Salsa duo opens dance studio for the family


By Gina McGalliard

Renowned salsa duo Angel and Tulane Rivera will bring their dance expertise to La Jolla when they open a new studio, “A Time to Dance,” Dec. 8.

“In the past year that we’ve been doing our construction, I’ve gotten a lot of calls from just the local La Jolla people,” said Tulane Rivera. “They all said, ‘There’s nothing for adults.’ In La Jolla there are a few kid’s studios and they’re great, but there’s nothing for the whole family. But here it’s for the whole family. And it’s not just ballet, and it’s not just salsa, it’s everything.”

Among the dance styles the studio will teach are ballroom, Latin, belly dance, hip hop, jazz, samba and Afro Cuban. They also have classes for all ages, from 2 1/2 to adults. “Basically under one roof we have every genre, unlike many other studios that specialize in one area. We specialize in all of them,” said Tulane Rivera.

The studio also choreographs first wedding dances for engaged couples.

Tulane Rivera emphasized the quality of instruction the new studio will offer. “We have the best professionals. We have about 20 employees, and each teacher is a performer in their field, so it’s not like they are just teaching it for fun. It’s actually what they do for a living. We have the best of the best of each genre. But they also perform as well as teach, so they have all the latest moves.”

The Riveras say they have also developed a unique teaching system, known as the interrelated teaching method.

“If there are two or three dances that are similar, we mesh them together to make them easier to learn,” said Angel Rivera. He said the system helps prevent students getting overwhelmed with the larger number of dance styles that fall under the umbrellas of ballroom and Latin dance.

“What I do is I teach fundamental elements and basic steps, and you can teach them one step and it will be a basic step for the foxtrot as well as it being a basic step for swing,” Tulane Rivera said. “So that way they are learning two dances in one, it’s very simple and interrelated. Also, the way that we teach isn’t your typical left foot on one, right foot on two. We more give them picture stories and scenarios, and we’re very creative with the way we teach.”

The studio also will have parties from 8 p.m. to midnight on the first and third Friday each month. These will include free wine and hors d’oeuvres, a dance lesson and a party afterwards.

“We basically teach a fun and social dance class. We teach a bit of swing, rhumba, salsa and then we party. We have fun, and it’s a safe environment instead of going to a club where it may not be as nice and relaxed and it might be more about drinking. Here it’s more about dancing and meeting people so it’s a safe, controlled environment where you can do both.”

In addition to teaching and operating their two dance studios, the couple also has an extensive performing career, and 30 percent of their business is outside events. They also run events at two nightclubs downtown on Fifth Avenue, Wednesday nights Ole Madrid and Sunday nights at Night Club Sin.

Tulane Rivera began dancing ballroom and Latin in her native London at the age of 6 before branching out to different styles such as freestyle, mambo and cha cha. Eight years ago she met her husband Angel Rivera, who was in the Navy at the time and had no prior dance experience. He became a substitute teacher in six months and joined her dance company a year later. In 2002 they opened their first A Time to Dance location in North Park.

They also run the San Diego Salsa Festival, an annual four-day event in September that is sometimes known as the Salsa Congress that draws more than 2,000 participants. The event features workshops and seminars during the day and parties at night, with live music and performances that will “blow your mind,” according to Tulane Rivera. Next year’s festival will start on Sept. 19.

“My husband and I both get hired to go abroad, but we live in San Diego, so when we run our own conference, we want to bring our international friends who we usually go and travel with in Europe and New York,” said Tulane Rivera. “We have the best of the best from around the world coming to this convention in San Diego.”

As for what she would say to a beginner who is shy about taking a first dance class, Tulane Rivera said, “I would say that everyone started the same way that they are. And so someone has to walk into a dance studio somewhere. We try to make it a very friendly and calm environment.”

For more information, visit or email or call 858-792-0910.