GET TO KNOW OUR HEROES: Mike, the Motivator

Hiske Verhalenverteller bij Movely
09th December 2020 10 minuten lezen

The first thing you notice when you meet Mike is his big smile and his playful and warm energy. Michael (30) lives in Vlaardingen, dances passionately and likes to play video games. At Movely, he will use his skills for one day a week to make the app as fun and engaging as possible. Meet Mike – the Gamification Wizard.

Mike’s daily life

Mike is a star at explaining things and loves to pass on his own skillset. He applies this in various places in his life. In his ‘day job’ he is a trainer in leadership skills, soft skills and communication. He has done this at companies such as KPN and Coolblue.

But he does not only apply his explaining skills in the corporate world. He is also active in the salsa scene and passes on his knowledge as a dance teacher. Although Mike has taught salsa, bachata and kizomba classes, lately his focus has mainly been on bachata and kizomba. “It is difficult to maintain all three dance styles at a high level”. However, Mike has always continued to give salsa lessons at “Blinde Liefde voor Salsa”, to the blind and partially sighted. At the moment, because of corona, that is the only lesson he still gives. Although it’s a bit quiet now, Mike is eager to pick it up again: “I can’t wait to teach dance again.”

Outside of his professional ambitions, Mike also likes to spend his time playing video games. These are both inspiration and relaxation for him. “I’m pretty good at video games. When people meet me in my professional life, they don’t expect me to. And people who meet me playing games don’t expect me to have a professional life.” He also gets a lot of his gamification inspiration from the games he encounters in his private time.

The 13-year-old that took dance classes with his mom

Mike picked up the salsa virus early on. He first came into contact with dance when he was 13, although that first time was not entirely voluntary. “My mother bribed me. There was a start-up lesson from Salsaventura in Vlaardingen, and it was on the verge of not going ahead”. Although Mike really didn’t want to, he eventually went along. After the first lesson he was hooked and within a few weeks he was hooked. “I really couldn’t do it, I really had the coordination of an Easter egg. If they said left foot forward, then I put my right foot to the side.” The course lasted ten weeks, but soon it was no longer a must for Mike: “it was really my highlight of the week”.

Most 13 year old boys have very different hobbies. Pointing out how special this is and that he was there so early, Mike jokes that he needed the lead. “I really had no talent when it came to dancing.”

Too young for salsa parties

A year after his first class, Mike went to a party for the first time, again with his mother. The party under the Erasmus Bridge made a deep impression. “I first learned bachata at salsa under the bridge.” From then on he wanted to go to parties much more often, but that was not allowed because he was still too young. Due to circumstances, Mike couldn’t manage to keep dancing around the age of 15 and so there was a dance break of a year. When Mike was 16 he picked up dancing again and went to parties again. “I would go to dance class with friends, they would have contact with my mother and they would have to bring me home at a certain time.”

Now when Mike sees dancers under 18 in the scene he thinks it’s very cute. But in his 16-year-old shoes, he didn’t experience it that way at all: “I didn’t feel cute then, I felt very mature.”

From showteam to teacher

Michael had lessons at Typical Tropical and danced in a demo/show team, where there was training without a specific performance goal, led by Cher and Randy. “We got along really well, and had a really good time together.” When Randy moved to the other side of the country, Cher became the dance teacher and looked for an assistant. Cher saw potential in Mike and approached him to become an assistant when he was 19. “I thought it was very exciting, and super scary but I said yes.” It was then that Michael’s teacher career began, trained by Cher and later Helen. “Those are really my salsa teacher moms”.

International dance career

Over the past 12 years, Mike has danced in many different locations. “I don’t even know if I could list them all, because there are really many.” Although he has danced in Portugal, France, Sweden and Iceland, among other places, it did not stop at Europe. Jamaica, Vietnam and Shanghai have also been checked off his list. With kizomba, he has taught in many of these locations. “I’ve traveled a lot more with kizomba than with salsa, in a lot less time.”

One of the festivals that impressed Mike the most was the old Amsterdam Salsa Festival. This was his first introduction to dance festivals. “It was epic. The people who come from all countries, the passion for dancing that comes together and the level of the dances you have.” A few years later on his second visit to the festival, even though he had paid as a guest, Mike volunteered to step in when the organization needed help during the festival. “I have stayed every year from that day until the festival was closed. I’ve been in the organization for about five years because I think it’s such a cool festival.”

Such a festival brings out the best elements of the salsa scene for Mike. “The salsa scene cannot be categorized demographically.” His eyes light up when he tells how people from all over the world, systems and castes meet in the salsa scene. “When a doctor and a municipal official walk past each other on the street, they don’t greet each other. They don’t understand each other’s worlds. And the next day they might be dancing together. It connects.”

“Salsa really shaped me”

Because Michael started dancing so early, he believes this has had a major (positive) impact on his development. “I was able to three-quarters skip a lot of teenage insecurities. It really shaped me to a great extent.”

Dancing still has such an important place in Mike’s life. The social aspect, being sociable with other people is an essential part for him. “I would still go there to enjoy it, even if I couldn’t dance anymore.”

Upleveling the scene

Mike sees Movely as a visionary company. “I have always felt and found that there is so much more to do and get in our world (salsa scene).” According to him, there is still a bit of professionalism missing and the entire scene can still take steps up. “We started with a party price of €5, and if you paid €10, you were going to the biggest party you could imagine. While if you want to buy a ticket for Sensation, you will soon pay between €50 and €100.” Mike believes that such amounts give organizations much more body to be able to do cool things, to really go for a ‘wow experience’. Something that rarely happens in the salsa scene. Now it’s all about passion. Which according to Mike is already very nice, but only the beginning. “There’s so much more to it, and Movely is the company that’s going to make sure it comes out.”

Gamification-expert at Movely

Mike has a background in Communication and Multimedia Design with a specialization in gamification. He sees great value in applying this in the salsa scene as well. For example, he describes E-Gym that has revolutionized sports by adding gamification. “Hanging on fitness equipment is not fun for anyone, but the moment you can get rewards or gain insights that are really great for you, for example how balanced your body is, and how young your muscle groups are, then it’s suddenly fun. Getting motivation that works for you as a person is what good gamification can do.”

Upleveling the dance scene is something we should do together, according to Mike, which makes it important that the members in the scene are actively involved. “What can we do to make sure that people feel motivated to join the community, to help each other, to actively participate in making our scene more beautiful?”

Do you want to contribute ideas or share what motivates you in the salsa scene? Or would you like to chat about gamification? Michael is your guy, because he can chat about these topics for hours! You can reach him via

Hiske from Movemento 10 posts

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