Edgar Montiel dances into Ashland hearts

When Edgar Montiel dances, the world dances with him. Montiel, who has been dancing since he was a child, teaches salsa lessons at Tabu on Thursday and Saturday nights.

But for Montiel, dancing is much more than an income, it's a way of life. "The most important thing is dancing! Forget everything! Nothing else matters," said Montiel.

Originally from Mexico City, Mexico, Montiel learned to dance salsa and cha-cha from his mother. He has taught salsa throughout California, in San Francisco, Sacramento and other larger cities prior to moving to the Rogue Valley three years ago.

So, with a large lexicon of dance history and know-how at his disposal, why settle on salsa?

"Salsa is a fusion of everything," explained Montiel. "It has elements of tango, west coast swing, east coast swing. A lot of things people would need to know to do other forms of dancing they can pick up through salsa."

Still, even in salsa, there are many variants.

"Mine isn't ballroom salsa," said Montiel. "Ballroom has more structure and more steps. I love more funny moves, more entertaining style. I can give private lessons, if they're interested in competing, but what I teach here is more fun."

Sometimes Montiel has come under fire for his flamboyant styling, explaining that some other salsa teachers would prefer that he took a more traditional approach. But, through his improvisational stylings and exuberance, Montiel can be more accessible to those who may find salsa intimidating.

"Just dance," said Montiel. "Nothing else matters, not people watching, not anything. Just dance, I'll help you! Everybody is the same, we can all learn."

Watching Montiel glide across the dance space at Tabu, looping and twirling and dipping novice and pro alike, his eyes catching the red light, the dancer creates an impressive grace. Montiel walks the line between intensity and a goofy charisma that is the essence of his dance.

"Some people think it's an act. But my dance is an expression of myself," said Montiel. "Sometimes things can be difficult in life, but not when I'm dancing. I dance from my heart."

"It's hard to look at someone and know what kind of day they are having," said Montiel. "It's easier when you dance with them. In my work I really respect all the people. Let's make it happy."

Happiness seems to abound at his lessons, though Montiel moves through the steps very quickly and there is often much tripping, sweating and confusion, by the end of each lesson attendees always seem to be grinning, and willing to continue trying. Montiel moves through his lessons like a hummingbird, quick, easily distracted. But when he begins dancing one on one, the world disappears, and he takes on an intense focus. After the lessons the rest of the night is spent in open dance, and Montiel always makes the rounds, sweeping dancers off their feet, sometimes quite literally.

"I'm a really open person," said Montiel. "I have a good head on my shoulders and strong roots. For me (dance) is not about the money, I'm just a normal, grounded person ready and willing to help people out."

For more information on Edgar Montiel and his dancing, go to his My Space site, /dancesalsa.

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