The greatest anthem for summer in the City for me is Marc Anthony's rousing "Vivir Mi Vida". When I hear this song floating over the waves of the East River, on a hot, hot summer night, while the NYC Ferry sounds its horn, summer has truly arrived. Its a tune that calls families into the city park on the waterfront in Queens, where you'll find everyone's favorite B-Girl, Jesaida "J*La-Roc" leading children, adults, seniors and the occasional puppy in a lively, heart thumping, foot-stomping, hand-clapping and inspiring salsa lesson that is an explosive celebration of Life. "You have only this one life!" she shouts. She sings. She preaches.
Jesaida is just one of the many instructors from Martinez Dance Studio, founded by Israel Martinez, which has been operating for decades in Astoria, Queens before moving to the Dutch Kills area of Long Island City four years ago. The popular Wednesdays on the Waterfront series and dance social at Hunters Point South Park in Long Island City (Now, in its fourth year) is a summertime favorite tradition. With a team of charismatic instructors and collection of beats, this bi-weekly production draws crowds from all the boroughs, New Jersey, Long Island and Staten Island. On any given event day, guests can enjoy drumming circles, live music, Zumba, or Salsa lessons.
Puerto Rican roots and Latin influence in music and art have been the basis for Israel Martinez´s work. Born in the South Bronx, surrounded by the rich Puerto Rican culture, Israel was brought up with the sounds, smells and vibrancy of his Latin heritage. Holidays and family gatherings were a time for impromptu jam sessions where Israel learned to dance and play percussion instruments. As a child, he often performed on stage with his father, Israel "Chamaco" Martinez, lead singer for the Salsa band, Batiz y su Orquesta Tropicana.
Coming up at a time where street dancing was creating unconventional trends, Israel associated himself with dance pioneers such as NYC Breakers and developed his skills in Up–Rock, Pop´n Lock, Freestyle and Loft. As a result of such diverse training, Israel broke onto the choreography and production scene with an eclectic style of wide–range appeal.
With his "Performance-Based Living" approach, Israel emphasizes healthy, active lifestyles through dance. "I'm a strong believer in staying fit through dance. I believe a fit community is a strong community," says Israel Martinez. This type of physical activity disguised as socializing is a great way to make fitness available to everyone. His mission is to bring diverse communities together that bond over music and dance.
Parties on the waterfront cultivate music and dance based on African and Cuban rhythms...rhythms that New York City has always embraced. The sounds are as diverse as the city itself. The bottom line is I do this for my city and my community. Young or old, black or white, gay or straight they are all my community. – Israel Martinez
You can still catch these final performances, dance socials with free lessons:
Wednesdays on the Waterfront, 6:30pm at Hunters Point South Park
8/23 - Back To "Old School" 80's party
9/6 - Featuring Grupo Descarrilao
Ann O'Connor is a "Cultural Collaborator," Board Member of the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy and owner of Zoescope Studio. The studio brings humans together and combines elements of the arts, culture, education, healing and environmental awareness to build and activate communities through socially- conscious, inclusive content, programming and engagement. Wednesdays on the Waterfront is programmed by Zoescope Studio for the Hunters Point Parks Conservancy. I hope we meet in the space of Real "Social" Media - LIVE and in-person.
"Zoescope" is derived from the Greek "Zoe" meaning "Life": See Life Differently.