bachata 2019

Interview: Samy El Magico

Every so often you come across an artist that is in a world of their own.  Born and raised in France, Samy El Magico has traveled the world for the past 8 years teaching Dominican Bachata.  His unique style and flavor was born from the streets of the Dominican Republic. We met up with Samy in Los Angeles to learn more about his background.

Tell me about when you were first introduced to bachata.

When I was 21 years old, I went vacation in the Dominican Republic with a friend.  I went there for a month and stayed in a non-touristy location. My friend was a musician and we spent a lot of time in his studio listening to music.  We’d listen to bachata, merengue, bolero, all different kinds of music, and I learned for the first time, how to listen to music.

In the DR, everyone is drinking, dancing, and having fun.  One time I went to a party and everyone was dancing, I didn’t know how to dance.  My friend’s sister asked me to dance, but I didn’t know any moves. I danced with her a little,  and that’s how I started. 

When I went back to France, I wanted to check out a bachata party.  When I went, it was so different, it was amazing. I tried dancing with some girls but they looked at me and said you’re not dancing bachata.  I saw many people dancing bachata with a lot of turns. I was really confused. I had just gotten back from the DR, where bachata was born, and here in Paris people were dancing totally different.  

So I didn’t dance for two months, then my friend came back to France and told me to go to a party with him.  I met a lot of Dominicans who said that in France bachata is different and had changed. I ended up going back to the DR to learn more about bachata.

So you went back to the DR, what happened then?

No one was really teaching bachata.  People would go to parties and there would be demonstrations or shows, but no classes.  I learned bachata dancing on the streets with lots of people or watching other people dance.  

When did you start teaching bachata?

I started teaching three years after I started dancing.   For me, it was really important to learn how to teach. You can be a really good dancer, but teaching is very different.  I went to school to learn how to teach, how to communicate with people, and different things, not just dance.

What’s been a big challenge in your career?

The biggest challenge I’ve had is traveling to different countries with different connections, different cultures, and trying to share your passion.  Sometimes people react different and you have to adapt to the people.

It’s also difficult traveling from France to LA with a 9 hour difference and immediately start teaching in English.  When I started, I only spoke French. I learned Spanish and English over the years.  

What’s been rewarding in your career?

To meet people, explore new cultures and countries.  I love being in different situations, you learn a lot.

You’re Tunesian right?  Tell me more about your background.

I was born in France, but my family is Tunesian.  In Tunesia you have different cultures too, it’s amazing.  I was in Tunesia recently, and people sent me messages from Tunesia thinking I’m not Tunesian.  They’re like “Samy, I really love your dance, and I want you to come to my festival.” There are many communities in Tunesia and the scene is strong.  Everyone thought I was latino at first, but now everyone knows I have origins from Tunesia. I’m like a personality there and I have my own festival there now.  It’s amazing.  

Do you speak Arabic?

 I speak Tunesian and I speak Arabic.  

What’s the difference between Tunesian and Arabic?

Everyone in Tunesia speaks Tunesian.  The first language is Arabic. I learned Arabic and Tunesian growing up.  But when I’m in Lebanon or Egypt, I can speak Arabic and communicate.  

Who inspires you?

My family, especially my mom and dad.  They inspire me to do good things. I also believe in my gut. 

What are some plans for 2020?

At 21 I opened my first restaurant/club. Now I have two restaurants, one club, event company and dance school.  I run 5 festivals all over the world. I want to continue teaching, investing, and creating. 

Is there anything else you want to add or we should know about you?

What I learned with this lifestyle is that time moves very fast.  If I have a festival two years from now and every weekend I have a festival, it comes quick.  I learned that tomorrow you don’t know where you’re going to be or what you’re going to do. For me it’s more important to share life with good people, friends, and family.  Money is nothing now. You can have money today and tomorrow it’s different. Share more and be with people you love and help people.

Thank you Samy, hope to catch up with you again soon.

Thank you.

— SBKZ Media filmed one of Samy’s festival in Troyes, France - Bachata French Kiss

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Question Every Dance Festival You Attend

These are some questions you should be ask yourself before attending any dance festival:

  1. What’s the lineup like? Are they bringing local or international instructors?

  2. Is it the event in one location or multiple locations? How is transit/parking?

  3. Who’s DJing and how much experience do they have?

  4. What is the sound system like? Do they have monitor speakers?

  5. Is there an ambiance/atmosphere/theme in the main room? (lighting/decor/vibe)

  6. What’s the floor like?

  7. What’s the hotel/venue like?

  8. Who’s attending the festival? Is it all local dancers or more national/international?

  9. How much does the full pass cost? Is it worth it for the artists, DJs, and overall experience?

  10. Are there shows? How many shows are there each night? Do they have shows every night? Do the shows run late cutting into social dancing?

  11. What’s the overall vibe/energy of the festival like? Are people stuck in team clicks or are there solo dancers trying to make new friends?

  12. What’s the promoter’s reputation like?

  13. What kind of online presence do they have? Do they communicate via FB/IG with dancers in regards to concerns and last minute updates or changes?

  14. Are there other activities that we could do outside of the dance event?

  15. Is the festival the same every year? (same talent, same dancers) Are they trying to do something different each year to improve the dancer’s experience?

  16. How much time do you really have social dancing?

  17. Why are you attending the event? Is it for the workshops, shows, social dancing, or jack & jill?

  18. Is the festival primarily a showcase/performance, competitive (jack & jill), workshop, or social dancing (marathon), or vacation type festival?

  19. Does the festival offer multiple rooms with different dance genres or focus on one specific style of dance?

These are just a few questions, there are MANY more you could ask yourself.

Let’s improve the overall dance scene by raising the bar. With so many festivals in today’s world, the quality has gone down, and many festivals feel the same.

Being aware of the different types of festivals, congresses, weekenders, and events will help you become a better consumer in the dance world.

Everyone attends events for different reasons. There will always be unhappy or dissatisfied attendees. However, being aware and investing in events that improve overall scenes is something that we should all strive for. Quality over quantity is the name of the game. Hope everyone is having an awesome summer!