Walnut Creek Journal

Teacher adds a Latin flavor to dance

Published on August 11, 2004, Page 09, Contra Costa Sun (CA)

By Janice De Jesus

IT HAS LONG BEEN Adrian Flores' mission to make Walnut Creek the Latin cultural hub of the East Bay.

An accomplished ballroom dancer, producer and instructor for three decades, Flores hopes to build a community of like-minded people who share a love for Latin dance.

"I have a burning desire for people to get along," says Flores, 53, a Walnut Creek resident. "In this world where there's so much chaos, ballroom is a world where people get along. It's a world where people learn to work and respect each other and have fun."

Flores says he likes the interaction between men and women "and the mysteries about each other that are answered through communication that is accessible when dancing is a part of your life."

Men and women, he says, talk about each other without really knowing about each other.

"That gap is bridged through dancing. A lot of cobwebs get cleared out through dancing and that's what I want for people."

After years of producing shows in the Bay Area, Flores' latest production showcases a Latin dance extravaganza with bands and dancers performing such rhythms as the cha cha, tango, rumba and salsa.

"The Latin Show," to be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 13, at the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, promises to open the city to the world of ballroom dancing, Flores says.

Though the performances end at 9 p.m. that's when the party starts. Audiences members are invited to dance the cha-cha, tango and salsa to live music until 11 p.m.

"I would like Walnut Creek to be just like it was in the 1940s when the general populace knew how to dance," he says. "It's important for adults, and equally important for children, to know how to dance."

At a time when funds are being cut from schools for arts programs, it's highly pertinent to support young people interested in pursuing dance, says Flores. Some of the proceeds from "The Latin Show" will go toward local school dance programs.

"I would like to institute a program where the burden is not on the taxpayer but on me," Flores says.

Any local school interested in launching a ballroom dance course can call Flores for support and he says he'll fund it.

"I have the teachers ready, willing and able, who have the same desire," he says.

School propelled him

Flores knows first-hand how school inspired him to pursue dance. Back in American Bandstand's heydey in the 1950s, Flores, a Richmond native, grew up idolizing his sisters, who were all great dancers.

One day, a young Flores was asked to perform the mambo for a school program because "I was the only kid that looked like (I could dance) the mambo. I was a rare breed being Mexican."

After family members taught him the basic steps, he practiced, then took the stage. And the performance was a hit.

"I just wanted to show off the mambo and just did it with all the gusto," he recalls.

As years went by, his involvement with the San Francisco Boys Choir further enhanced his love for music, dance and performing. He remembers during junior high and high school dances, when the mash potato, twist, matador, shotgun and the monkey were popular dances, people would clear the dance floor to watch the gyrating Flores.

Dance passion for life

After a career with Richmond's planning department and a divorce and quitting singing.

A friend suggested he go to a dance studio in Walnut Creek to see what might be in store for him. This was at the same time the '70s cult film "Saturday Night Fever" hit the screens.

"The ballroom world would get a shot in the arm like they weren't expecting and they needed teachers," Flores says. "I innocently walked into the dance studio and unbeknownst to me, the interest was alive and well."

Because of the urgent demand, a six-week training for a newly hired instructor was cut down to four days, mainly because of Flores' dance ability and experience.

Soon he became known in dance circles for his expertise in ballroom dancing, particularly the tango when he was paired with tango legend Rita Agnese. For years, Flores built a solid reputation in the North American ballroom dance scene -- participating in lessons, competitions and studio showcases.

Sal Medina, a close friend of Flores for 20 years, says what makes Flores admirable isn't just the way he moves to music, but also the way "his heart beats to the needs of his community."

Medina says when Flores isn't dancing he's donating his time and money to charitable and civic activities, particularly those benefiting the Latino community.

As a dance partner, ladies needn't feel intimidated, says Christina Medina, Sal's wife.

"You just feel comfortable with him," she says. "He just has a presence."

Ambassador for Latin, ballroom dance

When the live stage extravaganza "Tango Argentino" came to San Francisco, Flores produced his first show -- the farewell dinner party show for the cast of the production.

That's when it hit him. Through producing shows, he could introduce people to the many ballroom dance styles as well as allow those already familiar with the dances to foster an even greater appreciation.

In addition to earning international ballroom dance champion laurels, Flores produced such shows as San Francisco's "Dance Extravaganza," "Adrian Ballroom Revue," and "Adrian's Ballroom Follies."

Besides producing shows, he devotes his time to teaching classes at SOLAD Dance Center in Walnut Creek and giving private lessons.

Reach Janice De Jesus at 925-952-2617 or jdejesus@cctimes.com.