It breaks cultural, age and social barriers. What many would call a fun night out, others see simply as an escape, a relaxing pastime.
Partners sway to the beat, smiles all around. They’re currently learning salsa dancing, and Andre Perez leads them in a three-count pattern they all are familiar with, as the intermediate class begins.
SalsaFama started as a family-run dance group. Their slogan, “Changing Lives” is a true depiction of what they are all about: helping others in all walks of life.
“We’re just teaching these people how to dance structured dancing,” Perez said. “We have a lot of single people, a lot of broken up people, a lot of divorced people, widows or widowers, and they come here kind of beat up, you know. Beat up by life. And then they learn this, and it’s eye opening. Their life is going to change.”
Perez moved to Temecula from Los Angeles 25 years ago, where he learned to dance before teaching classes in Menifee. Perez said he realized there wasn’t any dancing here.
“Nothing, just cowboys, rockers and rollers,” Perez said. “I used to give classes in Temecula, but there was nowhere to go dance. So then I found this place here – places that had a dance floor.”
Perez’s class is hosted at several local restaurants and bars around town. On Wednesday nights, they are hosted at Lienzo Charro’s Mexican Bar and Grill on Old Town Front Street.
Lilly Macedo from Lake Elsinore has been dancing for three years. She comes out occasionally for social dancing after the class, and her favorite is salsa dancing.
“With salsa there are a lot of moves, and every time you dance, the guys turn different ways,” Macedo said. “It can be like a cross body lead with another turn or even two turns, and every guy has their style, so when you’re dancing with a different guy its fun.”
Kevin Gershenson is a regular.
“I drive out from Palm Springs to be here,” Gershenson said. “I really like Andre and the dancing here, and it’s really easy to meet many new friends here.”
Gershenson has been dancing for the past 15 years.
“I dance mostly Latin, partner dancing, salsa, bachata, merengue, cha-cha,” Gershenson said. “When you do the partner dancing, it’s easier to get to know the person. When you go to a nightclub, you don’t really get to know the people.”
Perez takes the class through a three-step count without music first so that they can get used to it.
“This is the only dance (salsa) where you’ll see a 25-year-old dancing with a 60-year-old man, loving it. And you’ll see a 20-year-old man dancing with a 60-year-old lady, and she’s loving it,” Perez said.
SalsaFama goes into local businesses to help support them, instead of attending studios.
“I find that places like these where you can eat or drink too are nicer for everybody,” Perez said.
Dancing is good exercise, according to Perez.
“It releases stress, it burns calories, you make new friends and it gets the little mice in your head working. It’s challenging, but the more you do it, you become a dancer. You have to work on it, but you’ll have it for the rest of your life,” he said.
SalsaFama has lessons every Wednesday night. Thursday nights they have free dancing at Craft Brewing Company in Old Town Temecula. More information on other nights they teach can be found on Twitter.
Timothy Moy is a regular dancer with the group. At first, he said he was forced into it by a friend.
“My friend begged me to stay though and paid for my admission, he got me there. After that night I met a friend and started going back, and eventually I had so much fun that I kept coming,” Moy said.
SalsaFama teaches all ages. They teach salsa, bachata, cha-cha, cumbia and merengue, and dancers don’t need a partner to attend.
“I do drive back at the end of the night (to Palm Springs),” Gershenson said. “It’s worth the drive. There are so many nice people here.”
Lexington Howe can be reached by email at email@example.com.