Thomas Guererro is another Big Apple next generation Mambo instructor who teaches in Washington Heights. He is one of New York’s three leading Dominican dance teachers and a founding member of The Santo Rico Dance Company. As a dancer he has traveled around the country from coast-to-coast, up north to Canada and to Puerto Rico. He has performed at many of New York’s and New Jersey’s top Salsa/Mambo dance spots, not to mention at Congreso Mundial de la Salsa. He currently is the Director of the Santo Rico Dance Company, taking over the reigns from his mentor Wilton Beltre.
Thomas teaches his unique brand of mambo dancing at his own studio; The Santo Rico Dance School is located at 2403 2nd Avenue (between 123rd & 124th Streets), 2nd floor, in Manhattan's Harlem. Upon visiting his Saturday class, I could tell that he is a no non-sense, direct, firm, shoot straight-from-the-hip type of guy. He is an instructor who communicates well and speaks his mind. He doesn’t beat around the bush and gets straight to the point. His classes are taught in a bi-lingual format (English-Spanish). Counting is done in English while instructions are offered in both English and Spanish. He is assisted by two other instructors who help him divide the class into three different learning levels (beginner, intermediate and advance).
Thomas usually begins his class with open floor shines (solo dancing). Each shine is reviewed one at a time. If a student is not familiar with a shine, he will pull the student to one side and break it down to them personally while the rest of the group continues to practice the same step to music. Many of Santo Rico’s intermediate shines are complex and long. That’s why Thomas breaks these down into segments (much like some instructors do with complex turn patterns). He’ll move onto a new segment only when his group has been able to comprehend the previous one. These shines are tackled by thoroughly breaking them down to the count of the clave first, then performed to a slow tune and finally to a faster song. The number of shines covered in class depend on how quickly students are absorbing material on that day. Thomas usually doesn’t like to move on until everyone in his group understands every step covered by him so far.
Whenever possible pointers are provided to help enhance a student’s styling or corrections are made to help avoid accidents when dancing. Concepts are reviewed and drilled into students like Thomas’s 4 rules of dancing (1.Head up; 2. Shoulders move to music & tempo; 3. Knees bent & 4. Weight on Ball of foot). The four items together result in balance when dancing
The second half of the class focuses on partner dancing. Thomas, like his two other Dominican counterparts, is known for his innovative turn patterns. I’ve nicknamed him the "Spin-miester" because of the routine he choreographed for Santo Rico during the 1999 Congreso Mundial de la Salsa in Puerto Rico (which was a non-stop performance of complex turn patterns and spins). His partnering style consists of multiple turns, spins & counter-turns for both men and women. Thomas usually leads by counting out loud. He drills the hell out of a turn pattern to make sure that students get it. Each pattern is demonstrated, verbally broken down and then practiced to music. He’ll offer valuable partnering tips on styling, balance and footwork with emphasis on safety (i.e. elbow placement so not to hit the girl during a turn pattern). After a pattern has been absorbed, Thomas will ask couples to execute the sequence one at a time. This is when he’ll catch individual mistakes and make additional corrections. At the end, the group is left to practice to music on their own, while Thomas supervises.
Thomas's Style in a nutshell: If I were to describe Thomas Guerrero’s style of dancing mambo to other instructors, I would say he has a very energetic Dominican Street Style of dancing. He is a human metaphor of multiple turns, spins, turn combos, counter turns and sudden stops with change of directions. He has a very strong and aggressive lead. Many women become multiple spinning experts under his style of mambo dancing out of sheer necessity and practice. So if your looking for interesting turn patterns and got energy to burn on the dance floor then Thomas Guerrero may be the instructor for you.