Alejandra Nunn grew up salsa dancing.
The beats, the movement, the instruments — they were part of her identity and a part of her Colombian heritage.
But when she came to Australia a decade ago she got married and relocated to Gladstone in central Queensland and had no-one to dance with.
“My husband was always pushing me to do something outside of the house,” Ms Nunn said.
“I wasn’t really into going to the gym or anything … Dancing was my thing.
“So I said ‘Okay, why not bring [salsa] here to Gladstone?’
“I spoke to many dancers in Australia … they [said] to me ‘Just do it, don’t die wondering.'”
A salsa community
From humble beginnings in her garage studio, to now hosting community dance gatherings at the nearby Tannum Sands Beach with dozens of people, Ms Nunn has grown a new salsa community.
“Once I started dancing again I [felt] happy … I was doing something that I loved,” she said.
“To be able to share that with the community, to be able to share it with my students, is just beyond everything that I imagined.”
Vicki McArthur used to instruct Ms Nunn in fitness dance classes and jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the new community.
She said the dancing has helped her after a back injury.
“I had to have back surgery … I didn’t even know if I’d be able to dance anymore or do any sort of fitness,” Ms McArthur said.
“But I was really surprised that Latin dancing has actually helped me.
“It means the world that I’m up and I’m around and I’m physically fit and I’ve got so many friends.”
For Ms Nunn, she really enjoys sharing Colombian, and other Latin American cultures, as part of the project.
“It’s about how the instruments go with the story — with the history, with the country,” she said.
“Everything plays a game, every instrument … they tell stories and the dancers interpret that.”
Lenin Germosen grew up in New York City but his family originally hailed from the Dominican Republic.
A dancing style known as bachata originated in the Dominican Republic. It is also highly popular in Colombia.
“Normally what we do is that when people learn to dance [as children], they learn it from the family gatherings … they have the parties, the music plays,” Mr Germosen said.
“Because of my family being in New York, we didn’t have those opportunities for the large family gatherings.
“So I was one of those kids that just didn’t learn it and it’s something that has always been sort of nagging me — that there’s a big part of my culture that I just wasn’t really attached to, that I wasn’t connected with.”
Mr Germosen said he met Ms Nunn at a cultural festival and got involved as she also danced bachata.
He said dancing allowed him to develop a connection to his culture.
“It’s a big self-confidence boost,” Mr Germosen said.
“I have now [connection] in this little rural town in Gladstone, that I probably wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else.”
Amanda Evans started taking lessons with Ms Nunn when her studio opened last year.
“Apprehensively I came along to my first class basically with two left feet,” she said.
“It has been a rollercoaster, but it is the best fun I have had in my life.”
What the future holds
Ms Nunn wants to grow the community to be even larger.
“I want to see big parties like Sydney, like Brisbane, like the Gold Coast,” she said.
“I want to see people coming to Gladstone, people come in as tourists and dancing with us.
“I want to see people dancing on the beach, like big crowds of people — kids, families — all together dancing.”
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