About Josue Joseph and La Época
Have you ever wondered to yourself “What does salsa mean? What is the history of this dance style? Where did salsa start or who came out with this name? What about the music we dance to? How it was created?” These are all common questions which many dancers asked themselves. When we hear a song we like at a party we quickly ask the DJ: “What was the name of that song?” But do we know who the pioneers of the Latin dance styles are? Who invented the “Suzy Q”, the “inside turn” or “cross body lead”?
We were curious to find more about these topics, and we have had the pleasure to find a series of documentary films which provide answers to all these questions. A series of movies that present the history of latin rhythms told by Palladium-era legendary musicians and dancers, who pioneered in what we know now as “salsa”. In addition, the films feature interviews and dance-footage with the younger artists who we still meet at international salsa events today, including Eddie Torres, Frankie Martinez, Adolfo Indacochea and many others.
We watched the movies and are profoundly impressed with the complexity of information contained in this documentary, which, at first sight, can be too complicated for today’s salsa dancer, yet so important to really understand the phenomenon. We also thought it would be a great opportunity to contact the creator of “La Época” movies and to ask him a few questions for our readers. We discovered that he is the son of the legendary Palladium Mambo and Jazz bassist, Alfonso Panamá, who often performed with Arsenio Rodriguez, Tito Puente, Johnny Pacheco, Celia Cruz and was the substitute bassist of Israel “Cachao” Lopez.
The artist we want to present you is JOSUÉ JOSEPH, an American DC Salsa Grammy award winning composer, record producer & recording artist, film director, international instructor and public speaker. He was surrounded all his life by legends of latin music, he learned from them and, for more than half a decade, he has been sharing this information with us, the salsa lovers. He was kind enough to answer all our questions and we want to thank him for that. We will further let you discover Josue and his artist life.
1. What defines you as a dancer? But as a musician and as a film director?
Dance, to me, is about becoming ONE with the music, making my body an instrument on the dance-floor. I become the music, I am the music. Dancing is about articulating the emotions that I get from the music into an aesthetically-pleasing movement.
As a musician, I’m defined by the heart-beat and the pulse of the music I write; the pulse is the “clave” and heart-beat is the contra-bass. My music must feature a strict Afro-Cuban melodic line because otherwise it’s just a Salsa-Romantica or one of the 99% out there. I learned from my father and his famous friends that what distinguishes old-school from new-school is the heart-beat of the music. When I write music, I imagine how my father would articulate the chords through his bass-playing. He was the bassist of most of the Palladium orchestras and knows the rhythms inside and out; his influence on me and my music is monumental.
As a film director, it’s giving a voice to those who are unable to speak their sentiments. Simple. My style is always to be based on a true story and to reach down for a true experience which helps the viewers. That’s why I’m into sci-fi or graphics – I’m into real stories.
2. Why did you choose to leave USA (as the world calls it the land of opportunities) and come to Europe?
Would you like for me to be “nice” or “honest”? The politically-correct answer is this: America is the land of the free, BUT I have more freedom here in Europe. Here, in eastern-Europe, I have more freedom financially, artistically and personally. I left to have economic freedom, to have artistic freedom (since part of the reasons I’m hired often are BECAUSE I’m an American with a New York accent, with an American approach) and the relationships I’ve built here – both professionally and personally – are of much greater character and caliber than what’s available in the U.S.
3. You are a complete artist: film director, music producer, recording artist, dancer and teacher. Regarding your creativity side, who is the muse that inspires you?
Thank you for your Words of Affirmation and acknowledgement about the progress of my intense professional developments. Great question; the only way to answer this is to mention the inspirations in each category.
Beethoven and Tchaikovsky are my symphonic influence. Arsenio Rodriguez, Cachao, my father – Alfonso Panama, and Machito are my Afro-Cuban music influence. Cuban Pete and the Palladium dancers who attended my parents’ barbecues are my dance influences. Looking in the mirror and seeing the mistakes I made through my own eyes is the influence of wisdom, which in-turn keeps me wanting to be sharp in wisdom as an instructor because there’s a difference between a “wise” instructor versus an academically smart instructor. The wise instructor has the wisdom to value academics and know how to apply them, the academically smart instructor knows only data and figures, but lacks the wisdom to know the value of this knowledge.
4. You have stated in “La Época” that “Salsa has become the accessible name for all salsa rhythms, salsa is an experience, salsa is a community”, but what do you think is more important for a salsa dancer to know at a basic level about the different rhythms of salsa, what are the basic distinctions that he must recognize?
Great question – a common question. The best answer is this: we can’t force anyone to learn something; each instructor, performer, social dancer has a different pace of learning and a different motive. Some just don’t care to learn more than turns and combinations. There is much more to “Salsa” than rhythms, there is the structure of Latin music, each instrument and the pattern of each, the ups and downs, knowing how to distinguish a Mambo from a Son-Montuno and so much more. It’s more than just rhythms; one can’t understand the rhythms without a thorough backbone knowledge of clave syncopation.
5. You and the other artists captured in “La Época” talk mostly about the importance of knowing the history of latin rhythms. When do you think is the most suitable moment for a salsa teacher to start telling his students about the history of latin music and dance: the same time with the basic steps, when they get to an intermediate level or when they become advanced? And why then?
With all humility, I wouldn’t say that we talk mostly about the importance of knowing the history of Latin rhythms – it’s more about respecting the history and knowing the music. Period. When is it most suitable? Everyone has a different pace, but I do believe that when social dancers see performers on stage or instructors up on the platform – and at that moment – they say to themselves, in their hearts: “That’s what I want to do”. The FIRST step to take is to get educated – to get online – find the sources that lead up to movements, music, and the history of both, while also learning how to teach. This is where many fail; they want to teach but don’t take a class on how to teach. Not all teachers are the best dancers and not all dancers are the best teachers.
6. When learning about salsa dancing and starting to realize how important it is to know about its history, where can we find these details? The internet is a big source of information but it is not structured. Can you recommend a good source with the history of latin music and with technical details about latin music composition?
In my opinion, this is one of the most important questions that should be asked in every FIRST class of EVERY level for students. Beginners should be asked this in the first beginner course – then, when they’re “up” a level – be asked again through all the levels. It’s extremely important to know about the history IF you want to tell a story in your dancing and legitimately say “I love Mambo” or “I love Salsa.” How can anyone say “I love Mambo” yet know nothing about it? It’s like me going up to a beautiful, smart, sophisticated lady in Bucharest I met yesterday saying “I’m in love with you”. She’d say “You don’t even know me”. Same concept. I founded “La Época” to be a source and resource for dancers and musicians all over the world to have a one-stop shop for knowing the history and musicality in music and movement in Latin music and dance. “La Época” is that source, LaÉpocaFilm.com is the website. Type “La Época” on Facebook to find me. Outside of what I offer, one must do his/ her own research.
7. The movie “La Época” managed to make us better know the talented latin musicians that created the songs we dance with so much pleasure on. How important do you think is for a dancer to know the origin of the music he dances on, in order to improve his dance style?
Thank you for the Words of Affirmation about my work and “La Época”. This question is extremely important! I feel that it is the most crucial step a dancer can take; learning the origins of the music and movements – this is precisely why I founded “La Época”. “La Época” is for the dancer that already has even the tiniest collection of movements or a super-advance collection of movements but is now looking to build an arsenal of movements to better articulate the emotions gotten from hearing the music. This step is absolutely essential in the develop of the dancer of all levels. How important is this? It is the most important, in my opinion.
8. When are you planning to come to Romania and which is the occasion? We have heard that it will be very soon and we are curious to know what are you preparing for that event in Bucharest.
I just got on a plane for Kolkata (India), where I’m one of the international artists headlining the festival. After a week in India, I have about six days to prepare for the History of a Lost Love Dance Festival there in Bucharest. I will arrive there on 19th of November and I will be leaving on 26th of November. The festival will take place on 21st to 23rd of November and I will present there both of my award-winning “La Época” films, world-class musicality workshops, amazing master-classes for dancers, shows, parties, plus I’ll be teaching many private lessons. My current partner, Sara Krawczyk, from Poland, is a principal dancer on my team, With her experience as a dance-instructor and as an actress/model for television and theater, we have reshaped “La Época” to be even more relatable to dancers of today. I’m excited! I am a huge, huge fan of Romania! The Romanians have immensely graciousness and they are receptive to a higher-learning in dance and music. It’s my honor to visit Romania yet again. Feel free to type in “History of a Lost Love Dance Festival” on Facebook to find out more info.
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