When season three of World of Dance premieres Tuesday night, a same-gender salsa duo named Jonathan y Jorge will be competing for the coveted million-dollar prize. It’s the first time a same-gender pairing has been on the dance competition show judged by Jennifer Lopez, Ne-Yo, and Derek Hough.
“We want to bring awareness to the same-gender dance community,” the pair told Out. “We want everyone to see that same-gender dancing can be just as strong and impactful as traditional dancing. We want people to see us and like or dislike us as dancers and not simply because we’re two men dancing together. We just wanna dance.”
Jonathan Troncoso and Jorge Valcarcel, who hail from Orlando, FL and Lima, Peru, are obviously talented having, in 2017 winning second place at a World Championship after just two weeks training together. And in 2018, they placed third overall at the World Salsa Summit in the same gender category. Ahead of their television debut, which we have an exclusive clip of below, the two discuss how they met, their partnership, and their go-to dance track.
How did you two first meet?
Troncoso: We met through dance at events that we were hired to teach or perform at individually. The one event that made us partner together was when we interacted at the Orlando Salsa Congress in 2017. Jorge was waiting to take a picture by one of the professional photographers on site and had been asking if anyone could lift him to take a picture. I was around and I was like, “Of Course!” — I love to do lifts and tricks. He wanted to go up into a lift we call “bird” which is pretty difficult to do, especially without really knowing the person that you’re going to be lifting and it worked beautifully. We just looked at each other and smiled. At that moment we knew we wanted to partner together.
Detail for me your dance experience. How long have you been doing it individually and what styles did you train in?
Troncoso: I started dancing late in life when I was 20 with a group at my college called Rukus. They were a dancehall, hip-hop crew that was pretty well known on campus. From there, my love for dance grew and I started to train in other styles, wanting to improve my technique. I trained in ballet, jazz, contemporary, and modern until I found salsa in 2012. I fell in love with it very quickly and started to train in it very deeply, seeking out some of the best in the industry to learn from. After years of training, I started my own dance company, Agapé Dance Company, which jump started my success in the Latin dance industry. We went on to eventually win our first championship title in 2016, which also made my love for competing grow! Fast forward to today, where I am now a four-time World Champion in multiple styles of Latin dance including the current World Champion in Professional Same Gender Salsa with Jorge.
Valcarcel: I started dancing from a very young age, learning the beautiful cultural dances of Peruvian people. I then went on to join gymnastics which made me have to stop training in our folkloric dances. While doing gymnastics, my coaches had me train in ballet, contemporary, and hip-hop. I trained and trained until gaining the respect of my peers and coaches and [am now] known as one of the best gymnasts in Lima. I started dancing salsa in 2011 getting into competition very quickly. Only dancing salsa for a short year, I went and competed with a team at a world championship, I placed fifth. I knew then that I would fall in love with this genre and this industry and decided to put my focus into it 100%. I am also a multi-world champion and currently the World Champion in Professional Male Salsa Solo.
What was the first time you two danced together like? What made you decide to keep doing it?
Troncoso: The first time we danced together was honestly great. Jorge is fast for a Same Gender follow which makes my job a little easier in leading him and he’s also a gymnast which really helps for tricks.
Valcarcel: Jonathan is strong and very grounded which really helps for spins and tricks and lifts. He’s also fast on his feet which helps for a lot of the tricky patterns he likes to do. We love dancing with each other.
Describe what the same gender competition scene is like? Is it all men dancing with other men, or are there women dancing with women?
Troncoso: The same gender competition scene is tough! Two men dancing together are capable of doing some incredibly powerful movements and spins simply because of their physical strength. Two women dancing together also has strength in its own way. They’re typically very clean and well put together with great lines and great feet. Both male and female same gender divisions exist in the Latin dance competition scene.
Is it more difficult dancing with another man, like from a technique standpoint?
Troncoso: In my opinion, it is a little more difficult to dance with another man. For one, men typically weigh more than women which makes it a little harder to spin and do certain tricks and lifts. Two, men tend to want to lead, especially if you’re taught to lead before you learn to follow, which then gives them the tendency of back-leading. It creates a bit of a back and forth battle between partners when dancing, making it harder to lead. Once you learn your partner’s lead or follow more, it’s makes it easier. Getting accustomed to each other is super important as it is with any partnership.
What are your go-to dance tracks?
Valcarcel: Go-to dance tracks? We’d have to say we love Chiquito Team Band’s music, so anything from them.
World of Dance premieres Tuesday at 9pm.