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Latin Dance at Milwaukee’s InterContinental Hotel

Off the Cuff with Everything About Dance’s Krystal Nicola

Aug. 23, 2016
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For the first anniversary of the Gustavo Krystal Everything About Dance Studio, Gustavo and Krystal Nicola took 12 of their adult students to Miami for the 2015 World Salsa Summit and won the award for Top Studio. They’ll celebrate their second anniversary on Sunday, Aug. 28 at the ballroom of the InterContinental Hotel with an event called BAILA Milwaukee—an evening of performances by students of all ages and featuring the international superstar couples Junior & Emily and Tito & Tamara. Krystal Nicola welcomed me to the beautiful studio at 820 S. Water St. where we talked about her life work.

When did you start dancing?

I danced since I was 2 years old. We lived in Muskego. My sister was in dance class. They didn’t take kids under 3, and my mom had to beg them, but they took me because I kept walking into my sister’s class. I trained in tap, ballet, jazz—all your typical dance school styles. 

When did salsa become your style?

When I met Gustavo. He comes from a small town near Córdoba, Argentina. He had a studio there for two years, but he was also performing salsa and doing very well, and he wanted to explore his own dancing and learn more. So he moved to Mexico and sold his car to compete in the 2006 World Salsa Championships in Las Vegas and took fourth place. I moved to Mexico in 2007, and we met in Cancún, dancing with Nuevo Milenio, a large professional company with groups in Mexico, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic. The shows had can-can, tango, musical theater-style stuff, jazz, Latin; we did a Caribbean show, a Michael Jackson show. Gustavo and I were put in charge of the group in Cabo San Lucas in the Baja Peninsula. We did shows every night for five years until we had a baby and wanted a change—wanted to be closer to family. We decided to open a studio and teach what we’ve learned traveling to other countries, give others a chance to shine.

What is salsa?

It came from son. The slaves from Cuba weren’t allowed to worship their gods and son was a way to worship them through movement. In the ’70s, the son and the mambo kind of got mixed together and formed salsa. It comes from the street. There are two styles. In Cuba, it’s danced in a circle, and you’re constantly switching partners. It’s one of our most fun classes. Everyone’s laughing all the time. There’s a singer who calls what steps you’re supposed to do; a lot of calls, a lot of chants with lots of sexual innuendos, so it’s a very fun version. And what we do in all our classes is salsa línea, which means salsa in a line. It has a more presentational style. One partner on one side, one on the other, the lead and the follow, you can switch sides, you have to keep your body open, you’re always presenting.

Do you teach other styles?

Bachata. That’s one of the more sensual Latin American dances. We have a ballet class. Ballet is to dance what Latin is to Romance languages—the base word. Posture, center, the strength, the grace, the jumps, the pointed foot. We have a lot of students from Milwaukee’s Latin community, but the studio is a melting pot like the city, not only culturally but economically, all different paths, all different ages. People who wanted to take classes as kids but couldn’t because parents couldn’t afford it, or they just never tried and now all of a sudden they find they have a passion for it that I don’t think they would’ve expected, especially the guys. And we’re hard core here. We put pressure on our students, but the hard work pays off.

As we’ll see at BAILA Milwaukee?

There will be 22 performances—a little bit of everything—and our headliners at the end. Junior and Emily are a brother and sister from Los Angeles and the eight times salsa champions of the world. Tito and Tamara are from Puerto Rico. They are salsa icons, salsa gurus. They’re the top judges in all the world competitions. My husband’s in shock. He did everything he could to come to that competition in Las Vegas and now to be in the same room with these people, bringing them to his business after only two years! 

Doors open for BAILA Milwaukee on Sunday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m. for the 7:30 performance at the InterContinental Hotel, 139 E. Kilbourn Ave. Call 414-294-9494 or visit everythingaboutdance.com for tickets and further information.

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