By José Villa, Senior Editor
Hawaii Hispanic News
HONOLULU, Hawaii – Who would have guessed that the current “Global Ambassador of Salsa” – who teaches Salsa in such diverse locales as Copenhagen, China, Hong Kong, Prague, Germany, Hawaii, etc. — would have grown up in the mean streets of the Bronx? But Jerome Ramos, 26, did just that.
His dad is a Puerto Rican from Stamford, Connecticut and his mom is from Puerto Rico. Ramos said: “I grew up in a family of dancers, party goers and drinkers. That was my first introduction to Salsa. My father was a drummer and my mom was always involved with Latin dancing. At age 6, I was enrolled in the Starlight Dance Studio in the Bronx and fell in love with dancing. From there my interest and talent grew. By age 11, I was travelling with different dance groups to other states, including Florida. At 14 I left the U.S. for the first time and went to perform in Japan. That’s where my desire to travel the world dancing started.”
He said: “My older brother played the timbales. Whenever he started playing, I would try
to be a ‘musician’ with my feet. My family would take me down to Puerto Rico in the summers. There I would study Puerto Rican folkloric dances — like the bomba and plena – and, most importantly, the African roots and history of our music. For me, that became a passion. I love mixing the Afro-Caribbean dances with Salsa. That’s what I’m known for now in the global dance scene is the African dance movements and body isolation.”
He went on: “Growing up in the Bronx was tough. There was a lot of gang violence. At the age of 9, I was shot in the right leg. That experience gave me a whole new perspective and made me realize dance might not be there forever and that I really needed to get a good education. Luckily, I was always a ‘teachers’ pet.’ By age 14, I was in an after-school program called NFTE (National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurs). Through them I learn how to create business plans, income statements, start a business, run a business, etc.”
He continued: “So by combining these two passions – dancing and education – I created a little dance program for kids. We started a business called “Dancers’ Dreams.” I used that business to write a business plan to help the sister of the Starlight Studios’ owner
start her own dance school. That plan allowed me to win – out of 15 contestants – first prize in a business plan competition and a scholarship at the Marriott Marquis on November 2, 2001.”
Ramos added: “Most of the contestants had great ideas and business concepts for businesses they wanted to start, but my plan was actually in operation, so I won the “Operational Plan” award. So I was generating income at a very young age, even though I didn’t know what I was doing, but I went along with the flow. But I guess people saw that I had a teaching ability.”
As a result of the business plan competition, Ramos had his choice of “… the Top 10 business schools.” He had thoroughly enjoyed his trip to Japan, was thrilled at the possibility of more world travel, and wanted to get as far away from New York as possible. He said: “Why not place myself in the middle of the world? I can go to China, California, travel anywhere, etc., so I decided attend Hawaii Pacific University. There I earned an MBA in Business, Entrepreneur Studies, Finance and Mandarin Chinese.”
Ramos continued: “When I arrived in Hawaii in 2002, I was about 17 and didn’t know anybody. So I figured the best way to meet people was to start teaching them to dance. That would allow me to establish a name in the community.
The first place I taught at was the Al Franz Dance Studio. I remember Ray Cruz (host of
the Sabor Tropical show on Hawaii Public Radio) placed an announcement on his program. I had one student and from there it just grew and grew. Hawaii was my springboard for everything I’m doing today (the global travel and dance instruction.”)
Ramos left Hawaii in 2008 due to family reasons. Both his mother and father had work-related injuries and needed additional care. He said: “I’m the youngest in my family. Being that I was born on Mother’s Day, I’ve always been a momma’s boy. So when mom got sick, I needed to be the good son.” He stayed for a while to help out.
Then one day he got an email inviting him to teach a dance class in Copenhagen, Denmark. Ramos said: “I went with my dance partner Duplessey Walker, niece of Salsa dancing legend Eddie Torres.
Through that experience, I was able to establish connections with one of the biggest event coordinators and club owners there. I was able to offer some suggestions. And now I work there as an event coordinator, I help throw concerts, do nightclub events, and coordinate the visits of musicians from all over the world.”
Why did he decide to stay in Copenhagen? He said: “At this point, I’m staying in Denmark because there’s a lot of growth and it’ll help to get my name established throughout Europe. I’ve always been really fond of China and are about name brands. If I can become famous in Europe, doors will open for me in China.”
He added: “Another reason was the economy. The global recession has caused many Americans to cut back on leisure activities – like Salsa dance classes. But there’s a lot of opportunity here. This year, I’m going to Prague, Beijing, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Poland and Ireland. I’m getting the exposure that I wanted by using both my business training and dancing skills. I’m literally leaving my footprint across Asia and Europe.”
As someone who personally benefitted from the excellent Salsa dancing training this young man provides, I can confirm that his “footprint” is improving the quality of lives of thousands of people around the world who love to dance Salsa!