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Interview - Gordon Neil 

I recently got the opportunity to interview Gordon Neil, a fresh and exciting dancer/ choreographer from Atlanta.  Gordon performs with his partner, Laura Geldys, who relocated from Detroit to join his dance company, Revolu.   I sat down with Gordon at the New York Salsa Congress, and we discussed his innovative dance style, Prince and the joys of dancing cha cha.


SOS:  When Did You Start Dancing?  How did you get started dancing Mambo?

GN:  I've been dancing since I was young (Hip Hop, Breaking).  I've been dancing Mambo for 5 years.  I'm Jamaican, so I danced to Soca growing up.  I was listening to salsa long before I began dancing.  I saw Tito Puente live 12 years ago.  After that I was in the music for years before I started dancing.  Then a friend wanted me to go to parties and events with her and taught me meringue.  I got interested in the dance and learned from there.

SOS:  What motivated you to become an instructor?

GN:  I got into teaching because that's what dancers do.  I enjoy teaching people -  watching the learning process unfold and seeing people excited about learning.

SOS:  How would you describe your teaching style?

GN:  I'm not very serious - I'm serious about what I do but not the way I do it.  I break things down as much as needed and try to understand my students.  I'm not happy unless everyone gets it - I'm a perfectionist and it carries over into my teaching.  I wanted to be a teacher at one time, so it's only natural.

SOS:  What do you hope to accomplish with your students?

GN:  I enjoy teaching group classes more than private lessons because groups give out more energy.  Even if it takes me longer to get a point across or I have to use an analogy, I will do whatever I have to do to make them understand.  I don't want to quit until the students get it.  There's nothing like seeing a student get it.

SOS:  What advice would you offer to someone who is interested in performing?

GN:  Try it out - see how you feel after your first performance.  Research it to see how you can improve.  Get familiar with all types of dance and performance.  Keep it fresh and new - be different.  Don't be afraid to try new things, and keep working until you can't do them any better.  Lastly, don't put any limitations on yourself.

SOS:  Which do you enjoy more, performing or teaching?

GN:  I definitely enjoy performing more.  I love to create a piece and tell a story with it, and I love being on stage. 

SOS:  How do you create choreography?  What do you use for inspiration?

GN:  Start with the song and go from there.  I get a feeling for what kind of flavor I'm going for.  I always get and listen to new music.  My biggest inspiration is Prince - he's skilled, uncompromising and experimental.  That's what's good about Mambo - it's not a rigid dance and lends itself to experimentation.  I use the elements that are already in my head to convey the movement of the song.

SOS:  How do you feel about using other forms of music in your salsa choreographies?

GN:  I'm all for using all types of music in Mambo, especially if you have a theme.  It helps create the mood of the performance.  I think it keeps things fresh, but you don't always have to do it.  I have to do me.  I like to have a strong presence of blackness in my performances.  Sometimes the Mambo song I choose does not convey the feeling I want to express, so the routine needs something extra.  I used a Nina Simone song [in the New York Congress routine] to express the theme.

SOS:  What would you like people to know about you?

GN:  I want to be known for being different and being expressive.

SOS:  Thank you so much for your time Gordon.

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