A Tale of Franklin Diaz
By Natalie J. Maniscalco and photos by Chasi Annexy
“I am who I am. I live and breathe music,” says Franklin Diaz, one of the world’s most talented and gifted dancers. Often misunderstood or perceived as a rebel, Franklin Diaz, a man of many layers, burns with a natural flame of intense passion for life, dance, and music.
Known for his ornate expression and Flamenco influenced movements, Diaz brings a unique sense of style to Salsa. Born in the Dominican Republic and raised between Puerto Rico and New York City, his dance, ignited by the purest of his emotions, often mirrors his life experiences. “Everyone feels passion, love, pain, happiness and anger. It is a part of life,” he says. “Dance is a reflection of my life. Every movement is a movement from my soul. It is an art form that exists in the spirit and in the body. And when the two unite, your soul dances for you.”
Although young in age, Diaz runs with an old soul and a unique perspective to not only what life has given him, but the life God has chosen for him. “I have seen so much so young,” he says. “And I have lived a lot, but God has given me the wisdom to learn. I want to learn from my mistakes, stop blaming others because they don’t understand me, and change my approach to who I am dancing with and who I am dancing for.”
From as early as eight years old, dance was an intricate part of Diaz’s life, but it didn’t always bring him happiness, a sentiment that would later resurface throughout his late teens and early 20’s. “Life did so many things,” he says. “I was growing up in a lot of pain and craziness. I had to be my own man.” His biological father left home before he was even four years old. His mother remarried a man who became more than just a step-father to Diaz, but later passed away of cancer. “My mom left me and went to New York,” he says. “Not really saying it but I blamed God for a lot of things. I felt abandoned. I started searching for God again, but by 13 I stopped and became a rebel.” It wasn’t until he moved to New York at 15 that Diaz started dancing and getting noticed in clubs. He attracted the admiration of Vittico La Magia, a man known to train some of the best Dominican dancers in the city. He offered Diaz an opportunity to study with him and after three months, he started performing and even teaching his own classes. Soon after, Diaz left Vittico to dance with Eddie Torres and quickly became his lead dancer.
By 16 years old, Diaz found himself with an extraordinary talent and a natural gift that was envied by many. “With my attitude and my background, I just didn’t care about no one. I was arrogant. It was the only way to protect myself from letting them get to me. I had Eddie saying to me, ‘You are the best dancer ever!’ What do you think is going to happen to a kid at that age? So, I thought, ‘ok I am the best dancer’.” At the same time, Diaz struggled with understanding himself, not just as a dancer but as a kid living in a mature world. “No one thought of me as a kid. I was looking for someone to accept me. Everyone around me wanted to change me. How do you deal with all of that when you are just 17 years old with no guidance from a mother or father to say it’s going to be ok? I had to be there for myself. But it was my life.” After trying to fight a losing battle, he gave up and chose to leave the scene for a couple of years. It was time for self discovery, and what he realized was that he couldn’t live his life without dance. He surged forward and continued on with his career to become one of the most well-respected and talented dancers worldwide.
Although he has created a stir from a very young age, it is clear that after 12 years of dancing, his style, technique, immense self-expression and movements have continued to evolve. “No one can say that I have been dancing the same during the past 12 years. I keep growing. I keep changing because I’m personal in what I do, meaning that my emotions change so my dancing changes.”
As naturally talented as Diaz has always been, even at 15 years old, he felt he never really gave 100% of himself. He didn’t have to work hard to be good; it always came with ease. Now at the age of 27, he’s more in tuned with his emotions and ultimately with his soul and his relationship with God. “I am in the moment of excellence,” he says. “I’ve changed for the better. I’ve grown up. I’m not a kid anymore. I want to dance so that my fingers, my eyes, my hair, everything, never stop dancing. That is what I am aiming for. I’m challenging myself, not to move to just move or have fun, but to have meaning behind every movement I make. The perfect picture of a movement that begins, ends, and starts with my soul.”
For Franklin Diaz, the past has been put behind and the future holds endless possibilities. While he may never forget the hardships of his life, he now walks in peace. “I always say, you will see the fake from what is real,” says the Man of Fire.“Watch me. I’m coming back in a very different way.”
Special thanks to No 1 Front Street in Brooklyn, New York for the use of their space for this photo shoot. Check out Monday nights at One Front Street on for their Monday night Salsa party at 1 Front Street in DUMBO. www.no1front.com