We had the good fortune of connecting with Alejandra Fontao and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Alejandra, what led you to pursuing a creative path professionally?
Both Reni and I enjoy creating art through dance, and it would be difficult to imagine working in a career that did not have a creative opportunity. Plus we want to challenge our minds and body. We never wanted repetition in our career even though we have held repetitive part-time jobs that served as a stepping stone. We knew that there was going to be a time in which we could pursue something with more depth. In our weekly schedule, we rehearse routines, drill dance exercises, choreograph, create new ways to teach, teach lessons (group and private), and coach performance teams. This career is not free from repetition, in one performance team practice we can run the same choreography for a show over 30 or 40 times. However, there is always something to learn and there is always something to refine which makes the rehearsal itself exciting and challenging. It is even rewarding to come up with a solution to a problem that was a previous limitation.
Please tell us more about your work. We’d love to hear what sets you apart from others, what you are most proud of or excited about. How did you get to where you are today professionally. Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way. What do you want the world to know about you or your brand and story?
When Reni and I started this dance company, we focused on love and passion for the craft first and then money and cost worked out (which sounds almost backwards). However, early on, we didn’t have much overhead expense and as we kept pushing our limits (personal and physical) to take on more projects we met financial checkpoints as we refined our ability to dance and teach dance (two vastly different areas). With an art like dance you have to show a bit of who you. When you watch a performance you can tell if it looks unnatural to the artist. Thus we wanted to bring dances (salsa and bachata) that we craved from when we lived in Florida to share with people in Colorado as a primary focus. In addition, we are calculated risk takers and some risks turned out in our favor and some did not. Opening up our own dance studio 2 years ago was one such calculated risk. We obtain great joy when people show up eager to learn how to dance. Both Reni and I started our dance journey over 10 years ago in Cuban Rueda classes. In this style of dance, couples dance in a large circle and a “caller” calls out the moves in Spanish. This particular dance is very fun because there a lot of moves where you switch dance partners in the middle of a circle and interact as a group. People who normally wouldn’t talk to each now have the ability to meet over a common interest. Our RNA Rueda Team and RNA Performance Teams (solo styling and Co-Ed) have recorded videos that they are able to share with their friends and family and have the ability to express themselves. We feel that it is rewarding to see people dancing styles that catapulted our love of dance and we hope they are able to inspire others. However, that satisfying feeling would never exist if we didn’t take such a big risk to open the dance studio or choose a career as full-time dance instructors. So we believe that our passion for dance but also passion for teaching led us to where we are today. RNA Dance was also built upon having a consistent structure but being adaptable. We believe that if a person comes to learn dance at our studio they should a systematic way to learn. Both Reni and I have science degrees so we treated dance as a science itself. Therefore, all the dances that we teach have pretty detailed class syllabi that the students can learn from and instructors can give immediate feedback. This structure provides a consistent product for our students and they know they will attend a class and get a certain quality every time. Not all of this is fail proof and we improve on things overtime as we analyze why certain things work and why others don’t. Therefore, we have to be adaptable to find out what is and what isn’t working and and how to best learn from those areas of opportunities. We also in our current position due to in part for our fusion of dance styles. Our performances and social dances (dancing with a partner without a planned choreography) integrate different elements of other dances into that traditional style. I personally like to think of this fusion of styles in the same manner a chef may take two different styles of cuisine to create a totally new flavor combination. That is exactly what we love to do blend the rules of a traditional style of dance with another. We weren’t the first to introduce Latin Dance in Colorado but we were the first to blend contemporary and acrobatic elements (i.e., acro yoga) into bachata routines. We particularly love this integration because the product looks different and this is what people associate with our brand. Our students are able to learn in a systematic way on how to use components of dances and see where they can push the lines of what exists to create something unique. This is how students are eventually to also view dance as not only a science but ultimately an art.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Prior to restrictions, invited instructors or out-of-state students would typically spend a week in Colorado. Colorado has so much to offer, we love to hike trails in Boulder, social dance at events, get a drink at a speak-easy and head to Avanti. We love to connect with nature and it is not as physically demanding on the body like dance. Denver is a central hub of different cultures and disciplines so we like to find unique places to grab a drink. One place is located behind an art gallery which gives a changing vibe based on the artist’s creative vision. The dance scene is always filled with variety of different people, so where there is dance there is bound to be somebody that will interest you and that makes hanging out worthwhile. I am an introverted person and you would be surprised on how many introverted people are in the dance scene. Dancers love to dance 24/7 so there is never a shortage of dance events especially in a vibrant city like Denver.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
First and foremost, I would love to recognize our loyal students who have been there to support us from day one. We traded sandy beaches for snow covered mountain tops and ever since we have arrived in Colorado three years ago they have always been there for us and they are the reason why we continue to teach dance as a profession. We have some students that came in to our workshops when we were visiting instructors and that are still training with us. Their work ethic is unparalleled and despite the pandemic they have continued to train virtually or with a lot of restrictions. I believe that takes a lot of will power and discipline. I would also like to acknowledge my mother and father. My mother for introducing me to dance as a hobby when I was a little girl living in Venezuela. I can remember stepping foot into my first dance class and it was because of you. My father for helping us renovate the studio. When we opened up just over 2 years ago, all the walls needed a fresh coat of paint, the floor boards needed to be replaced and we had only partial mirrors in our dance studio rooms. So for this I thank him because that donated time allows many dancers to have a place to practice and really express themselves. Finally, I’d like to thank my dance and business partner Reni. he is the one person i can count on to always be there through thick and thin both in day-to-day business tasks and outside of that as well. We have different strengths and weaknesses so together we were able to build a successful dance company. He constantly motivates me and we continually teach each other new skills and techniques to just be better than yesterday.
oliver silk photography, yamastyle