Meet the members of the Sentimiento Dance Team!

 

Brandon Bachata

 

Brandon Bachata - The spirit of latin dance first touched Brandon Bachata back in 2008 when he was stationed in Baghdad, IZ. From that 1st night that he attended a salsa party, he was easily addicted! After being recognized for his talent, Brandon was approached by Sean Climer, a seasoned instructor who has over 20 years of instructing experience, to enter his instructor training program back in 2011. Under his tutelage, Brandon has now become one of the most recognizable instructors, dancers and performers in the DMV area and beyond! In 2015, he was nominated for the best male instructor in the DMV area.

He has received training and learned techniques from world renowned dance companies such as Island Touch, Yamulee, & P'Kante. He’s taught workshops and performed at congresses, festivals and venues all over the US. Philadelphia, New York, Virginia, Tampa, Houston, DC, South Carolina and Los Angeles just to name a few. He’s one of the co-choreographers and performers in the showcase "Remembering The Palladium" which was created by Eileen Torres and Ted David! Brandon is most know for his fun loving and outgoing personality.

While he likes to have fun while he’s teaching, his military background as an US Army Drill Sergeant will make sure that you stay disciplined and he’ll drill you until you get the techniques right!

Nancy Salsa

 

Nancy Salsa - Nancy has been passionate about music and dancing since her early childhood. Growing up in the Dominican Republic she was always around music whether it was from her own family playing instruments or as a choir singer in church, where she travelled all around the country in concerts and singing events. Dancing was also a passion of hers, taking her first Salsa class in the Bronx, NY. After moving to Baltimore she started training and dancing with some of the best local teams, and later on received training as a dance instructor from Sean Climer- a retired ballroom instructor with over 20 years of experience.

She has taught at school dance projects, Hopkins Ole student club, as part of Hispanic Heritage corporate celebrations, at The World Bank Gala, Salsa Congresses and more. She is the co-founder and Director of Sentimiento; she's responsible for designing numerous Salsa classes and initiatives in the Baltimore dance community. She is known for combining her education as a scientist in her teaching approach and is regarded as a very patient and detail-oriented teacher.

Tabitha Hitchye

 

Tabitha Hitchye - Tabitha was born in Baltimore, Maryland. Her ethnic background is multi-racial. Raised as the daughter of a musician, she was exposed to the music industry as a young child and grew up singing in various choirs & groups. At the age of 19 she was introduced to Latin Dance which turned into a love and passion for her. Latin dance & music inspired her to become a dance instructor in order to share the love of dance with others. She has been teaching Salsa, Mambo, Bachata, & Flamenco for a combination of 8 years and dancing for 15 years. Musicality, Rhythm & Timing is a major focus in every class that she instructs, while also encouraging her students to add their own style into their dancing.

Formerly running a dance company of her own for 8 years under Baltimore Salsa Dance Company, she has performed at various events over the years with Dance In Time Productions & Sentimiento Dance Teams and has instructed/performed in numerous events & charities throughout the DMV area.

She currently holds the following certifications: Salsa Instructor & Business Development from Edie the Salsa Freak, Flamenco & Spanish Dance from Marsha Bonet & Dancers, LLC, & Zumba Fitness I & II. She is the studio director of Dance & Artistic Expressions Studio & Business Director/Instructor of Sentimiento Dance Company.

Janet Valdivia

 

Janet Valdivia - Janet has been dancing and performing in some form all her life. She started with ballet, jazz, tap and acrobatics at the age of 3, was a competitive gymnast through high school, and later fell in love with ballroom dancing. When she discovered salsa in 2006, she was instantly hooked.

Janet has performed on several salsa and bachata teams over the years, and she has been with Sentimiento since our debut in 2012. She is well-known in the DC dance scene and is usually among the last people standing at the end of any social.

Janet teaches at the DC Style Salsa Academy, where she gives her students a solid foundation with a focus on technique, while also stressing the importance of musicality and free expression. Janet travels frequently to congresses and dance events worldwide, where she has the opportunity to dance and train with some of the best in the industry.

Natalia

 

Natalia Vainshtein - Natalia was born in Moscow, Russia, where she began dancing at age 10, training and performing on European stages with the folkloric Georgian dance troupe. Her passion for the performing arts followed her to the U.S., where she found herself in drama and musical theater productions while attending college. In 2000 -2001 Natalia was a cast member with the Synetic theater in Washington, DC, known for its signature all- movement and dance productions. In 2003, Natalia discovered and fell in love with salsa, and her obsession with the craft persisted ever since! Natalia has trained locally in Washington, DC, with Psyon Mauricio Scott, Shaka Brown, Irene Holtzman, and Luz Rodriguez-Mercier, and invested thousands of hours taking classes with world-class dancers in New York and at numerous congresses she attended throughout the years. To supplement her salsa training, Natalia had taken classes in ballet and contemporary dance at Joy of Motion. Natalia is deeply thankful to be part of the Sentimiento family and share the joy of dance with her talented teammates!

Noemi Perez

 

Noemi Perez - Noemi is a mother, grandmother, wife, dancer, Air Force veteran, and database administrator. Originally from Queens, New York, Noemi has been a dance lover since the age of nine when she first studied ballet, tap, and jazz. Being of Puerto Rican and Dominican decent she also grew up listening to salsa and merengue but it wasn’t till she moved to the DMV area that she discovered what Salsa on2 was, and became quickly infatuated with everything salsa!

She has been dancing salsa on2 for the past seven years and has trained with and gone on to perform on various Salsa and Bachata student and semi pro teams in the DMV area to Include the ClaveKazi training team, The Bachata Project, Alma de Luz, Island Touch, The Afro-Latin Soul Dance Project, and of course Sentimiento Dance Company.

She has been with Sentimiento since it’s inception in late 2012.

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Leo Fig - Leo was born in the great state of New York from his Loving and always Salsa-dancing Dominican parents, LEO was raised in Santo Domingo from early childhood where he fell enamored with Latin music. The love and passion was embedded in his bloodstream by always being active in Latin events and activities since his parents always took him along. In the year of 1993 as LEO returned from Dominican Republic to The Bronx New York as a young teenager, he became very interested in getting involved in the community while attending high school where he took modern dance and hip hop classes and performed in several school events. One day after school while walking along Westchester avenue near Castle Hill Road he heard Salsa Music coming from a small building, his curiosity walked him right into the “StartLite Studio” where he saw a group of about 15 children no older than nine years old dancing to a choreography all with red T-shirts headed by instructor and owner David Melendez. David changed LEO’s Salsa Life forever, he will always be grateful and always miss him.

David welcomed LEO with his kind heart and passion for Mambo, LEO promised him that he would try his best to learn more, to please be part of his studio, and that he would pay for classes as he could from his allowance and packing grocery bags at the local grocery store. David refused to charge him but in exchange wanted him to be on time to all classes and scheduled practices. They performed together at Lehman High School Latin events which propelled LEO to get more involved in creating choreographies, prepare events for his school happenings and local community to include teaching Salsa to elders at a Senior Citizen Center.

LEO continued with his love for Salsa dancing at local clubs and establishments in The New York City and The Bronx areas to mention Latin Quarters, Jimmy’s Bronx Café, BBQ’s, Club Jet Set, Studio 84, and The Copa Cabana, and a few more. His passion continued by creating choreographies and performing for yearly Dominican and Puerto Rican Day parade events, and ASPIRA of New York. After moving to Virginia in 2001, LEO commenced dancing and teaching Salsa with SALSAVA Dance Academy headed by Millie and Sandra in 2004. While being bitten by the ON2 bug, the assistance and training from Dance Instructor Icons such as Griselle Ponce, Ana and Joel Masacote, Norberto Herrera, Eric Anthony, Shaka Brown and a few more, at the flick of a light switch we decided to stop teaching ON1 and convert everyone to dancing ON2. 

We were the first ON2 Dance Instructors in Virginia Beach/Hampton Roads area, the scene grew throughout the years were our dreams to build and continue to grow a loving and welcoming Latin Dance community evolved to what it is today; which we have been outstandingly proud of. The hunger for dance and to share his passion never ceased, LEO has joined forces with the great and outstanding Sentimiento Dance Company to share all his love and passion with as many dance lovers as possible so that our community can continue to grow and blossom as much as our hearts desire.

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Melanie Gella - Melanie has a foundation in hip-hop and jazz and has been dancing salsa since 2001 and instructing since 2006 with Continuing Education and at the DMBDS. She was the founder and president of Descarga: Latin Dance Club at Iowa State University. And has performed throughout central Iowa, including at the Inaugural Ball of former Iowa Governor, Chet Culver and as the lead salsa dancer in the production of Swing! at the Des Moines Playhouse. Melanie has also participated in the Chicago Salsa Congress for more than five years. She specializes in teaching beginner, intermediate, and ladies styling/shines in salsa, and beginner cha cha, merengue, and bachata. She has competed in competitions in Chicago and New York.

Melanie moved to Baltimore on May 22nd and upon her arrival, she immediately sought out Sentimiento to continue dancing and become a member of our team. She's performed multiple choreographies with our semi-pro/pro team and is now an instructor within the company.