rufino finally commented something positive. It was then that I knew, that Carlos isn't a "troll" that just loves to blast people for fun but actually would call it like it is with no sugar coating.
On 2014, Carlos offered to meet with me in NYC in December. It was supposed to be a time of hanging out, bootcamp and even club hopping. I bought my flight, but was unable to go in the end due to a conflict of a local event. But on September 2015, it finally happened...
Last Labor Day weekend, Carlos picked me up in my hotel and took me to a dance studio. He wanted to show me his philosophy and approach to dancing and teaching bachata. There are several out there that are actually very critical of "bachata teachers", but in my experience, they are all talk and this action doesn't match their so-called expertise. Carlos Rufino doesn't belong in that category in my book as I later found out after the studio session.
Carlos was prepared. His materials and props were all ready. I sat down to watch him explain and demonstrate his bachata doctrine. He laid out a chart of steps; a flow chart with point by point break down of bachata steps, musicality, creativity and structure. I was thinking to myself, "Ok, this isn't new. I already know this and teach it on my classes. But wait a minute, he is showing me what how he would be teaching it."
I paid more attention to him. After 10 minutes, I joined him dancing and learning how footwork. It got interesting that I actually ask him how he does it and ended up learning from him. You can call it an unplanned unofficial private lesson from Rufino. But of course, I know now that he knew that was gonna happen. I particularly like his approach on timing with the lyrics of the music - this approach is something new to me that there was no way I was going out of that studio without learning it! He also showed me different ways of slide steps, different stances to set up for fancy footwork. I liked it! I know that he wanted my opinion on how he teaches and his presentation. With the materials presented and the way he presented it, if a student is a beginner or intermediate, it would take them at least 5 or 6 sessions going through from the beginning of the course and the end of the course series. I'm not actually sure if they have the patience to finish it because there's lots of small details and only advance and pros can pick it up. If the student is advance or pro dancer, it would only take them 3 sessions with lots of practica later on. I actually highly recommend this to adv and pro dancers that wants to learn structure and materials for their own classes.
Although Carlos is a new teacher, I can frankly say that he isn't one of them typical new teachers "watch what I do, and do what I do" types. He has good content in his teaching materials and very well organized - a sign of a successful and effective teacher. I told him that the more he teaches, the more he will discover new and different ways to teach an individual or a group because every individual is different. I also told him that with the kind of material he'll be teaching, he would be unable to teach it with a big crowd because it is hard to teach the finer points of dancing with a big crowd.
After the session with Carlos, we went to El Cantinero, and there, I met his beautiful wife, Edwin Ferreras and his beautiful girlfriend. I had so much fun dancing bachata, salsa and merengue and of course, hanging out with people that has the same passion and interest.
This article isn't about defending Carlos on who he is and how goes about on social media, that is something no one can control. He is his own man, opinionated, and he will change because he want to change and not because others want him to change. But I have to say, that for the past 2 yrs, he has slowly changed.
Tidbits about Carlos Rufino.
- He is totally opposite of FB persona. He is a nice guy.
- He loves his wife
- He is a good social dancer ( I have the video to prove it)
- He isn't totally against dance evolution
- He actually knows his shit
- He will still criticize when he sees something that he disagrees about whether, it's me, Edwin or others - no one is safe.
- He and I are actually much in some agreements with it comes to American politics
Can Carlos Rufino and I actually become good friends? Friendship takes time. But I can tell you this, all my dear and close friends that I have now in the industry, we all started arguing and even attacked each other in the social media, but when I actually met them in person, we became really good friends and started working together. (Eddy Vents is a good example on this).
Next time I go to New York, my wife and I are invited to Carlos and Wife's house for some home cooked meal - now that is something to look forward to.