As a child of about five or six, Ronald Martinez remembers being held by his grandmother and waltzed throughout the El Salvadorian house.
“She needed a dance partner so she would lift me up, with her smoke in her mouth — back when we didn’t know about the dangers of smoking — and we would start to waltz,” said the salsa dancer and instructor.
Martinez will be headlining the fourth and final installment of the Vancouver International Salsafestival, starting next Thursday, March 7 until Sunday, March 10.
In the past 12 years, the Richmond resident has taught and performed globally, while also volunteering locally with the Richmond School District.
Until last year, Martinez would teach salsa dancing during physical education classes, as well as, workshops at Richmond’s Girls Only Lifestyle Expo.
“As a child, it’s important to be introduced to dance,” he said. “It’s about body awareness and being comfortable in your own body. It’s very psychological, so powerful and so beautiful.”
Many international, award-winning instructors get involved in the four-day festival of performances, workshops and parties. This year, it’s expected to attract more than 4,000 participants.
Martinez never thought he’d dance for a living, but now that he has, he doesn’t plan on stopping. Due to his increasingly busy schedule, he had to cut back on volunteering, but currently works at Dancey Ballroom and Dance Studio in Vancouver.
“It’s part of my culture,” said the winner of the 2010 Asset Champion Award. “My mom would dance every day when she was cooking or cleaning, it’d be part of every celebration. It’s interesting that you never think that the thing you love could be something you could do as a job.”
The festival takes place at Vancouver’s Westin Bayshore Hotel, 1601 Bayshore Drive. Tickets are $15. For more information, visit www.salsafestival.ca.