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Conversations with Kaya Barraza

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kaya Barraza.

Hi Kaya, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today.
I was born and raised in Barranquilla, Colombia. Music and dancing were essential in my family life growing up and continue to be a part of my DNA. My 83-year-old mother, who still dances professionally to this day, is living proof that age is not a factor in doing what you love, and that is how I live my life. My first memories as a young girl were of training with my mom’s dance team. I was the youngest person there, but I felt the music and loved moving to the instruments with all the team members. I remember wanting to share that feeling with everyone.

Along with dancing and school, I also participated in cheerleading and skating lessons. Being an active young girl taught me much – I learned the importance of discipline, time management, and organization. I came to this country with my 7-year-old daughter in 1998 with no English knowledge, so my primary’ language’ was music and dance – both helped me survive pretty much any and everything life has thrown my way. Over the years, music became my refuge. I know now more than ever that music and dance is a universal language that isn’t just for fun. It helps build physical and mental strength and helps boost self-confidence. My passion for music, dance, and community is my specialty. After I started KayaDance, I searched for venues and would not take no for an answer, and soon enough, I had small venues all over the city. Success wasn’t about money; it was about injecting Latin roots into the city and watching the diverse community come together to dance and enjoy the music. In 2009 a friend and I came up with the idea of starting a Latin dance convention. These conventions started in Puerto Rico, followed by Los Angeles and New York, but there were none in Maryland, so without thinking much. No real team, only my daughter, who was my biggest supporter and helped me with the planning and execution. I founded the biggest Latin Dance convention in Maryland that became the Baltimore Salsa & Bachata Congress, held at the Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor with an annual attendance of approximately 2000 people. Fast forward to 2022; this type of event exists in almost every city in the United States and almost every country around the globe. While running the Baltimore Salsa & Bachata congress, I got an offer from the Horseshoe Casino, Latin night at Johnny Sanchez. Following this offer came Lunes Latino at the Maryland Live and others. All continued opportunities for me to unite people with music and dance. In 2016 I decided to branch out and became one of the few Latin female DJs focused on the love of keeping Salsa alive. My first gig was in 2016 at a local Baltimore casino. Since then, I have played in various events such as Miami Salsa Congress, Cuba Salsa Congress, Bachateando Miami Dance Festival, Tijuana Salsa Festival, DC Bachata Congress, and local venues/events. Even then, I still felt I needed to do more. In 2019 I decided to open a Non-Profit organization, Proinspira Inc, to support Veterans and underprivileged children through performing arts, specializing in music and dance. In 2022 and 2023, I will be a featured DJ at Miami Salsa Congress, Bachateando Dance Festival, Bogota Bachata Festival, World Dance Festival, DC Bachata Congress, and Punta’ l Pie Colombia Salsa Festival. We faced the Pandemic for our opening, but we are resilient and plan to return to continue our mission.

Can you talk to us about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
Balancing life as a single mother with my two amazing kids (now adults), who have been my strength, along with friends that I call “family,”; balancing a full-time job, going back to school, and so much more. Like any journey, mine has not come without its struggles. I’ve faced discrimination, language barriers, and lots of NOs. And still, I wouldn’t change this journey for anything, it has been challenging and rewarding at the same time, but my biggest reward has been to inspire and help others to follow their passion and insist until they succeed. I will continue to promote Latin culture through my passion for dance and music as long as life allows me to.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
I started teaching dance when I got to this country and moved from state to state until I moved to Okinawa, Japan. This is where I continued teaching salsa, started my first dance team, and truly discovered how universal music and dance are. My passion from there only grew as I made my way to Baltimore, MD, where I settled down in 2006. I was in a new chapter and naturally gravitated toward finding ways to bring Latin music and dance culture into the city. I knocked on the door of every dance studio until one opened for me, and that was the beginning of my journey as a promoter, dance instructor, dancer, and DJ in the DMV. With a determined mindset, I finally opened the KayaDance company in 2007, thinking it’s all possible with hard work and discipline. I am proud of my children and where hard work has taken us. I believe that persistence and determination set me apart from others.

Do you have recommendations for books, apps, blogs, etc.?
Books: Entrepreneurial You by Dorie Clark
El principito by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Cien años de soledad by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Podcast:
Good Life project
Palabras mayores

Pricing:

  • Dance lessons $100 /Hr
  • DJ services from $350 to $800
  • Event organization – Depends

Contact Info:

  • Instagram: kayadancecompany
  • Facebook: kaya DJKaya
  • Youtube: kayadancecompany

Image Credits
Derrick Davis Raymond Edwards Photography

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