Ernesto Palma was born and raised in a poor family in heavily Catholic Costa Rica, the youngest of four kids, whose parents divorced when he was five. It was a tough childhood. He was bullied as a boy (including by his own brother). He knew he was gay from a very young age, and despite the challenges that posed in his homeland, he was always “determined to live the life I was born to live.”
Ernesto has danced since he was a toddler. By age 16, he started going to nightclubs (some male only) and honing his skills in salsa, meringue, and swing. He escaped to America at the first opportunity, because it didn’t feel safe to stay in Costa Rica. He made his way to Kansas, where he found a surrogate family and discovered ballroom dance. Eventually, he landed in New York City.
Dance is Ernesto’s career, as well as his personal passion. He loves to teach. He and dance partner Nikolai Shpakov began to train in the winter of 2014, and just a few months later, they aced their very first competition together and took the top prize for Latin dance at April Follies (the largest same-sex comp in America). Their next big moment was at the 2014 Gay Games. You’ll see it in the film!
Photos: Top: Ernesto Palma (left) and Nikolai Shpakov, Photo by Curt Worden. Bottom: Photo by Gail Freedman.
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Ernesto teaches dance in New York and Chicago. Visit his site.