Salsa dance Instructor Lionel Araya, second from right, leads a class in Salsa dance for beginners at the City of Santa Clarita Valentine's Salsa Dance Night held at the Canyon Country Community Center in Canyon Country on Saturday. Dan Watson/The Signal

Canyon Country Community Center offers Valentine’s Day-themed salsa class

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, couples and friends made a stop at Valentine’s Salsa Dance Night, hosted by the city of Santa Clarita, at the Canyon Country Community Center on Saturday.

Visitors danced under the direction of Lionel Araya, dance instructor and co-founder of LA Dance Connection. Over the course of the three-hour class, Araya taught basic salsa dance moves before everyone partnered up for a step-by-step dance, followed by a more fluid dance accompanied by Araya’s claps and counting with each step.

Araya’s assistant, who goes by the name Ariel, said salsa dancing is not like going to the gym, but it raises people’s energy “tenfold.” She worked with the CCCC to organize the class, which holds a different Valentine’s Day event each year.

“I know these people would love to do it. It’s a fantastic group of people who enjoy going out and doing something,” Ariel said. “Not everyone wants to drive all the way into Los Angeles to do something, especially on a rainy night.”

She praised those who turned out for their enthusiasm to learn how to dance salsa, which Ariel has worked to expand opportunities and classes across Santa Clarita, where she hopes to find other venues and charities to further spread awareness.

Pia Friedrich and her husband have attended various salsa dance classes they could find over the past six months before they found Araya, becoming close with him and his team. Friedrich’s husband was sick for the evening, so Ariel became her dance partner.

Though Saturday’s class had a Valentine’s Day theme, the type of dance speaks its own language for couples to bond over, Friedrich said.

“If you’re a couple, it’s freaking great,” she said. “It’s sexy, just something fun to do. Something I’ve always wanted to do. I just like the rhythm of it and just be more intimate with your partner too. Even if you’re single, it’s great. You go to salsa clubs and everybody commingles.”

For more information on salsa classes and other dance programs, contact Ariel at (310) 621-1569.

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