When he was a child Tony Lara had the firm belief that he could be a professional dancer, and as he says, “Sometimes belief is everything.”

Belief may be everything, but sometimes life blows you off course a bit.  Well, we all know that, we’ve all experienced that, but its allowing the breeze to guide you back in to your dreams that’s the secret.

And yes, Tony Lara did veer off a bit, but then again he did veer back again, and along with Daniella is touring the world spreading the Bachata word and raising money for a good cause in the process.

“Flamenco is in the family,” explained Tony when I caught up with him at the Mambo City Five Star Congress.  “My mother was a flamenco dancer, and when we were kids our parents made us dance in front of other people, so I was always up dancing.

“From an early age I wanted to be  professional dancer,” he continued, “In fact, I wanted to be one of the Benny Hill dancers.  I just thought it would be great to be a professional dancer.”

But, as in all good stories, boy has dream, boy loses dream, boy finds dream again.

Said Tony, “When I left school I lost the path to professional dancing.  But I did go out for a while with a girl who wanted to do ballroom dancing.  Somehow we ended up doing salsa instead.

“I learned at Vila Stefanos and was more or less hooked first time.  But I did it for fun; I didn’t look at it as a job.”

But fate took a hand and Tony lost his proper job when the company changed hands.

“I was a regular DJ at Havana in St Albans”, he continued, “and they needed a teacher on Tuesdays.  I decided to give it a go…..then I opened another class in Ealing,” and the rest, as they say, is history.

“I moved to Italy with Daniella five years ago and opened up a professional dance school in Bari where we teach different dance disciplines.”

As he says, “the opportunity was there, so we took it.”

And the Bachata? What about the Bachata – his signature dance.

He explained, “It’s a popular dance in Italy and Paul Young wanted to introduce other disciplines to the UK Congress; so we decided to teach it and it took off from there.  The work started to come in, then kept coming in, and now we’re teaching Bachata internationally.”

But there is another element to Tony dancing Bachata.  When I‘d seen him earlier in the day he had a beard, when I interviewed him, he had not.  In the interim he had been held hostage on stage whilst money was collected to make him have it shaved off.  He did it to raise a substantial sum for the children of the Dominican Republic – a regular collection at events he an Daniella appear at.

Why this cause  in particular?

“Bachata is fulfilling some of my dreams,” he explained, “and helping me travel, meet people and be in the public eye.  The dance originates from the Dominican Republic and we wanted to do something for the children; so we started to do collections. We wanted to make a difference.”

And advice to salseros?

“Get out there, learn as much as possible, enjoy it as much as possible, and that’s what its all about.”

And don’t forget to put some coins in that collection tin.

Copyright Chris Penhall 2007

Article originally appeared on Salsa-UK website