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Francisco Vazquez, Luis Vazquez, Johnny Vazquez: The Men Who Changed Salsa Dancing
Written by Milton Rodas
LOS ANGELES STYLE SALSA — The three Vazquez brothers are considered to be the major catalysts that changed salsa dancing forever, and began the evolution of the worldwide dance phenomenon that Salsa dancing has become today.
Never before them had Salsa dancing been so popular around the world. A few can claim that without promoters and event organizers, the popularity of Salsa dancing would have never reached the levels it has, but I would contest that without 'the talent' that attracted multitudes back in the early 90s, the events would have been a failure or impossible to market or even organize in the first place.
The non-Latin people who came rushing to the events around the world loved the music, but they really did not care whether they understood the lyrics or didn't (as they still don't); what they cared for was the adrenaline and the rush of dancing salsa. With salsa dancing they could communicate across any language or any culture, without speaking, just moving to mutually and commonly understood patterns, steps, and musical beats.
But why would three brothers deserve so much of the credit for the widespread popularity of Salsa? Well, while it is a matter of opinion, it is also something that can be felt and is commonly shared in the world of salsa dance. The Vazquezes all had different contributions, but they were all so important in different respects.
FRANCISCO VAZQUEZ —
The godfather, the visionary, the myth, the legend, the man....
Francisco Vazquez is thought to be the originator of the L.A. Style of Salsa dancing, which is popular around the world and is taught by hundreds of instructors who market it just like that: "L.A. Style Salsa." That style, in and within itself, was simply the way Francisco danced in the 90s and how he developed his own dancing through the years into the 2000s and until now. He taught his way of dancing to his younger siblings, Luis Vazquez and Johnny Vazquez, both of whom, with their great talents, took it and molded it into different personal versions of L.A. Style, but which still had the same foundation Francisco had given them.
Francisco Vazquez has at one point or another, been a personal instructor and/or major influence of a great majority of L.A.'s salsa personalities. To name just a few: Edie the SalsaFreak, Joby Brava (formerly a Vazquez), Rudy Zalez, Jennifer Silvas, Rogelio Moreno, Rico Bravo, Johnny Bravo, and plenty more.
LUIS VAZQUEZ —
Luis Vazquez and Joby Vazquez branched out of Francisco's dance troupe in 1994 to start their own dance team: Salsa Brava Dance Company.
Their dance company went on to become the most popular salsa dance team in the world, even surpassing the "Los Rumberos" dance troupe which was led by the one and only Francisco Vazquez. It is commonly said, maybe as a joke or not, that before Salsa Brava, salsa was only what everyone ate with chips.
Salsa Brava traveled to over 35 nations, spreading the joy of Salsa dancing, was featured on TV and film, and was well-known for their on-stage electrifying performances. Their routines usually had a theme or a storyline, which set them apart from the rest of the top salsa teams in the world.
Just as Francisco Vazquez did, Salsa Brava held a strong influence on the L.A. Style of Salsa that spread around the world with such raging popularity. Most of the names that were mentioned above, which went on to be popular salsa personalities around the world, were at some point members of Salsa Brava dance troupe. Dont' let them deny it! ;-)
Sadly for Los Angeles and the world of dance, Salsa Brava desolved in 2004, but the impact that Luis Vazquez and Joby Vazquez had made around the world was permanent and they've never been forgotten. For any new dancers who came into any dancing scene after 2004, this is some history for you and you should hold the same amount of respect for Salsa Brava as we, the ones who know, do.
JOHNNY VAZQUEZ —
A joke often said amongst salsa circles is that Francisco was like god who had a plan, Luis was like John the Baptist who came before the promised one, and Johnny was the promised one, who came to show everyone the way.
Johnny Vazquez is considered by many the very top, the most polished, and the most prestine salsa dancer in the world with an immense amount of talent that simply seems to never give out as the years pass. Every other top dancer out there only lasts a few years and then their star vanishes, but Johnny is the real deal and there is no one like him out in the salsa world...even as many comparisons have often been made.
Johnny Vazquez came to the U.S. to discover that his brothers didn't like banda, spanish rock, or rancheras anymore. He was greatly disappointed and embarassed to be taken to a salsa nightclub by his brothers when he was new in the country. Little did he know the iconic figure he would become as the years passed.
Anyone who has ever been exposed to salsa and did not like it at first knows that as soon as the quality of women became apparently superior to other social scenes, Salsa was all of a sudden a very attractive dance. Johnny suddenly felt the itch to learn to dance, especially after a girl left him standing in the middle of the dance floor after she realized he did not know how to dance, and began receiving training from his oldest brother Francisco.
Before he knew it, he was competing in salsa competitions around the city and he was winning every contest! There was no match for him, his speed, his ability to spin multiple times and stop on a dime, his creativity, his stage presence, and his gorgeous partners, all of which needed to be 'trained dancers', by the way.
Johnny Vazquez was unstoppable in L.A. and won the World Mayan Salsa Championships on multiple consecutive times. He then decided to leave L.A. for Europe where the promise of being paid big was more viable. He formed his own dance team, "Imperio Azteca," which continued utilizing the same foundation of L.A. Style that Francisco Vazquez had originated, but went a bit further in cleanliness, speed, and a little like Salsa Brava, utilized theatrical staging, themes, and/or storylines to present their dancing.
The three brothers are still dancing and are still as popular as ever in the world of salsa dancing. Johnny has lived exclusively in Europe much longer than his two brothers, who also live mostly in Europe, but also travel back and forth between L.A. and their european homes.
The fact that three brothers were able to change Salsa dancing as a whole more than anyone has ever done before them or since them, is a feat that should never be forgotten and should receive continued recognition from all salsa dancers everywhere.
Today, there are many popular world acts in Salsa, but none hold the historical relevance that Francisco Vazquez, Luis Vazquez, and Johnny Vazquez hold in their contributions to our beautiful and beloved dance!
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