It's been said, the ultimate goal in life is to get paid to do what you love.
Many dancers, over the years, have left their mark on the hustle. Some of yesterdays greats branched off in various directions. Some have conquered multiple careers.
Hector Berrios did all the above. He took his street dancing to a competitive level then bumped it up a notch to performer. At the top of his game he made a lateral move and ended up playing professional Baseball. Not bad for a guy from the South Bronx.
Literally dancing in the streets and at the youth centers, Hector, as a teenager developed his crafts. Once he came upon the Manhattan club dancers (a more polished style) he was inspired to climb to new levels. After witnessing his first contest he was hooked and motivated to be the best. He began dancing with Debbie Benitiz (sister of world renown producer Jelly Bean Benitiz). Together they began performing with the legendary Latin Symbolics. The Symbolics, under the guidance of George Vascone, picked only the finest dancers. Hector quickly befriended fellow Symbolics Eddie Vega and Lourdes Jones.
As the disco era took stride, Hector was compelled to compete and put his talents to the test. Joining forces with Jacqueline Cruz, they became an incredible hustle team. They took first place at The Boys Club competition defeating Eddie and Lourdes. The judges at the competition were none other then the Disco Dance Dimensions (Billy Fajardo, Sandra Rivera, Franc Perico Reyes, Debbie Ferro).
So impressed with Hector & Jacqueline's style and showmanship, they were invited to join the dance troop. The Dance Dimensions would grow to three dance teams.
Jacqueline and Hector would continue to compete (winning first place on the televised show "Soul Alive") but would turn their attention exclusively to the dance company. The troop went on to perform all over the US and abroad. They landed a three year deal with the nationally televised show "Don Kirshner's Rock Concert ." Each week they would showcase a routine for the millions of viewers at home. The dance troop was booked at the Chateau Madrid when Latin Superstar Tito Puente came to observe. So impressed with their performance he booked the troop to appear with his Orchestra at Madison Square Garden.
The dance dimensions would soon lose CO-leader Perico and on board came Eddie and Lourdes. The shows and concerts kept coming. But a defining time had come! Many members of the troop, were at a turning point in their lives. Hector wanted to pursue his high school dream. It was time to take his Baseball skills to the next level, college. "Unintentionally, this would pull apart the core and nucleus of this seasoned dance troop." The Dance Dimensions would go on but with new faces.
Hector was recruited to play ball at Oklahoma University. After college he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants but signed with the Kansas City Royals. He played for two years but experienced a minor set back with an arm injury. In 1987 he went to spring try outs with the Detroit Tigers and joined the club for four years.
While playing professional ball, he would still find time to frequent night clubs as he began to focus on Salsa dancing while in Puerto Rico.
In 1992 he retired from Baseball. As quickly as he removed his uniform he was slipping back on his dance shoes. Along with Debbie Benitiz he would perform in the acclaimed motion picture, "Carlitos Way," with Al Pacino and many other area dancers. He followed this up by assisting with the choreography for the movie, "The Cowboy Way."
Long time friend Nelly Cotto, approached Hector and brought him along to perform for a large Salsa concert with Marc Anthony, Celia Cruz, and the late Tito Puente. With his vast knowledge of lifts, tricks and adagio, Hector helped pioneer the use of these skills into Salsa.
Today, Hector is happily married to Claudia Vavela and they have three beautiful daughters. He returned to Baseball in 1997, with the Tigers, but is now with the Toronto Blue Jays, in a coaching roll. It has always been his goal to help and give proper instruction to the younger players. Since Hector is bilingual his communication skills have helped him train and develop new players. But, dancing will always be a big part of his life. He currently partners with Stracy Diaz. Together they perform a hustle routine with "Descarga Latina."
Gratefully for all the opportunities he has had, Hector remembers those days dancing at the "serious dance clubs - The Inferno, Boombamacoa, Latin Times and performing with Liza Minelli and Robert Merrill."
It is rare to see such a talented individual excel in two different skills. Hector looks forward to working with kids and teaching them the fundamentals and mechanics of Baseball. This is one dancer that can still hit one out of the park. I'm sure he's glad the Baseball strike was averted.