Julie Powers showed up at Salsa in the Suburbs Dance Studio, wanting to take salsa lessons in anticipation of showing off her new skills aboard a cruise originating in Mexico. Charlie Malone joined the studio three years ago as a way of meeting new people.
Her salsa dancing skills went untapped during the cruise but made it easy to connect back at home with the tall man with light eyes. It was an unlikely pairing. She was ready for a serious relationship, and Charlie was disenchanted with the notion of love. Romance was the last thing on his mind.
Slowly, an attraction for each other grew. Julie asked Charlie to walk her to her car, following a social dance in September. They went on a few more dates and then Charlie, who was reluctant to start anything romantic, was calling her every day. By Halloween, their relationship was official and then in January, Charlie proposed on bended knee, on a downtown street in Media, not too far from the dance studio.
Salsa dancing in the suburbs is helping ignite romantic sparks and couples aren’t waiting on a certain winged matchmaker to intervene.
“We were ready to fly to Vegas two weeks ago to elope,” Charlie admitted.
The two traded glances before Julie cut in, saying in a faraway voice: “It’s unique. It’s like nothing I ever experienced before. I don’t think everybody gets to experience this.”
“I don’t think so, nope,” Charlie said shaking his head.
Brett Brashers was looking for a partner for a Bachata performance class and Kristen Gilia, another student of Salsa in the Suburbs, was also open to the idea. Neither had any idea that their platonic friendship would blossom into a romantic relationship.
Brett and Kristen made their relationship official in December, about three months after the performance class ended.
“The performance class definitely built mutual attraction between us,” Brett says. “We have a lot of fun in the social context of the studio. By partnering and dancing together, people thought we were dating before we actually were. We clicked and great on-floor chemistry translated off the floor too.”
“When we were dancing together,” Kristen says, “it seemed like there was nobody else in the room. We were there for each other, to support each other through the entire process.”
Julie Berger, founder and artistic director of Salsa in the Suburbs, says she isn’t surprised that people are finding partners for more than just dancing. Her studio has a warm, inviting atmosphere that attracts a friendly crowd. Classes are intimate and personal, and dancers are encouraged to mingle and socialize in and outside of the studio.
During dance socials, the cozy red couch in the foyer becomes a central fixture, inviting people to sit and talk and find out more about each other.
Once people are comfortable socially, the studio’s founder says new opportunities for networking and socializing arise. People enjoy dances together, exchange phone numbers and stay in contact through Facebook and other social media.
“I feel privileged to be a part of the birth of serious relationships,” says Julie Berger. “I feel proud to have created an atmosphere in which people feel comfortable being themselves and stepping out of their comfort zones. That’s an extra perk of my already amazing job.”
Chase and Jessica Trinh, who have been together for 11 years and married for nearly three years, wanted to spend more time engaged in an activity that they could enjoy together.
As 2nd Lieutenant platoon leader in the Army Reserves, Chase has been away from home during wedding anniversaries and birthdays due to basic training. Those assignments kept him away from home for up to six months at a time. Come April, he will be overseas on assignment and away during his fourth wedding anniversary.
His prolonged absences have been emotionally challenging for both, but Jessica was all smiles at the in-house “Underground Salsa Party” on January 19. With her husband never far from her side, they both talked about their decision to take salsa lessons together.
“It’s been really fun. Nights like this are magical and I appreciate these moments even more because he was gone.”
Both say they’ve already noticed positive changes in their relationship as result of taking salsa lessons together for the last three months. They have become better listeners, feel more in tune with each other and have learned new ways to be supportive and communicate more clearly.
“I think more couples should do it because it really emphasizes communication,” Chase says. “And a lot of that translates into what we do outside of the dance floor. I can see us doing this when we’re retired and growing old together.”
By Wilford Shamlin
Swindell Plus Publishing