By Dakota Parks for Downtown Crowd
Emily Bishop, 22, has spent the last three years intensively training in dance studios in Chicago, Italy and Florida. The buckets of sweat, sore muscles and three hours of training a day are nothing compared to the feeling of electricity pumping through her body when she dances. Bishop has experience in a wide variety of dance genres including tap, ballet, jazz, hip hop, contemporary and heels, but salsa and bachata have stolen her heart. In college at the University of West Florida, she first learned salsa and became the vice president of the Pura Sabrosura Salsa Club. It wasn’t until she met professional dancer, Jose Serrano, at the New Orleans Salsa Bachata Festival that she began training with the Evolución Latina Dance Company in Chicago and became a franchise director of the Evolución Latina studio in Destin, FL. You can follow her on Instagram @emilygbishop_ and catch her teaching dance classes at the Gordon Community Art Center and Enlightened Studios.
What is it about salsa and bachata that make you so passionate?
It’s about allowing the music to take over your body and possess you. There are so many different elements to the music—baseline, percussion and melody with the Spanish guitar, piano and singer—that you can submerse yourself within. With salsa and bachata, there are all these isolated parts of your body that you’re moving. You’re utilizing the ground, moving your hips, then you have your upper body, which moves in tandem, but you’re separating your chest and moving your shoulders. All of these parts of you are making these circles and figure eights, and it’s like this machine that has its own mind. You feel your connection to the earth and your connection to your dance partner, making eye contact, allowing the momentum of both of your bodies to create something.
Can you walk me through your creative process for choreography?
Everyone has a different method of creating. For me, I start with the music and actually write down what I am feeling at what moments in the song. Then, in the studio I see what naturally manifests itself in my body, trying to create that balance between what my brain is seeing and what my body wants to do. Once I have a general outline, I start to fill in the spaces and pay extra attention to the musicality. What are the parts of the music that are most impactful to the audience? How does the song progress and repeat? Then, I think about what story I want to tell and what emotion I want the audience to feel. Last, I drill it over and over again, tweaking steps until I have it memorized.
You studied studio art in college and post a lot of figure art alongside your dance videos. How does your art and dance correlate?
Learning about studio art really informed my ideas about creating content and videography. I studied under a retired FSU professor and ended up getting a minor in studio art at UWF. I started learning more about telling stories with dance and creating visual art with dance. I want to inspire people to find their own space and own their own art. In both my watercolors and pen and ink, it’s all about concepts like colors and line. I start out with this concept or image in my head, and it morphs into an emotional story, just like my dancing. At this point in my life, I’ve been investing heavily in dancing, training my body and pushing myself as far as I can go, and focusing less on my artwork.
When you’re not training, do you help instruct dance at the studio?
At our studio, I like to say that it’s facilitating the growth of dance. It’s about learning techniques, responding to incorrect technique and drilling their bodies to begin to understand what needs to happen. The brain makes neural connections to your muscles, and the more you repeat those actions, the more you create action without having to think about it. You take away from the training what you want. So, if you want to show up and do burpees and cardio with us, you can do that. If you want to fully invest in learning how to count, you can do that. We have all levels of dancers that come in. A lot of people in the community want to have fun, social dance, become a better dancer and just feel competent on the dance floor.
What is next for you in your dance career?
I’m at a transitory point in my life where I’m deciding whether or not to stay here in Florida and build the dance community or move to a bigger city like Chicago or LA. I know I want to continue my training and traveling. I’ve been all over Europe, Japan, Guatemala and Puerto Rico. Traveling has really influenced my art and helped me believe that anything is possible. My current goals outside of training are creating shows, getting booked for festivals, having a performance team booked around the world and being a choreographer that creates dance to keep the community evolving. I see so much potential in the artistic evolution of salsa, bachata, heels, hip hop and contemporary dance.