Rita Maldonado

Do you have two left feet and a phobia of choreography? If so, Dance Moab’s Red Hot Latin Flavor and Daddy Daughter Dance on Saturday, Feb. 13, is the Valentine’s Day weekend event not to miss.

The all-day event will include salsa and bachata lessons for all levels by some of Utah’s most talented teachers and performers, followed by performances that will showcase talent from around Moab’s community. Later on that night, the event will continue with social dancing.

The event is a fundraiser for Dance Moab’s Salsa and Bachata Festival: Bailando with a View in November. Red Hot Latin Flavor provides a taste of things to come.

Beginners can arrive at noon or 1 p.m. for lessons from one of Salt Lake City’s premier salsa groups, Orisha Dancers. Those who want to turn up the heat can join the group for a choreography challenge from 2 to 5 p.m., learning a complete dance number in three hours and polishing it for performance before social dancing kicks off at 6 p.m.

“Don’t be afraid,” said Chris Gomez, a Sysco delivery driver who joined his daughters performing in last year’s Red Hot Latin Flavor event. “Just let your hair down a little and have fun with it.”

Gomez attended several of the free instruction hours that Aurita Maldonado offers prior to dance events and performances with his twin daughters.

When the time came to take the stage last year, he surprised himself by easily leading them both through the choreography at the same time. He hadn’t danced before taking lessons with Dance Moab, he said, but now he knows how much fun it can be.

After a half hour with Maldonado – Dance Moab’s founder, owner and dance instructor – people of all ages who may have never successfully danced a step in their lives find themselves swept right into the fun of expressing themselves physically with rhythm and confidence. Dance Moab is all about bringing the freedom of dance to everybody, Maldonado said.

“People need to learn how to dance; it’s necessary in life,” she said with conviction, even as she chuckled at the statement’s apparent hyperbole. “When you can just get out there and do a body roll comfortably in a room, the world becomes your oyster. You are so free!”

Known affectionately as Hurricane Rita by those familiar with her energy, Maldonado began dancing as a way to release stress and enjoy herself as an active-duty Army soldier in Texas. Passionate about the importance of expressive movement, she honed her teaching skills all over the world, including teaching free lessons to soldiers deployed overseas and with her river-guiding community in Alaska.

Here in Moab, she teaches two performance groups and a Zumba class through the BEACON Afterschool Program, in addition to daily salsa and bachata lessons for adult beginners and advanced dancers.

All-day event includes lessons, Daddy Daughter Dance and social dancing

“People need to learn how to dance; it’s necessary in life … When you can just get out there and do a body roll comfortably in a room, the world becomes your oyster. You are so free!”

When: Saturday, Feb. 13. Beginner lessons start at noon; event runs all afternoon and evening

Where: Moab Arts and Recreation Center, 111 E. 100 North

Cost: $15 per adult; $5 per student 15 or and younger

Information: www.dancemoab.com

For more information about Red Hot Latin Flavor and Daddy Daughter Dance and ongoing classes with Dance Moab, go to www.dancemoab.com.