PRESIDIO OF MONTEREY, Calif. (April 18, 2023) – First, Kaylan Pereira taught all her friends and family salsa dancing. Now she has the Monterey military community in her sights, and she has no shortage of interested dancers.
Pereira began teaching salsa at the Price Fitness Center this month, and the class is a popular addition to the installation’s repertoire of free group fitness classes. Many participants are students at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center, where service members from all branches of the military come to learn foreign languages. Pereira said she wants them to enjoy the class.
“I want to make it a very safe zone with no judgment,” said Pereira, who volunteers to teach the classes. “There’s no judgment. There’s no test here. All these students have enough on their plates, so this is a place to let loose and stress free and not bring everything going on in their heads. They can just relax here.”
Pereira is a civilian security specialist for the school’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations Office, and she learned salsa dancing from her Cuban mother while growing up in Miami.
“We learned [salsa] as a child,” Pereira said. “Miami is a big melting pot of diversity, so we learned everything from salsa to bachata to pretty much anything from the Latin culture from a young age and we just continued, and now I perform it sometimes.”
One of the friends Pereira taught to salsa dance is Marine Corps Capt. Kenny Vaswani, a student at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, and he serves as Pereira’s assistant during the class.
Vaswani said he began learning salsa dancing about three months ago, and with a teacher like Pereira, learning is easy.
“All you have to do is just listen to the music, listen to the steps,” Vaswani said. “Once you get the rhythm, you just have to practice, practice, practice.”
Pereira said that salsa dancing not only includes physical benefits, but social benefits as well.
“It brings out culture,” Pereira said. “It brings out sassiness. It brings out attitude and it also just brings out fun with whoever you bring, so you can learn a few moves, and you can use them in a social setting.”
For all the fun though, Pereira said salsa fits squarely in the realm of fitness.
Not only does salsa dancing include a lot of stretching, Pereira said, it is also good for dancers’ hip flexors, which are a group of muscles toward the front of the hip that help people move their legs and knees toward their bodies.
Service members who attended said they had a great time.
Army Pfc. Enrique Barriga said he decided to attend the class because he wants to become a better dancer so he can meet girls, and the class increased his confidence.
“I thought it was going to be a lot worse than it was,” Barriga said. “I thought it was going to be a lot harder, but [Pereira] did a good job teaching us. I feel super confident coming to the next class.”
Meanwhile, Army National Guard Pfc. Ashton Bowles said she used to compete in hip hop, jazz and contemporary dance, but wanted to learn salsa. The class started with a helpful pace, she said.
“Today was good,” Bowles said after the April 3 class. “Simple and easy. I think anybody can do it, and if you’re scared, you can do it. They’re really welcoming.”
Nicole Dansby, manager of the Price Fitness Center, said salsa dancing is a great addition to the facility’s fitness class line-up.
“With salsa, people of all ages can let go and have fun and dance together,” Dansby said. “Not only is it a full-body workout that targets all the muscles groups, it’s interactive and exudes a positive electric energy. We are so grateful for Kaylan to take the time to come and share her passion, energy and time with our Monterey military community.”
The classes meet the first and third Mondays of the month at 5:30 p.m., and will feature a different song and accompanying choreography each month. April’s song was “Mi Tierra” by Gloria Estevan, and students learned basic salsa steps and turns.
For more on group fitness at the PFC, visit https://presidio.armymwr.com/programs/pfc