Orlando dance studio takes action to keep Latin passion and heritage alive

ORLANDO, Florida – When Margarita Rivera and her husband choreographed the plan to open a Latin dance studio in Orlando, they knew they needed someone who felt like family.

Enter Adriana Frye Garcia, a competitive dancer and instructor whose love of Latin dance has taken her across the world. She was also Rivera’s daughter’s longtime dance teacher at another local studio, Salsa Heat.

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Rivera’s business background and Frye Garcia’s flair for Latin dance, they opened the Latin Passion Dance Academy just before the pandemic in January 2020 as owners and managing members.

“And in those seven years, we had become close and we trusted her… we thought she would be the perfect person to do this with us.”

With Rivera’s business experience and Frye Garcia’s flair for Latin dance, they opened the Latin Passion Dance Academy just before the pandemic.

“We have a really good group of kids and parents,” said Frye Garcia. “We’re just very connected. We’re like a big family … I think that’s what pushes people to come back to this environment. So, it’s good for business, but it also feels good.

Current and former Latin Passion Dance Academy staff and instructors, left to right: Valerie Silva, Natalia Velez, Gianna Baez, Jorge Andres, Adriana Frye Garcia, Margarita Rivera, Elizabeth Garcia (Image credit: Latin Passion Dance Academy)

The studio offers Salsa, Bachata, Contemporary and Hip Hop lessons for beginners and advanced to children, adolescents and adults.

Jorge Andres, a Cuban-American with a natural gift for rhythm stemming from his passion for musical theater, is one of the school’s five teachers.

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“It’s very important for us to keep dancing because it’s a way to keep our culture alive and present. I think this needs to be heard, ”Andres said. “It’s a way of celebrating where you’re from, it’s a way of celebrating your family. No matter if you are Latino, everyone is welcome.

Rivera said that although the studio has a strong emphasis on Latin dance styles, being Latin is not a requirement for entry.

“Children come from all kinds of backgrounds, not just Latin,” Rivera added. “And they’re all having fun, even if they don’t understand the words.”

As for Latin dance, they mainly teach Bachata and Salsa On1, a variation of salsa where the first count falls to a different rhythm, making the dance faster and more choppy than Salsa On2.

Bachata, a style that comes from the Dominican Republic, is for guitar, bongos, and güira, or maracas. Salsa, which has its roots in Cuba and Puerto Rico, can have many more instruments played at the same time, including piano, congas, bongos, trumpets, and timpani. Salsa tends to be faster and has a strong emphasis on musicality.

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“I think most of them hear it at home,” said Frye Garcia, of the Latino students coming for classes. “Most of them are new to structure, to learning to dance. If you are Hispanic and do it at home, you are just learning the street style. You might not know any of the names, you might even be doing it on the wrong account. And that’s okay, you’re having a good time. But here you learn the name and then you put more structure on it. And then it clicks and it makes more sense. And then they go home and teach their parents.

“It gives kids a goal, you know, something to hit on. Lots of kids are … at home, and with the pandemic, it’s happened to everyone. And now it’s like, what are we looking forward to? Getting a trophy, ”said Frye Garcia, explaining how competitions motivate students. (Image credit: Latin Passion Dance Academy)

Andres, whose parents were both Cuban salsa dancers, known as the Casino in Cuba, said many parents want their children to learn Latin dance because it is part of their culture. Salsa in particular is a style in high demand that young girls often learn before their quinceañeras. Andres’ mother, who has danced 65 quinceañeras in her career, is a testament to their importance.

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“Sometimes they’re Latinos, but they don’t want to do salsa, and that’s okay,” said Frye Garcia. “We also throw in Latin hip hop. So, we are trying to incorporate Latin music with another type of dance that is not salsa.

“They set goals for themselves at all levels, but with competitions there is a lot more going on when it comes to meeting deadlines,” said Rivera. “It’s a serious thing. You’re competing with people who probably do this every day, kids all over the world. They want to make sure they are ready. (Image credit: Latin Passion Dance Academy)

Some of the kids take their talents to competitions. In school, competitive teams require hearing and a commitment to learning all styles and techniques. The Latin Passion Dance Academy takes its name from the first children’s dance team that Frye Garcia formed over 10 years ago.

But she and Andres don’t just coach the dance. They themselves participate in the dance duet competitions.

“We train the kids, but we also want to be the example. We don’t just sit and watch them. We are also on this stage too. We are following the speech, ”said Frye Garcia.

She said the “dance team type of feeling” gradually flourished in the studio, as the kids became more comfortable and wanted to be on stage.

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(Image credit: Latin Passion Dance Academy)

She has a habit of selecting talented people to audition for the team, including Andres, her former student turned right-hand man. Frye Garcia convinced him to become an instructor at the studio.

“I think it’s the best decision I’ve ever made in my life,” said Andres. “She’s not only the principal of the school, but she really thinks of everyone.”

Frye Garcia describes his ability to spread the joy of dance in all walks of life, from Orlando to Iceland to his native Puerto Rico.

“I just thought it was a really cool way to connect with someone who wasn’t from my past,” said Frye Garcia, of teaching Latin dance to other demographics. “It was almost like we were already friends … because they love the music … as much as I do, even though they understood what the song was about.”

But Hispanic pride will always run through the veins of the Latin Passion Dance Academy.

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“We not only celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, but we also celebrate every day we walk into the studio with this beautiful art called dancing,” said Andres.

To find out more about the courses offered at Latin Passion Dance Academy, visit their website.

Copyright 2021 by WKMG ClickOrlando – All rights reserved.

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