From climbing to biking to BASE jumping, connection is often part of the adventure in Moab. This weekend, dancers will descend on the desert for a new connection experience, merging Latin rhythms and red rock adventures in a dance festival organizers say is unlike any in the world.
For its second year, Moab Salsa and Bachata Festival’s Bailando with a View is welcoming instructors and performers from across the country and the world to the Moab Valley Inn at 711 S. Main St. for three days of workshops and entertainment featuring world-class innovators in Latin dance.
The festival will kick off with a pre-party at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10, at Club Rio, 2 S. 100 West.
From Friday, Nov. 11, to Sunday, Nov. 13, the festival will offer progressively more advanced dance workshops, performance challenges, dance parties and opportunities for outdoor thrills around town.
Founder and event manager Aurita “Hurricane Rita” Maldonado said the festival features the best of what she has enjoyed at hundreds of dance festivals she’s attended over the years, with innovations that are unique to her own.
Also the founder and primary instructor for Dance Moab, Maldonado is a passionate proponent of the therapeutic value of dance. Outdoor adventure and dance are a natural fit, she said, although adventurers often haven’t experienced Latin dance, and dancers haven’t experienced anything like the adventures available in Moab.
“This event is very unique (compared with) others in the (United States),” Moab Dance Festival co-organizer and professional bachata performer and instructor Jorge Elizondo said. “We combine the beauty of Moab’s national parks with dancing. No other Latin dance festival merges these two activities together. It’s such a wonderful experience and opportunity for our attendees.”
The partnership between Maldonado and Elizondo illustrates Maldonado’s infectious enthusiasm for bringing together the best of her experiences in dance and the outdoors to share with others. Explaining that Elizondo is the “godfather” of Bachata fusion, she said she was thrilled when he agreed to help her with the inaugural festival last year, with only four months to organize everything.
“It’s the equivalent of Quentin Tarantino flying in and helping with your school play,” she said.
He’s helping again this year, flying in from Shanghai with a half dozen other instructors in time to kick off the festivities on Friday afternoon.
“Rita is such an inspirational person, and her energy is contagious,” Elizondo said. “She was so excited about the idea of producing an event in Moab. I love helping grow the Latin dance communities around the world, and I enjoy working with people that are as passionate about dancing as I am.”
Along with Elizondo, the festival will feature Latin powerhouse Sekou McMiller. Another inspiring innovator, the New York-based professional choreographer and instructor has been an important influence for Maldonado and she said she is thrilled he agreed to emcee the event. His instruction is so sought-after, many of the festival’s other instructors requested not to teach during his sessions so they can study with him, Maldonado said.
“The festival is bringing together people who haven’t worked together before,” Maldonado said.
New experiences are at the heart of the festival, she said. Many of the canyoneering trips this year are already filled by dancers who may have never worn a harness before, and she is thrilled to see so many people she knows from Moab’s adventure scene making a foray into dance for the first time.
An ultra-racer until a life-threatening injury caused nerve damage that has made long-distance running difficult for her, Maldonado was inspired in her early 20s by the enthusiasm of a race director who loved what he did and the life he lived doing it. She decided then she wanted to organize and host events for a living someday, she said.
“I always thought I’d be doing stage races,” she said. “Until I got paralyzed and running isn’t as easy as it used to be. Dance has been my physical therapy. It made sense to create an event where I get to play and they get to play. I get to bring together all my favorite instructors to inspire and uplift in this location. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a festival.”
Multiple ticket packages are available for attendees to tailor their own festival experience, available online or for a slightly higher price at the doors each day. Full passes offer access to all classes, performances and evenings of social dance. A la carte, daily and evening passes are also available.
Moab Salsa Festival fuses world-class dance and adventure
I get to bring together all my favorite instructors to inspire and uplift in this location. It’s everything I’ve ever wanted in a festival.
What: Moab Salsa Bachata Festival: Bailando with a View
When: Friday, Nov. 11, through Sunday, Nov. 13; pre-party at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 10, at Club Rio, 2 S. 100 West
Where: Moab Valley Inn, 711 S. Main St.
Cost: Varies from $10 for nightly performances to $145 for full three-day passes online