Welcome to Sandunga Dance Company

An Homage to Sandunga Dance Studios

To some this may look like a picture of a vacant store front within a shopping center, but to Agustin Guzman and to countless other people in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, this picture represents something special: Sandunga Dance Studios. On April 1st of this year, Sandunga closed its doors and with that closing, came the end of an era.

Sandunga Dance Studios was not just a place to come and learn how to dance; it represented an ideal, a vision and mission to give back – that vision manifested itself through Sandunga’s owner and CEO Agustin Guzman. Ironically, this dance studio’s priority was not dance, but a vision of community, philanthropy and the hope to one day gainfully employ dancers and allow them to as artists, do and perfect their craft while gaining a livable wage and having affordable healthcare. This was the dream and it was well on its way to coming into fruition, when in 2012 owner Agustin Guzman decided to, in a sense, sublet the business to a current tenant and step away from entrepreneurship. Why did he make such a difficult decision? It was for family, it was for his wife. How do I know such detailed and nuanced information? Because I am Franchesca Guzman – Agustin’s wife. Leaving a business on its way down is one thing, but that’s not what Agustin, known as Augie to his friends, did. Sandunga was well on its way up after surviving the horrid economic downturn from just a couple of years before and the Sandunga Dance team was on its way to performing in one of the largest, well known and reputable events in the genre of salsa in the state – The Texas Salsa Congress founded by Ruby Rivera. Pulling out at what seemed like such an amazing and exciting time was not an easy decision to make but it was made not as an entrepreneur or successful business owner, it was made as a husband who put his family’s wellbeing first.

Many then and even now may not understand the decision – but that’s okay – that isn’t what this article is about. This article is an homage to Sandunga Dance Studios. Sandunga was controversial, diverse, vastly loved by many and hated by others yet for over 10 years Sandunga survived and thrived. At times, Sandunga collaborated with other dance instructors and teams alike, some relationships good and others not, but what happened within those four walls was something special. But how could it have been anything else? Sandunga was born out of a former dance company that had accrued some of the most raw and natural dance talent that the DFW had yet to see. Even then, dance was never the focal point – group process, group facilitation and the emergence of the belief of “we” is better than “me” is what set then Mambo Jam and eventually Sandunga apart from anyone and everyone else.

With both studios, documentaries were filmed, countless hours of dance team practices were done and endless amazing and thrilling Salsa Socials took place. The heartbeat and pulse of Sandunga, its dance team, made a mark and set a standard for the salsa community; with its unlikely “circle” audition format (those of you who experienced it, know what it is) and its focus on the goal of not being better dancers but better people made it unique and often imitated but never duplicated.

So in saying goodbye, we also want to say thank you – thank you to each and every person that had a hand at making Sandunga succeed (you know who you are) and thank you to the haters – who often let us know that we were still on our own and right path (you definitely know who you are). Thank you for all of the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices made to make Sandunga the great entity it was. Thank you for those who grew up with Sandunga, cried at Sandunga, laughed at Sandunga, got married at Sandunga, had babies while with Sandunga, and made Sandunga a second family and home.

The question left is can a legacy such as this one simply leave and vanish into distant nostalgic memories? Or does it evolve and reincarnate into something similar, greater and possibly more impactful? The answer to that question lies within one man – Agustin Guzman. What’s next for the Sandunga legacy? Where will its vision and mission come into fruition next? Only time will tell – but what can be said is that all great things have roots and Sandunga’s owner is returning to his roots in New York City…

And as the saying goes, “if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere”.

Original article by Franchesca Guzman: