• ,

Artists in their own words: Sergio Zelaya

Sergio Zelaya and dance partner (Photo by: Jonesie D)

Who: Sergio Zelaya

What: Salsa dancer

Where: Born and raised in New Orleans

Q: Who is someone you wish you had as a pen pal? 

SZ: I feel like Hannibal Lecter would be an interesting person to get to know. My degree from UNO is in psychology, and the criminal mind has always fascinated me. Not just the criminal mind, but the intelligent mind that also has a demented side. I would love to talk with him, get his stories, and maybe I would end up like Clarice and just be completely pulled in by this guy.

It would be more of a Batman and Joker situation. He would try to get into my mind, infiltrate my thoughts, but that wouldn't happen because I would already be doing that to him. I would love to ask him about his relationship with his mother [laughing]. That's such a general psychology question that he would either hate it, find it offensive, or get a kick out of it. Although, I'm not exactly sure how I would end the letters. Maybe I would put something more personalized at the end of our letters to make sure we ended on a good note.

Q: What's an object in your house that no one would expect you to have? 

SZ: I feel like everything I have fits with me. I guess it would be my own personal library. I'm legally blind, so I don't drive, and I can't really read because it hurts my eyes if I read for longer than two minutes.

Yet, I still have a library. I've read all the books in that library, but I can't read them anymore. There's a complete encyclopedia series in that library, and I recently saw a copy of Dante's Inferno. I never finished reading that, so now it's on my hit list to finish.

That collection has been built up since I was a kid. I mean, I loved books as a kid, and I would read One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish over and over again. I loved the rhyme of that book.

Q: Tell us about your music collection. 

SZ: It's really eclectic, actually. You get labeled as a Latin dance instructor and people think that your playlist is all salsa and Spanish music. My playlist is full of everything--from the Beatle and Queen to NAS and Eminem. I listen to a lot of underground artists, and try to find underground artists. People like Immortal Technique, Snow the Product are in my playlist.

There's country, hip hop, jazz, classical, whatever.

And I still have a lot of CDs from back in the day. They are all organized alphabetically according to artist. They're in my room, in the corner, collecting dust. They are on a shelf--one of those old CD shelves that rotates--so they're not just collecting dust [laughing]. I also have boxes of vinyl. The problem is that I don't have a vinyl player.

Although, I don't have any cassette tapes. Actually, I probably do have some; I just have no idea where they are because that was the way to bootleg back in the day. You knew during the top 10 show on the radio that your song was going to come on, so you'd get the tape ready and record.

Q: When do you consider a situation hopeless?

SZ: Never. Why would you ever consider something hopeless? Yes, at the end of the day you have to be realistic and say, 'Okay this is not going to budge.' Yet, as a religious man, I know that God can make anything happen, and if it is in his will, then there's no lack of hope. He can make something change at the snap of a finger.

This happens all the time. There was one point when I was working as a teacher at a Charter School. It was my first year teaching, and the accountant of the school had lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. They fired all the newer teachers and staff members because of this. I was one of the new teachers. For a month I was at home, not knowing what to do or where to go because it was the middle of the year so no one was hiring.

Then one of my friends from church, she was younger at the time and playing high school soccer, said I should come to practice and help her team out. From that day forward, I never stopped coaching. Now I coach at the school I teach at, and it's my alma mater. Go West Jefferson!


Sergio Zelaya is the creator of Bayou Moviemiento, which offers classes in salsa, kizomba, bachata, and more. You can see Sergio dancing around town or at Dance Quarter (1719 Tolendano Street). For more information about upcoming dance competitions and shows, check out Bayou Movimiento's Facebook page and follow them on Instagram. 


Kelley Crawford is a professor, writer, mentor, dancer, and constant questioner. If you would like to contact Kelley Crawford, you can email her at kelley@nolavie.com.