Meet the L.A. Rum Shakers: Couples Interview Part I

What happens when you mix a dedicated group of passionate bartenders, one killer rum brand, and a few incredible dance choreographers? The answer: Tales of the Cocktail Foundation’s RUM SHAKERS presented by BACARDÍ® , a physically-challenging but deeply rewarding bartender program that’s not only creating in some seriously impressive performances – some of the Rum Shakers have no prior dance experience –  but a journey of true bonding and growth within the bar community. The program kicked off in Miami, is now in Los Angeles and will head to New York City next, with bartenders all over the country showing off their dance moves – and getting healthier and more fit in the process.

For the last three months, these bartenders have auditioned, been coupled up and rehearsed 3 to 4 days a week in order to perfect their moves before they hit the dancefloor at final showcase competition in Los Angeles on October 28th. The finale event will take place in LA featuring a special DJ set by Walshy Fire of Major Lazer.

We took a break with each dancer to find out their motivation behind auditioning for Rum Shakers, what they’ve learned so far, and of course, what their go-to BACARDÍ cocktail is after a long day of Rum Shaking.

Let’s meet the first-ever Los Angeles Rum Shakers!

Danyliz Rijos & Dylan Snyder

*Photography by Eugene Lee (@eugeneshoots)

Hometown: San Juan P.R. + Baltimore, MD

What inspired you to audition?

Danyliz: I’m always dancing, even while making drinks,  so I was happy that there was a platform in which I could be my authentic self, have fun and stay active. Also, I’m fairly new to LA and wanted to get to know the community better, create special memories and strong connections in the best way possible, dancing!

Dylan: Well, I’m in my 30’s and I was having a hard time getting motivated to get into shape. I’ve always loved to dance; ask around, if there’s dancing, I’m on the floor getting after it. Sometimes, maybe even on the bar top! So I thought getting to have fun while getting my booty up and moving would be a great way to get motivated to get in shape and help me stay in shape.

Any previous dance experience before Rum Shakers?

Danyliz: I’m from Puerto Rico, so rhythm runs in my blood. I was part of a couple of dance groups since I was a kid in PR – salsa, street jazz, funk, hip hop, reggaeton, dancehall. But when I became a bartender, 9 years ago, it was very hard for me to go to rehearsals because they were usually at night.

Dylan: HAHA! Yeah, tons – weddings, school dances, industry events. But seriously, no. No real dance experience, but I’m not going to let that stop me from trying to be one of the best Rum Shakers.

How has this program changed your lifestyle?

Danyliz: This program really took me back in time and reminded me the importance of going back to the things I truly enjoyed when I was younger. It’s natural to change habits as you grow older, but it’s also good to keep enjoying movement and important to keep up those healthy habits.

Dylan: Well, I’m up at 8 am now every day because of rehearsals, even if I closed the bar the night before. Ha, it is tough work! I’m up to 80 burpees a day which is probably the first time since high school I could even get close to that stamina. Also, I honestly have more energy and have more fun while I’m at work now.

What have you learned about yourself so far through the Rum Shakers program?

Danyliz: I need to really work on my resistance training. So that is something for me set as a goal and to focus on next.

Dylan: Going into this, my hips were trash and my chest wasn’t much better.  But my body has already improved in regards to both areas. I challenge the fellas out there to try to do a body roll …. yup, I’ll wait.  Taking classes with @_haaalima_ class, I have felt muscles that I’ve never felt before. Another challenge, come into ERB, and I’ll show you some things.  Other than that, I’ve realized that I’m decent at learning choreography considering I’d never taken a dance class in my life. I think of it like combos in Mortal Kombat.

What have you learned about your partner?

Danyliz: One of the things I have really enjoy in the program is being a witness to Dylan’s development. He started out pretty stiff, but now he is giving it his full body commitment.  If you look at his chest rolls, you can really notice he’s a lot looser and more fluid.  He is naturally a very active, clever and amiable person. Also, he has a great memory and is an amazing bartender. I really love the fact that he is self-aware and thrives to master everything, even the things he doesn’t fully feel comfortable with; I find that very powerful.

Dylan: Dany. Lawd. What can you say about that woman? She’s super talented both on the dance floor and behind the bar. She’s obviously a stunning human being on the outside, but more importantly on the inside. She’s clearly one of the best natural dancers in Rum Shakers. Honestly, as her partner, I’m just trying to step up and get as close to as good as her level before the competition.

What are 3 words you would use to describe your partner?

Danyliz: Adventurous. Wise. J Balvin

Dylan: Strong. Sexy. Hair.

Any personal challenges you have had to overcome throughout Rum Shakers?

Danyliz: Sometimes I get a little bit anxious when I’m surrounded by a lot of people. But I always try to push myself to talk, engage and make connections with the positive energy I find around me.

Dylan: I had some drama in my personal/professional life that derailed me mentally for the first 2 weeks. It is hard to step outside of the moment when sad or terrible things are happening to you or people whom you care about and realize what you might learn from the things you’re going through. Bouncing back from that taught me a lot about turning off my brain and just feeling and connecting with the music. Really, it’s almost like believing in your heart and feeling what you need to do next.

Aside from winning, what is your ultimate goal for Rum Shakers?

Danyliz: Our work as bartenders can be both physically and mentally draining, which could let us to the wrong paths if we don’t canalize the energy in a positive and healthy way. I hope we can inspire people to do what moves them, to dance more and to be more active. Also, I want to use what we have learned as dancers to implement more music, dancing, “sabor”, showmanship, fluidity and confidence to our guest experiences.

Dylan: Get in shape. Stay in shape. Continue to be able to touch my toes.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

Danyliz: I feel like dancing develops real strong connections between people and being able to do it as a community and family fills my heart with pure joy. Shout out to Dan Long who brings us healthy snacks and water after rehearsal, so thoughtful!

Dylan: Meeting all the choreographers & dancers, hearing about their personal experiences and the world that they live in. It’s all so similar to our bar world. Everyone knows everyone and the community is supportive of each other. Plus they all like to party! I can’t speak for the rest of the Rum Shakers but I love working with each and every choreographer. Each one is unique, confident and just really great to be around.

Why is BACARDÍ the right brand for Rum Shaker?

Danyliz: BACARDÍ is a Latinx brand, that represents music, art, “fiesta”, flavor, Cuba, Puerto Rico, diversity, youthful spirits and is always progressive in lifestyle matters. It just makes perfect sense.

Dylan: Dany and I got Reggeaton so we really just slid right in there. Joking aside, BACARDÍ and Tales of the Cocktail Foundation killed it. As a former brand person, I can’t speak more highly of this program and how it fits into everything the Bacardi company has been promoting over the years in regard to health and wellness. La Gran Familia grows baby!

What is your go-to BACARDÍ cocktail or flavor?

Danyliz: My go-to BACARDÍ Cocktail is the Presidente and BACARDÍ 8 my favorite expression.

Dylan: I’ll take a BACARDÍ 8 neat, please. Too much citrus gives me heartburn. Don’t forget I’m old.

Social call.

Danyliz: @aromatic_bitters

Dylan: @dylanfivetimes


Cristina Russo & Sean McBride

Hometown: San Francisco, CA + Huntington Beach, CA

What inspired you to audition?

Christina: I love to dance and couldn’t believe there was a new program in the bar industry that was incorporating it, so I had to do it!

Sean: I have known Dan Long and the BACARDÍ team for a long time and always enjoy participating in BACARDÍ-sponsored events. So figured this would be a lot of fun.

Any previous dance experience before Rum Shakers?

Christina: I’ve danced pretty much my whole life, primarily ballet, tap and jazz.  I also performed Irish Step in competition troupes throughout college. I trained at Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley in high school and got my second major in dance in college. I performed modern dance, go-go, and semi-pro cheer after college and most recently was the ballet double for both main characters in a film.

Sean: I took some classes in college.  I did gymnastics growing up which has helped with body awareness and picking up movement.

How has this program changed your lifestyle?

Christina: It has allowed me to consistently do something I truly enjoy. I love moving to music and dance, however classes can be expensive and time-intensive, so it’s nice to have the access and incentive to attend and be active.

Sean: It has been awesome to get exercise on a regular basis.  My wife and I recently had our first child and it has been harder for me to find time for fitness, so Rum Shakers has given me consistency.

What have you learned about yourself so far through the Rum Shakers program?

Christina: That I can persevere and step out of my comfort zone to learn different styles that aren’t my strong points.

Sean: It’s a cliché, but the more I put in, the more I get out.

What have you learned about your partner?

Christina: Sean is impressive; I don’t know how he’s juggling everything. On top of all of the rehearsals, he is a father and obviously handles a lot of responsibility. In rehearsal, he’s super fun and positive, so I’ve really enjoyed working with him. He also did a great job teaching me his choreography when our partnership got switched up, and he has been so thoughtful about asking for notes or changes from the choreographers.

Sean: She’s a pro and super fearless. We learned to always go all out, commit and attack our dance routine with everything we’ve got. She’s bringing her ballet background, and I’m hoping to throw in some gymnastics stunts.

What are 3 words you would use to describe your partner?

Christina: Fun. Positive. Goofy

Sean: Dedicated. Fearless. Strong

Any personal challenges you have had to overcome throughout Rum Shakers?

Christina: The styles we are doing are at the opposite of my classical training, but I have tried to keep a positive attitude even if I get frustrated with pushing the learning curve.

Sean: I am trying to get a backflip into the performance, and my body isn’t as springy as it used to be.

Aside from winning, what is your ultimate goal for Rum Shakers?

Christina: To get back to dancing a little more consistently, as that is the best type of meditation for me. I am already very active and get to the gym, but I want to make dance take a front seat in my life again.

Sean: Have fun, make new friends and push myself to go outside my comfort zone.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

Christina: Just getting moving and having fun getting in the groove.

Sean: The group classes.

Why is BACARDÍ the right brand for Rum Shakers?

Christina: BACARDÍ is the right brand for Rum Shakers because they focus on lifestyle and how it is a big part of their brand. I’ve been to Puerto Rico their culture is rich with music, it is definitely a huge part of the culture. BACARDÍ goes hand in hand with a good night out.

Sean: They know how to have fun, throw a good positive party and bring people together.

What is your go-to BACARDÍ cocktail or flavor?

Christina: Recently I’ve rediscovered how good a classic mojito with classic BACARDÍ Superior I like to enjoy one on these hot summer nights, put Buena Vista Social Club on Pandora, and enjoy the cool breeze on my patio!

Sean: My go-to is a daiquiri.

Social call.

Christina: @swagstina

Sean: @seanphilipmcbride


Marlene Olarra & Garrett Hanson

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA + Alliance, NE

What inspired you to audition?

Marlene: I wanted to get back to being active and being creative in a different environment other than the bar. I stopped drinking recreationally a year and a half ago, which helped my mental well being. This opportunity was a chance for me to now help my physical well being.

Garrett: It had been years since I had danced in any structured setting and really wanted to get back to it.

Any previous dance experience before Rum Shakers?

Marlene: I used to dance in my teenage years, and I used it as an escape. Dancing helped heal the pain that came from losing my mother at a young age. I stopped dancing right after I graduated from high school, as I realized I wasn’t meant to be a dancer. I didn’t look like one, and I didn’t have the feet.

Garrett: I danced as a kid and then took some classes in college but my main experience was as a cast member of Stomp.

How has this program changed your lifestyle?

Marlene: I am learning to make time for myself and allow myself to do the things I enjoy, like dancing. I am also trying to eat cleaner with more greens and fruit. I am also spinning and incorporating other workouts to be able to physically keep up with our sessions.

Garrett: I drink a lot more water.

What have you learned about yourself so far through the Rum Shakers program?

Marlene: I am learning that I tend to overthink everything, and it’s hard for me to let go of control. Sometimes you just have let go, and let the music take the lead.

Garrett: My knees and back are not what they used to be.

What have you learned about your partner?

Marlene: Garret is an amazing dancer and has great rhythm. He used to be a dancer for Stomp, the show. He is also a great drummer as well.  And I’m still getting to know him every day!

Garrett: Marlene is a natural caretaker. She provides everything she possibly can for her bar family.

What are 3 words you would use to describe your partner?

Marlene: Patient. Artistic. Hard-working

Garrett: Generous. Hard-working. Brave.

Any personal challenges you have had to overcome throughout Rum Shakers?

Marlene: I would say, I had to overcome stage fright. I am a bit reserved and I hate having attention on me. However, I am slowly learning to be comfortable with being photographed and filmed.  I am also learning to be patient with myself, allowing myself to accept not being perfect the first time around. I am learning the key to dance and life is patience and practice.  It’s more than okay to not get it right the first time around.

Garrett: Scheduling! But also confronting limitations and knowing when to not get overly fussy about getting something “perfect”.

Aside from winning, what is your ultimate goal for Rum Shakers?

Marlene: My ultimate goal is the trophy…just kidding.  My ultimate goal is to have fun and learn to let go. Life in the city can be so intense, stressful and fast-paced, so I want to learn simply to relax, breathe and allow myself to let the music/life take the lead.

Garrett: Really just breaking that first barrier that has kept me from taking classes or jumping on the dance floor when I have the opportunity.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

Marlene: My favorite part is being able to be part of an amazing team. I really have enjoyed growing together and getting to know each other.  All my teammates are my peers within this industry, so it’s pretty amazing to come together and do something other than going to a bar or event. This is a diverse group.  We all come from different bars, different backgrounds, and heck even different states. Though we know this is a competition, at the end of the day we all want to come together as a family and produce amazing contagious energy! This energy will hopefully transcend, motivate and move the people around us.  No matter how big or how small, every move has meaning, even if you’re off count. It’s also incredible we get to represent the first Rum Shakers from the greatest city in the United States  ‘Los Angeles’ my home.

Garrett: Watching all of these incredible people learn, grow and realize what they are actually capable of and being inspired to discover those new limits for myself.

Why is BACARDÍ the right brand for Rum Shakers?

Marlene: BACARDÍ is the perfect brand from Rum Shakers because BACARDÍ is all about family. BACARDÍ was started by a family and is still owned by a family.  Even the BACARDÍ’s team feels like a family to many throughout this industry.  I know I could count on any of them if I ever needed anything.

Garrett: BACARDÍ is part of the pop culture surrounding music and dance from salsa to hip-hop. It makes sense to officially join it all together for Rum Shakers.

What is your go-to BACARDÍ cocktail or flavor?

Marlene:  I enjoy a Cuba Libre; nothing is more classic and iconic than a BACARDÍ Superior and Coke. If I’m feeling a little fun, I’ll even do BACARDÍ Banana and Coke. I know, Wild! I also do however enjoy a BACARDÍ 4 Daiquiri.

Garrett: BACARDÍ Daiquiris for days.

Social call.

Marlene: @undertheknife

Garrett: @garreson


Linda Nguyen & Rich Williams

Hometown: Orlando, FL + Long Island, NY

What inspired you to audition?

Linda: I got tagged the day before auditions on a Facebook flyer, watched the promo video and thought it looked like so much fun. Since I love everything dance-related,  I figured at the very least it would be a great workout to start my day.

Rich: The primary inspiration was to push myself to get more active.

Any previous dance experience before Rum Shakers?

Linda: Yes, I danced and cheered when I was younger. I also moved to LA to dance professionally and actually worked with some artists such as Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj.

Rich: Nothing of a professional dance nature, but I was involved with a breakdance group as a teenager. I’ve also taken beginner and intermediate Salsa courses and eventually assisted in teaching the beginner level classes

How has this program changed your lifestyle?

Linda: This program has definitely held me accountable to consistently working out and dancing. The Rum Shakers schedule makes sure that you are never lazy!

Rich: This program has helped me break out of the “sleep all day/work all night” routine. My energy level is way up and I feel physically and mentally rejuvenated.

What have you learned about yourself so far through the Rum Shakers program?

Linda: Something I’ve learned about myself through the program is that I definitely feed off the energy in the room. There are so many great, funny and sweet personalities in our group, so it helps keep you pumped throughout in this long process.

Rich: While I already knew this about myself, this program has reminded me how important stretching and warm-up are and my flexibility needs wwwwayyyyyy more work. I’ve also learned that when I overthink too much, even the simplest dance moves that I’ve done a million times will feel like learning a new language.

What have you learned about your partner?

Linda: Rich is my partner and he’s awesome! He’s into salsa and hip hop and he has a couple of dance tricks up his sleeve that surprised me. He has never missed our rehearsal and no matter how hard or fast the choreography is, he fights to get it right.  Performing with just one other person means you have to have chemistry and I can always depend on him to have my back, throw me his positive energy and perform.

Rich: Fun Fact, I learned that we used to work in the same building

What are 3 words you would use to describe your partner?

Linda: Hard-working. Determined. Dependable.

Rich: Talented. Energetic. Feisty.

Any personal challenges you have had to overcome throughout Rum Shakers?

Linda: I think the program has been a challenge that all of us bartenders have had to overcome.  We all are working the service industry and get home late, and then you have to get up early and exert a lot of physical and mental energy in the morning and that can be tough. But, we all have been loving it! Just maybe not the burpees when someone comes late to rehearsal though.

Rich: Staying physically healthy and injury-free. I’ve gotten back into the routine of seeing a chiropractor weekly and acupuncturist every other week to keep this old creaky body functioning

Aside from winning, what is your ultimate goal for Rum Shakers?

Linda: To just LIVE when I’m on stage. My goal is to give a really entertaining performance when we’re all up there. That and to channel my inner Janet Jackson and J.Lo.

Rich: My goal is to continue to stay active.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

Linda: My favorite part has been the weekly rotating different dance classes. It’s given us a taste of different styles and kept us on our toes. My favorite class was the reggaeton/grooves class.

Rich: Seeing the group improve and grow together from week to week

Why is BACARDÍ the right brand for Rum Shakers?

Linda:  BACARDÍ is the perfect brand to sponsor a program like this because BACARDÍ is fun and classic at the same time. The Rum Shakers dance program is fun but also about training and learning.

Rich: BACARDÍ has placed a positive focus on the bar community by collaborating with industry organizations to foster programs that focus on your well-being.

What is your go-to BACARDÍ cocktail or flavor?

Linda: My go-to BACARDÍ cocktail is a classic BACARDÍ Superior Mojito! Mojitos are delicious, refreshing and have an eye-catching presentation when they arrive at your table. Also, I have found that when someone wants a rum and coke they expect BACARDÍ. They expect the best.

Rich: For me, a Rum Old Fashioned with BACARDÍ 8.

Social call.

Linda: @lindalinh

Rich: @rwill920

Stay tuned for updates on the Rum Shakers journey. For more information on the Rum Shakers Bartender Dance Competition, click here.

All Rum Shakers Photography by Eugene Lee (@eugeneshoots)


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