Dance studio

Orlando Dance Studio Takes Steps 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 dancing has taken her around the world. She also happens to be Rivera’s daughter’s longtime dance instructor at another local studio, Salsa Heat.

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Rivera’s business experience 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 over those seven years, we grew closer and trusted her…we thought she would be the perfect person to do that with us.”

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

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

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 beginner and advanced Salsa, Bachata, Contemporary and Hip Hop lessons for children, teenagers and adults.

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

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“It’s very important for us to keep dancing because it’s a way of keeping our culture alive and present. I think he needs to be heard,” Andres said. “It’s a way to celebrate where you come from, it’s a way to celebrate your family. It doesn’t matter if you are Latino, everyone is welcome.

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

“The kids are from all walks of life, not just Latinos,” Rivera added. “And they’re all having fun, even if they don’t understand the words.”

When it comes to Latin dancing, they mainly teach Bachata and Salsa On1, a variation of salsa where the first count falls on a different rhythm, making the dance faster and more jerky than Salsa On2.

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

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

“It gives kids a goal, you know, something to strive for. 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? Get a trophy,” Frye Garcia said of how competitions motivate students. (Image credit: Latin Passion Dance Academy)

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

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“Sometimes they’re Latino, but they don’t want to do salsa, and that’s okay,” Frye Garcia said. “We also add Latin hip hop to it. So we try to incorporate Latin music with a different type of dance that isn’t salsa.

“They set goals at all levels, but with competitions there’s a lot more going on in terms of meeting deadlines,” Rivera said. “It’s something serious. You’re competing against 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 children take their talents to competitions. In school, competitive teams require audition and a commitment to learning all styles and techniques. The Latin Passion Dance Academy takes its name from the first children’s dance team formed by Frye Garcia over 10 years ago.

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

“We train the children, but we also want to be the example. We don’t just watch them. We are also on this stage. We follow the chops,” Frye Garcia said.

She said the “dance team type of feel” gradually blossomed 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 was the best decision I’ve made in my entire life,” Andres said. “She’s not just the principal of the school, but she really thinks of everyone.”

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

“I just thought it was a really cool way to relate to someone who wasn’t from my background,” said Frye Garcia, who teaches 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 even understood what the song was about.”

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

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

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

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