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To a Latin beat

A couple who met in a dance class hand off their enthusiasm to beginning students.

By THERESA BLACKWELL, Times Staff Writer
Published October 27, 2007


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LARGO

He met his wife while learning Latin dance and now he brings that experience to others.

Jose Uribe and his wife, Mary, grew up in Chicago's Mexican-American community and went for free dance lessons at Spirit of Music Garden in Grant Park.

One night, they were sitting on the same bench when the music started, a rhythmic and sensual brew of African and Spanish rhythms.

They looked at each other, nodded and stood up to dance.

That was seven years ago. Now Mary Uribe dances with her husband on Wednesday nights at the beginner Latin dance class he teaches in Largo's Southwest Recreation Complex.

The class started in September with a few students in a game room. But now the dancers have taken over the center's largest room. Jose Uribe's easy manner and teaching skills are part of the allure, but Largo officials think it may be more than that.

"It's because of the whole Dancing With the Stars phenom," said Kelly Richmond, a Largo marketing and communications specialist. "It's an art, but it's exercise, too."

Waiting for class to start, student Anita Solar of Largo described herself as a "senior citizen" and a big fan of Dancing With the Stars. Solar said she has danced all her life with much enjoyment but not much skill.

After her first lesson with Uribe, she called all her friends.

"I was totally energized," she said. "It made me feel happy. I felt very good about myself."

As class time drew closer, more dancers filtered in, including John Driscoll and his wife, Maura, who was wearing strappy gold sandals.

"You folks been practicing?" Uribe asked.

"I forgot everything I learned last week," Solar said.

"Well, we'll review," Uribe said.

The class will cover the merengue and cha-cha, but for October, students are concentrating on salsa. Uribe explained the dance's rhythm: "Quick, quick, slow ... quick, quick, slow."

The basic step is simple, but the turns become more complicated. Uribe went over the steps slowly, without music, at first. Then the music started and the dancers spin and spin.

"Very good! Very good!" Uribe called, applauding.

Solar worked on turns with Jean Krause of Largo. The women became confused as they switched off dancing the male lead. "We're having gender identity issues," Solar said, laughing.

Near them, Susan Campbell of Largo danced with her husband. Campbell said Uribe has a talent for making complicated dance steps simple. "It's amazing how fast you learn," she said.

Her husband, Jeff Eppes, has learned, too.

As he steps - quick, quick, slow - his eyes never leave hers.

Theresa Blackwell can be reached at tblackwell@sptimes.com or 727 445-4170.

If you go

Latin dance

Jose Uribe teaches beginner Latin dance Wednesday nights at Largo's Southwest Recreation Complex, 13120 Vonn Road. Class is scheduled for 7:45 to 8:45 p.m. Cost is $5 per session with a Largo recreation card, $6.25 per session without a card. To register, call (727) 518-3125. Uribe also teaches private lessons; call (727) 452-8323.

[Last modified October 26, 2007, 21:42:23]


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