You should be dancin': Salsa Arizona puts ballroom enthusiasts on the floor

After a group class at Salsa Arizona School of Dance in downtown Prescott, student Kay Colner said she was so happy to find this dance studio.

"Most of the dance studios here are just for kids," Colner said. "For adults, this is a good place to learn different dance styles."

Hector Rivera, owner of Salsa Arizona, started off the class reviewing the basic steps with students, called out steps as they danced together in lines, then had them dance as couples, and switch partners in a large circle.

Mark Nawrocki, Colner's dance partner, said they had taken classes elsewhere, but really look forward to coming to class here.

"We love it here, Hector is fun and encouraging," Nawrocki said.

Rivera recently opened the dance studio with exposed brickwork and a stamped tin ceiling at 226 N. Cortez where he teaches group classes of all styles of ballroom dancing, latin dancing, salsa, and West Coast Swing in the evening and offers private classes in the afternoon.

During a break, Isabel Amone of Prescott said she's taken classes in all the ballroom dancing styles, including fox trot, cha cha, rhumba, waltz, Viennese waltz, and swing.

"He teaches you the movements, mechanics, language, and grammar of dance in such a way that it's easy to learn," Amone said. "This is real exercise and I like the way he runs it."

Rivera, who has been dancing since he was 5 years old, has an extensive performance background.

Rivera said that after serving in the military he went back to Arizona State University to earn his bachelors degree in dance and dance research, and is a certified instructor who has taught dance at many schools for the past 25 years.

"To dance is to live, to live is to dance," Rivera said.

Rivera also teaches classes in Yavapai College's community education program.

Candace Coleman, who teaches adult movement classes at Yavapai College, said Rivera's studio provides a place for adult dance students to learn more after taking courses through the college's community education program.

Rivera's students range from beginners to lifelong dancers, and he teaches a method developed and approved by the National Dance Council of America.

Rivera said he tells students "to relax and enjoy dancing. Being perfect is my job, having fun is yours."

Donna Briggs of Prescott said she's taking Rivera's West Coast Swing class at the college and this was her first time dancing salsa.

"I love to dance, but I just began classes as a senior," Briggs said. "I think it's wonderful exercise. I don't normally like exercise so it has to be fun, and this is."

Olivia Hawkins, a graduate student at Prescott College who is from Santa Fe, said she's enjoying learning salsa dance from Hector.

"I used to salsa dance at the clubs back home, but there aren't any here," Hawkins said.

Several of Rivera's students have become certified teachers and others have gone on to participate in national dance championships.

"You're not coming to me to learn a few steps, I teach you through an accredited process and you get an education from me," Rivera said. "With what you learn here, you can dance with anyone all over the world, and even call out the patterns."

Rachelle Richards of Prescott, who has been dancing for years, said her goal is going to the Emerald Ball dancesport championships and dance camp in Los Angeles in May.

"Hector teaches you a complete methodology not just steps, so you can dance with anyone," Richards said. "When you dance in competition you can only go as far as your partner's level. This is like going to a candy shop, I get to follow a pro."

To contact Rivera, call 899-1589, email hectordancer@cableone.net, or for more information go to the website www.salsaarizonaschoolofdance.com.