Moody bar lighting illuminated the couple of guests present at Khan’s Korean BBQ in El Centro on Aug. 5 as Oscar Magallanes prepared his dance-lesson plan. The patrons at the bar would occasionally and curiously look over as the first participants walked to the stage and practiced with Magallanes.
The speakers began booming and the lights flashed as more and more guests presented themselves for the free lesson. Magallanes warmed up and greeted his students, some familiar to him and some completely new.
“I’m really trying to make this a sensation, and my classes have been growing and growing lately, which really motivates me,” Magallanes explained.
He added, “I specialize in a sub-genre of Bachata (dance), which prominently features and is influenced by urban culture. I find that the people here really resonate and get into the music, which is ultimately what it’s all about.”
Magallanes has been living in the Imperial Valley since February and said he originally taught Zumba exercise dance before expanding to Bachata.
The first to show up Aug. 5 was one of Magallanes’ more experienced students, having been under his instruction for about six months. Yissel Silva, a bus driver for the Imperial Unified School District, took the stage with Magallanes and handily performed an advanced routine, serving as warm up for both of them before the rest of the students showed up.
“I’ve always been a fan of dance in general,” said Silva, “I finally decided to give that hobby a bit more structure when I felt like taking it to the next level.”
Silva continued, “I was really keen on learning the etiquette and techniques of the more advanced forms of dancing, and even got to enjoy being led instead of leading in a dance.”
As the small bar began to see more and more students show up, chairs, tables and couches were moved around to accommodate the extra bodies. Starting simple and moving to increasingly complicating techniques, Magallanes confidently walked everyone present through the routine.
The gathering eventually grew to about 30 dancers lined up in neat rows and performing various routines.
Another early arrival, El Centro resident Denisse Amaro, gravitated toward the front row of dancers and performed intently.
“This is my seventh class, and I was actually invited by a friend,” explained Amaro.
“That friend is actually a very skilled and accomplished dancer herself,” revealed Amaro. “I guess reaching the skill level she demonstrates is the goal I set for myself as I took on these classes.”
She added, “The Bachata that’s being taught by Oscar is a dance that plays to the strengths of women and their femininity, and exuding that confidence is also a big reason as to why I’m taking the lessons.”