If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to dance, the Moab Salsa Bachata Festival is an opportunity to immerse yourself – by taking lessons, watching professional performers, and practicing what you’ve learned at dance parties lasting into the wee hours of the morning.
The dance festival, which will be held from Friday, Nov. 13 through Sunday, Nov. 15, will feature nationally acclaimed dancers and instructors from around the country, who will perform, and teach various dance steps such as kizomba, tango, bachata, and salsa. Classes in yoga and meditation are available, as well.
Local children will also perform as members of the dance team “Salsa Picante” during “Latin Showcase” on Friday at 9 p.m., at Canyonlands by Night, 1861 N. U.S. Highway 191.
Festival founder “Hurricane Rita” Maldonado became passionate about dance after leaving the military, where she spent eight years, five months, and 29 days in the U.S. Army. After returning from Iraq, she said she suffered from PTSD, and had problems sleeping, so she threw herself into a multitude of activities – learning to cook, garden, speak Chinese, run rivers and marathons, and dance – hence the moniker “Hurricane Rita.”
During that frenzied period, Maldonado also went to Fiji to participate in a race being filmed by the television series “72 Hours,” where she ended up sick with parasites, which landed her in the hospital and temporarily paralyzed.
After learning to walk again, “dance became my physical therapy,” she said. She traveled across country where she met “tons of professional dancers” and danced as often as she could.
Maldonado moved to Moab in 2013, where she teaches dance at various locations, including South Town Gym, the Atomic Lounge and the BEACON Afterschool Program.
“I want to bring the gift of movement,” Maldonado said. “I know what it feels like to not be able to move.”
Maldonado secured a grant from the Moab Area Travel Council to organize the Moab Salsa Bachata Festival, which also includes options for outdoor activities such as river rafting, guided hikes and Jeep tours. The weekend festival will be held at Canyonlands by Night, and the adjacent Fairfield Inn and Suites Marriott Moab.
Basic beginners’ lessons will be offered in bachata, a type of dance from the Dominican Republic; kizomba, an African tango from Angola; and the Caribbean-inspired zouk dance.
The beginner-level classes, referred to as “boot camps,” are “no-pressure opportunities for beginners to get involved with dance,” Maldonado said.
Various workshops for all levels of dancers will be offered throughout the weekend, as well as performances by local and national dance teams, followed by social dancing on Friday and Saturday from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.
Sheri Griffith Expeditions is one of the event’s sponsors. Owner Jose Tejada takes lessons from Maldonado, and plans to attend the festival.
“In terms of Moab, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Tejada said. “You have to get behind these things when they come.”
The late night social dancing will be a chance to “try out all your moves,” he said. “The fun part is being paired with a partner who knows more than you that takes you places you can’t go by yourself.”
A children’s performance challenge on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Moab Arts and Recreation Center and a Sunday farewell party at Club Rio are free to attend. Tickets for the entire weekend of classes and performances are available, as well as à la carte pricing for individual events.
“This will be the best dance show that Moab has ever seen,” Maldonado said.
First-ever event features nationally acclaimed dancers, instructors
“In terms of Moab, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
When: Friday, Nov. 13, through Sunday, Nov. 15; Festival kick-off and salsa dance lessons on Thursday, Nov. 12, at Club Rio from 8 to 10 p.m., followed by social dance
Where: Salsa workshop at Club Rio, 2 S. 100 West, November 12; Festival at Fairfield Inn and Suites Marriott Moab, 1863 N. U.S. Highway 191, and Canyonlands by Night, 1861 N. U.S. Highway 191
Cost: Various ticket options available
For tickets, or more information, visit bailandowithaview.com; call 831-917-8639, or email email@example.com.