Brando Ortiz is coming from nearby Queens, but he's already traveled the globe winning world championships in salsa competitions. He'll study dance and business at Adelphi.
Brando Ortiz can feel his ancestors with him every time he dances salsa. He’ll study dance and business at Adelphi. He started dancing when he was 9 and was hooked after his first step of Cali-style salsa, known for its speed and fast footwork.
“I love all the culture behind it,” Ortiz said. “I’m Ecuadorean, and having a Hispanic background made me want to represent this art to everyone because it makes me proud.”
Since then, the 18-year-old from Queens, New York, has danced around the world, hoofing it at salsa competitions in Florida, the Dominican Republic and even China. He’s won world championships with the salsa dance company Cali Salsa Pal Mundo, based in the Jackson Heights neighborhood of Queens, and has danced professionally in shows throughout his hometown.
Ortiz is coming to Adelphi in the fall, planning to pursue a double major in dance and general business. It’s a combo with a specific purpose.
“My dream is to work as a professional dancer for a few years and then open up my own dance school,” he said. Ortiz plans to prepare for the practical end of that dream with courses in accounting, marketing and management. He’ll prepare for the artistic side with classes in ballet and modern dance.
Ortiz thought about going to college in California. “I went there for a summer, took a class at the Millennium Dance Complex in Los Angeles,” he said. “I enjoyed the classes and training, but I think I’ll get better training in New York. It’s my home and I love all the culture here.”
Ortiz also wants to stay close to his parents. “I have an amazing relationship with them because they have always been so supportive and encouraging with everything I do,” he said.
He plans to live with them in Queens and commute to the Garden City campus. He’s already taking an economics class online this summer so he can complete his undergraduate degree in four years instead of the five a double major usually requires.
Glittery costumes—and a partner, too
Ortiz was always drawn to dance, even as a little boy. He began taking hip-hop lessons at a dance studio when he was 9, but was unmoved. “I got bored with it,” he said.
Then his best friend in fourth grade told him about the salsa class she was taking. She was excited about the dance that was born in New York City in the 1970s from a mix of music and steps from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Columbia and Harlem. It offered glittery costumes, dramatic moves and the camaraderie of a partner.
Ortiz tried it and he loved it. “It brought me so much joy,” he said.
He spent the rest of his elementary and middle school years practicing salsa steps at the Queens dance studio, dancing four hours a day, six to seven days a week. Then, when he was 12, he moved to the Broadway Dance Center in Manhattan, where he honed his craft and began winning salsa competitions across the country.
“I walked into the Broadway Dance Center with no technique training, so it was scary,” he said. “I started training eight hours every weekend in ballet, hip-hop, acrobatics and contemporary. My teachers pushed me to achieve more than I thought I was capable of. I am so grateful for that.”
He added to that training by majoring in modern dance and ballet as a student at the Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School in Queens. His daily routine included two hours of ballet, practicing the art’s disciplined, difficult arabesques, penchés and more.
It opened a new world for him.
“Ballet has taught me so much about my posture and my body because it takes so much strength and flexibility,” he said. “Learning the technique has made all my dancing better.”
Dreaming of J. Lo
In his teens, Ortiz went back to hip-hop dance, too. This time it took. Now it’s his favorite. He’d like to make a career of hip-hop—dancing it and teaching it.
“My dream job is to dance with other artists, especially with Jennifer Lopez. I look up to her so much,” he said. “She incorporates a lot of salsa and hip-hop, both of the styles I really do love.”
He thinks Adelphi can help him achieve his goals of dancing with the stars and owning that studio. “Adelphi was perfect for me because I can do both business and dance,” he said. “I am so grateful for that.”