Teacher Feature: Victor Contreras
Victor Contreras, along with founder Monica Dabos, was Yes Dance’s first instructor. For six years, he has volunteered his time and skill, teaching two hours every week in order to share the joy of dancing with everyone who comes to Yes Dance. For Monica, “Victor alone is the reason Yes Dance! exists and the reason we’re still here six years later—his unflinching determination and motivation have kept us going.” He says it’s Monica’s tenacity, a drive he doesn’t quite have words for, that has made Yes Dance the flourishing community it is.
The Perfect Launch Partner
From the first Time Yes Dance founder Monica met Victor, she knew he had rhythm. Not too long after that, she knew he would make the perfect partner to launch her vision of a dance studio—a community—where all were welcome, and everyone danced and socialized without alcohol. The two met at a regular salsa social dance, and Victor practiced the moves he was learning on YouTube, judging his knowledge of each new move on her ability to follow. He was kind, he was insistent, and he invested a lot of energy into learning. Soon, Monica says, he was one of the best dancers in the room. When he would attend dances at Soho—arriving at midnight after work—he was a sought-after partner. Everyone wanted to dance with him. So she asked: Would he teach a salsa class if she found the students and space?
For Victor, when he said yes, he figured it was just one of those things said in passing—an idea that would never be anything more. When Monica came the following and asked, “When can you start?” he was surprised.
The Patient, Joyful Teacher
“Pretty soon, we were teaching,” Victor recalls with a smile. At first they had four students. It wasn’t long till more started coming. Victor enjoyed teaching and the people he was meeting. “Back then, not that many people were teaching salsa,” he says. “It was kind of a guarded skill.” He wanted to share the joy he’d found with others.
Monica says Victor was encouraging and friendly and gave each of the students personalized attention. It’s a feature of his teaching that has continued for six years even as the number of students has grown exponentially.
His favorite thing to teach? The basics. The fancy moves are fun, he says, but the basics make everything else possible. So he likes to help dancers master the foundation. And he’s good at it. Everyone loves dancing with Victor; he makes newbies feel like pros.
His favorite thing about teaching? Seeing others have “that click moment I had back in the day—when people go from being nervous to realizing, Hey, this is a lot of fun.” He notes dances don’t turn back after that moment. “They get into a healthy activity and just keep going.”
The Husband and Father
The best thing Victor got out of Yes Dance? A wife and kid! Victor met Julieta dancing at Anyi. Fast-forward a few years and the now married couple have a two-year-old, Benicio.
The wedding was a true Yes Dance story. (Watch the wedding video.) The couple had planned a small courthouse union, with just four witnesses. That all changed after they asked Monica to officiate. “Victor had given to the community for years,” Monica says. “It was a perfect opportunity for us to give back.”
Monica told Victor and Julie she would handle everything. And she did. All the newlyweds knew ahead of time was when and where to show up. “And it was a better wedding than any I’ve seen,” says Victor.
“It was incredible,” Monica says. The Yes Dance community stepped up. There were three photographers, a limousine, souvenirs, food and a beautiful cake, decorations and flower arrangements, and a night at El Encanto hotel for the newlyweds. All was donated by Yes Dance members. Oh and, yes, there was dancing—two dance floors each with its own DJ.
Why Yes Dance?
For anyone considering trying out Yes Dance, Victor says, “Try it! You never know. You just might find something life-changing.”