ORLANDO, Fla. – When Margarita Rivera and her husband choreographed the plan to open a Latin dance studio in Orlando, they knew they needed someone that felt like family.
Enter Adriana Frye Garcia, a competitive dancer and instructor whose love of Latin dance has taken her across the globe. She also happened to be Rivera’s daughter’s longtime dance instructor at another local studio, Salsa Heat.
Rivera’s business background and Frye Garcia’s flair for Latin dance, they opened Latin Passion Dance Academy right before the pandemic in January of 2020 as owners and managing members.
“And in that seven years, we had grown close and we had a trust in her... we thought that she would be the perfect person to do that with us.”
With Rivera’s business background and Frye Garcia’s flair for Latin dance, they opened Latin Passion Dance Academy right before the pandemic.
“We have a really good group of kids and parents,” Frye Garcia said. “We’re just very connected. We’re like a big family... I think that’s what keeps people coming back to this environment. So, it’s good for business, but it also makes you feel good.”
The studio offers beginner and advanced Salsa, Bachata, Contemporary and Hip Hop classes to children, teenagers and adults.
Jorge Andres, a Cuban American with a natural gift for rhythm that grew from his passion for musical theatre, is one of the school’s five instructors.
“It’s very important for us to keep dancing because it’s a way of keeping our culture alive and present. I think it needs to be heard,” Andres said. “It’s a way of celebrating where you come from, it’s a way of celebrating your family. It doesn’t matter if you’re Latino, everybody’s welcome.”
Rivera said that while the studio has a heavy emphasis on Latin dance styles, being Latino is not an entry requirement.
“The kids are of all different types of backgrounds, not just Latin,” Rivera added. “And they all have fun, even if they don’t understand the words.”
As far as Latin dance goes, they predominately teach Bachata and Salsa On1, a variation of salsa where the first count falls on a different beat, making the dance faster and more staccato than Salsa On2.
Bachata, a style that comes out of the Dominican Republic, is all about the guitar, bongos and güira, or maracas. Salsa, which has roots in Cuba and Puerto Rico, can have a lot more instruments playing at the same time, including piano, congas, bongos, trumpets and timbales. Salsa tends to be faster-paced with a heavy emphasis on musicality.
“I think most of them hear it at home,” said Frye Garcia, of Latino students coming in to take classes. “Most of them are new to, like, being structured, to being taught the dance. If you’re a Hispanic that does it at home, you’re just learning the street style. You might not know any of the names, you may be even doing it on the wrong count. And that’s okay, you’re having a good time. But here, you learn the name and then you kind of put more structure to it. And then it kind of clicks and makes more sense. And then they go home and teach their parents.”
Andres, whose parents were both Cuban salsa dancers, known as casino in Cuba, said many parents want their children to take Latin dance because it’s part of their culture. Salsa specifically is an in-demand style young girls often learn ahead of their quinceañeras. Andres’ mother, who danced 65 quinceañeras over her career, is a testament to their importance.
“Sometimes they are Latino, but they don’t want to do salsa, and that’s OK,” Frye Garcia said. “We throw some Latin hip hop in there, too. So, we try to incorporate the Latin music with a different type of dance that isn’t salsa.”
Some of the kids take their talents to competitions. At the school, competitive teams require an audition and a commitment to learning all styles and techniques. Latin Passion Dance Academy actually got its name the first kids dance team Frye Garcia trained over 10 years ago.
But she and Andres don’t just coach dance. They enter competitions themselves as a dance duo.
“We coach the kids, but we also want to be the example. We’re not just sitting back watching them. We’re also on that stage, too. We’re walking the talk,” Frye Garcia said.
She said the “dance team type of feel” gradually blossomed in the studio, as children became more comfortable and want to be on stage.
She has a history of handpicking 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 was the best decision I’ve made in my entire life,” Andres said. “She’s not only the director of the school, but she really thinks about everybody.”
Frye Garcia describes being able to spread the joy of dance to all walks of life, from Orlando to Iceland to her homeland, Puerto Rico.
“I just thought it was a really cool way to relate to somebody that wasn’t from my background,” said Frye Garcia, of teaching Latin dance to other demographics. “It almost felt like we were already friends... because they love the music... just as much as I do, regardless of if they even understood what the song was about.”
But Hispanic pride will always run through the veins of Latin Passion Dance Academy.
“We not only celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, but we also celebrate every single day that we walk into the studio with this beautiful art that is called dance,” Andres said.
To learn more about the classes offered at Latin Passion Dance Academy, visit their website.