Taking a chance on dance

Salvadoran native brings joy to Eugene with salsa

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At age 12, Jose Cruz started dancing. Cruz was born and raised in El Salvador, and after moving to the U.S., he turned dance into his profession.

This year marks the 20-year anniversary of Cruz’s Salseros Dance Company.

Cruz founded the Salseros Dance Company in Eugene, and is also the founder of the Eugene Salsa Festival.

̈́¨When I came to the U.S., I started dancing a lot more,¨ Cruz said. He initially moved to Los Angeles where he practiced a variety of different dancing styles.

After spending some time in Los Angeles, he moved to Eugene so he could be closer to family.

Naturally, moving to another country presents some challenges. And language is a big one.

¨When I first moved to the U.S., I didn’t really speak English, so that was difficult. It was actually through going salsa dancing that I started to make American friends.  Through speaking with friends, my English got a lot better,¨ Cruz said.

Oregon is where Cruz was able to turn his hobby into his profession.

¨After a few years of dancing and taking classes in Eugene and Portland, I decided to start teaching my own classes and leading my own performance group in 1999,¨ Cruz said.

Cruz started Salseros Dancing Company in 1999. Through Salseros and his various events, he aims to teach people the fundamentals of salsa.

¨A lot of people have heard of salsa dancing, but have misperceptions (sic) about what it is. From seeing movies, they might think that salsa is danced really close or that you have to be really in shape to dance salsa,” Cruz said.

“But salsa can be danced by all different people and you don’t have to have a partner to go dancing because everyone dances with each other. In the salsa community of Eugene, we have people of all different ages and cultures and backgrounds.¨

Jose Cruz

Through dance, Cruz wants to bring people together, celebrate diverse cultures and bring joy into people’s lives. For Cruz, that is really all he finds necessary to feel satisfied.

¨Success for me is getting to see people brought together by salsa, and having people appreciate this Latin music and dance,¨ Cruz said.

Salseros Dance Company and Jose Cruz continue to grow and find ways to bring Latin culture to Eugene. Cruz and his Salseros Dance Company are also gearing up for the Eugene Salsa Festival, which will take place between Feb. 22 and 24.