Meet Karen Rodriguez
Karen was born in Lima Peru and has been actively involved in the dance world since the age of three. She began her dance journey and later career in classical ballet, jazz, Afro-Peruvian (negroide), Peruvian folk dancing, musical theatre, Mexican folk dancing, gymnastics and improv. She has been involved in dozens of theatre productions at community and college theatres, television commercials, corporate and private events.
Karen continued developing as a dancer even after she left Peru and went to high school in Orem Utah. During those years Karen danced and performed for school productions. It wasn’t until she came to Canada in 1986 that she came to understand that Latin dance had evolved into something spectacular. Karen had only done classical dancing up until that time and even took up urban hip hop to keep performing but never thought much of Latin dance because at least in Peru, Salsa did not have the Swing and Hustle influences as in the west. In Peru Salsa was danced as Cumbia where the man would lead a simple turn every so often but nothing that resembled the amazing new fusions like in the movie “Salsa”. That one movie did it for her, she was wowed, became starry eyed and looked for any Salsa instructors in Toronto.
After meeting her husband Peter at a Latin nightclub called “La Classique” in the late 90’s, she became focused in Latin dance as a whole new dance discipline for her. Gone was the ‘recreational’ aspect of the dance, instead she decided to make this a professional move.
Karen then traveled to NY, L.A, Miami and Europe to seek instruction from the best performers, choreographers, and dance companies Karel Flores, Griselle Ponce, Nelson Flores, Eddie Torres, Santo Rico, Yamulee and Alma Latina to name a few.
In Canada Karen became a member of the On Beat Dance Company, performed, taught and choregraphed and finally ran as artistic director for United Salseros, and co-founded Latin Dance Theatre. In recent years she choreographed for Soul2Sole Latin dance company, Pivot Dance School and Salsa In The 6ix. Karen is forever grateful to the wonderful schools that have formed her and the amazing collaborations and associations she has been blessed to have developed.
She has been fortunate to have many choreographies showcased at Harbourfront Centre, Salsa on St. Clair, Salsa at Blue Mountain, Pride Parade, Carassauga, Salsa on Streetsville, The Salsa Bachata festival, The Canada Salsa and Bachata Congress as well as corporate events and wedding parties. After years in the hustle & bustle and many knee injuries she began her teaching career and has never looked back.
In 2019 after an incredible array of events, an opportunity to open a professional dance studio was presented to her and she ran with it. This was a whole new chapter for her because until then having an actual studio was not in the plans, all Karen wanted to do was create for others. One thing she learned was that if you learned to serve others instead of yourself it will reward you. What was her hang-up? Well, after years of teaching and choreographing for some of these students mostly for free, she now had to charge. Yes, as an artist she had to charge…cringe! Luckily with the support of many of these students (thank you Mark, Bre, Andrei, Kayla, Stefan) the doors to Abanico Dance opened and have had incredible success in blending classical training with Latin dance for the Canadian public to enjoy. We welcomed Huracán Dance Company, authentic NY Style Salsa On2 into our school and under the guidance of World Champions Jeff Taveras and Julie Aponte we integrated and founded Huracán Canada.
Karen’s vision is for Abanico Dance to be the place where dancers and performers can be developed with both forms of training. To develop not only a triple threat but a true Dance-force of Nature!
As one of the best teachers I know quoted: "The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra." -Jimmy Johnson