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Alumnus Builds International Business Performing Bachata

It was during his junior year that alumnus Jorge Burgos ’07 learned to dance salsa. A chance meeting with a Tampa-area dance instructor inspired Burgos to take lessons. It was something he was motivated to pursue on top of his studies, playing on the baseball team, and serving as a resident assistant.

For the business administration major, dance had become a passion, and it was for good reason.

In 2008, after Burgos graduated from Saint Leo, he and a peer at the dance studio decided to go into business together. “I wanted to be my own boss and control my own life, and that’s what really inspired me to bring business and dance together,” Burgos said.

In that first year, the pair taught dance workshops, and Burgos found a dance partner to help him teach and perform at dance conventions around the world. But all it took was one YouTube video to turn his small business into an international success. Burgos and his dance partner Tanja Kensinger made the decision to transition from dancing salsa to bachata, a social dance style originating from the Dominican Republic. It was not an overly saturated area of dance—a space where they could make a name for themselves.

And that is exactly what they did. Burgos and Kensinger recorded a video of their routine and posted it on YouTube. The video went viral. Today it has received nearly 100 million views.

Watching Burgos and Kensinger dance, it is evident that they have natural chemistry. Their technical skills are mere background to the passion and emotion displayed in every fluid movement. Burgos attributes their connectedness to why the video became so popular.

As the number of video views increased, so did the requests for Burgos to perform. Dance conferences, events, workshops—the opportunities kept coming. For 11 years, Burgos and his partners lived in five different states—New York, Virginia, California, New Jersey, and Florida—and traveled the world, introducing their business and bachata to new people.

It was during these travels that Burgos received the opportunity of a lifetime. A movie producer encouraged him to audition for Shine, a Forgiven Films picture about two Puerto Rican brothers who end up on opposing sides of a gentrification effort in New York’s Spanish Harlem. Salsa is interwoven in the plot, which helped Burgos to secure a starring role as Ralphi Matas.

“It was something I always dreamed of doing,” Burgos said. “It was an exciting and extremely challenging process, but at the end of the day, it was beautiful. It really opened so many doors for me.”

Today Burgos sits at the top of a successful Latin dance brand—Island Touch Dance Academy—that not only provides in-person workshops, but also has expanded to offer online and virtual seminars, branded merchandise, franchised dance teams, and dance conferences. The brand established its own convention in Tampa, FL, and Chicago, with plans to bring it to the Dominican Republic and New York in the coming years. Burgos also is engaged to Kensinger.

In reflecting on his time at Saint Leo, Burgos is grateful for the foundational knowledge and experience he received at the university. As a student, he was even able to have early exposure to what it would be like to run a business when the university allowed him to open a barbershop on University Campus. Burgos ran the shop for three years while he attended classes. 

“I was there at Saint Leo to study business administration because I always wanted to own my own business,” Burgos said. “In thinking back, it was kind of ironic that Saint Leo gave me the opportunity to do it while I was there. I was able to take something I learned that day in class, and in the afternoon, test it out at the barbershop.”

More than 10 years later, Burgos is still using the expertise that he gained from Saint Leo to build a business based on his passion. He credits his passion and business-savvy to much of his success.

“I think what really motivates me is that we’ve been able to transform how people approach dance as career by integrating our business perspective,” Burgos said. “You can make money and be successful as a dancer when you approach it with love and passion, combined with a smart business perspective.”

Marie Cirelli Thornsberry earned her bachelor’s degree in communication from Flagler College (FL). She joined Saint Leo University in April 2018 as director of University Communications.

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