Figures reflect on golden ornaments, swaying their hips, stepping into spins practiced in class to the sounds of tropical music.
Lead instructor and choreographer Maria Espinoza hosted Dancin’ Motion School of the Arts’ Christmas party on Friday, Dec. 16, 2022.
The usual Friday salsa night had an annual ugly sweater twist with a potluck dinner and coquito, a seasonal Puerto Rican drink keeping some dancers refreshed into the night.
Food and dancing at Christmastime are familiar traditions for Espinoza, who grew up dancing in New York. She keeps the tradition alive with the Latin dance styles she has taught to students since opening the Tampa studio and starting the company 12 years ago.
Recently, the dance community at large was impacted by the passing of TV personality Stephen “tWitch” Boss, whose death by suicide has sparked conversations about mental health.
Espinoza said many students have come through her doors battling invisible illnesses, and dance gives them an outlet, just as it continues to help her keep moving despite a 2003 diagnosis of multiple sclerosis.
“There’s times that it slows me down, but (dance) helped me deal with my MS,” Espinoza said. “Sometimes I can’t move my legs, sometimes I’m numb from head to toe. I slur my speech, I move slower than other people.... I have my good days, I have my bad days. There’s days that I can’t get out of bed.”
Jerry Gaines, a staff member and former student at the school, started taking classes with Espinoza as a date night activity before it became a lifestyle.
“I know when I come here I don’t have any worries of the outside world,” Gaines said. “Dancing is very therapeutic for me. It’s helped me out through a lot of dark times.”
“To me, if someone knows how to dance, you’re never alone,” Espinoza said. “You can go anywhere in the world and it’s an instant communication and connection with somebody. All you have to do is extend your hand and ask that person to dance and you don’t have to know the language, you don’t have to know the person. I feel like if you give that gift to somebody they can go anywhere and they’ll never be alone. They’ll always have someone.”
To register for classes with Dancin’ Motion School of the Arts or give the gift of dance, visit www.dancinmotionsa.com