Andrea Arenas and Ciara Morales (aka, Ace and Ciara) are featured in this edition of Dance Spotlight! They are based in the Washington DC/Maryland/Virginia (or DMV) area and are one of the up and coming duos in the bachata latin dance community. They were nominated by two tremendously influential figures in the bachata scene, Edwin Ferreras AND Carlos Cinta.
Carlos said, “They are about love. They’re amazing people, dancers and teachers. What they do for the LBTGQIA community and the dance community in general is amazing. They’re generous, kind, warm and they have a story to tell. Their voices need to be heard.”
Check out some fun facts and information about Ace and Ciara including their first memories of latin dancing and their experience as a same-sex couple in the latin dance community. Want to nominate someone to be in the Dance Spotlight? Contact us!
*Post update* – Ace and Ciara are no longer dance partners, but they are both still active instructors.
What are your first memories of latin dancing? (A class? Watching friends or relatives dance?)
Ciara: My first memories of bachata are as a child with my grandmother in her living room. I remember holding a broom and her holding the mop, and laughing together as she taught me a basic. I also recall being a child and attending family parties where our family played bachata, salsa, merengue and other genres that are still near to my heart.
Ace: My first memories of bachata are as a young teenager in middle school and high school. I would dance with my best friends at their houses and with their parents who are from the Dominican Republic. I loved staying at my best friends house and I can still smell their tres golpes breakfast. They always made it with bachata music playing in the background and they would cook and dance.
You are engaged to be married (congratulations!) and members of the LBTGQIA community. Describe your experience thus far in the latin dance community?
Ciara: WE ARE OFFICIALLY ENGAGED! I find that my experience hasn’t been as difficult because of the fact that people often assumed I was straight. I am what people would call “straight passing” so I have not received the same kind of negativity or treatment as my partner (Ace). I find that I have been well received in the community. However, I’d like Ace to further elaborate on their experience because theirs is more directed and targeted towards them. I often find I am witnessing others experience this treatment which is why creating a space of love and inclusion is so important.
Ace: We are an amazing team and this is by far the healthiest relationship I have ever had with any other human being. For me being a queer international instructor has been a love and hate relationship within certain spaces. There are times I leave a space feeling hopeful and happy and others where I feel like some just don’t get it. It’s frustrating because I love to lead and dress how I feel! That doesn’t mean I want to get with everyone who is a “female”. I just wish there was a way some could really see I am a non-binary human being, how I dress has nothing to do with me wanting to be or pretend to be a man or a woman.
There so many negative comments we get when our videos go viral on social media platforms – those comments are hateful and disgusting. All I want for others is happiness with whatever it is that they are doing with their lives. I wish more people in my community understood that just because there are queer members who dress a certain way doesn’t make them “want or think they are a certain gender”. For me it is just fashion and fashion to me is wearing whatever you feel fits you best.
Personally, I don’t consider myself to be MALE or FEMALE, which is why my pronouns are they, them, theirs. We are fighting against the grain and putting ourselves on the line for our queer folks who are still home afraid and feel unsafe. Our main goal in our dance careers is to help educate about queer culture, and provide accessibility in our spaces for everyone to feel welcomed and safe. If there are any queer folks reading this, we love you, we see you, we are here to help spread our culture and educate others who are not aware of what it means to provide safe space for us.
Describe a moment in your dance career that made you feel proud.
Ciara: I think I have two! One of my proudest moments was sitting back during our Amargue Fusion Weekender and witnessing the pure joy exuding from participants. I realized this is something I want us to continue to create not only for our dance community but also for all the persons we encounter in our day to day lives.
Ace: One of the proudest moments for me would be when we were invited to the Queer Latin Dance Festival and were asked to teach a five hour performance challenge. We worked hard for five hours to teach students the choreography we created for them. It was incredible to see their progress after all the practice and hard work, and I was brought to tears during our tech rehearsal. Seeing all the students from different backgrounds work together and not give up made me so proud and it was one of the most proudest moments for me.
Dance Pet Peeve(s)? (Hygiene, No connection, People who teach while dancing, etc)
Ciara: My biggest pet peeve is when people bully others because of their skill level, appearance, differences, etc. This bothers me within the dance scene but also just in general.
Ace: My biggest pet peeve is when someone is just dancing to show off all the moves they’ve learned. I really dislike seeing other dancers be super egotistical about their skills on and off the dance floor.
What are your current favorite songs to dance to? Top two or three…
- Anything Luis del Amargue – “Se Acabo El Amor Bonito”
- El Chaval – “Cuando se Va el amor”
- Robin Carino – “Abusadora”
What goal(s) do you strive to accomplish through your work as dance instructors?
Ciara: One of our goals is to have a more inclusive dance space to persons who are Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing. We want to have a space for persons of all disabilities to come and enjoy the dance world free of judgement, but also have promoters and event coordinators accommodate these needs. We’d like to have a space where people of the LGBTQIA community can be safe in their skin, and share their love for dance at congress scenes safely. I strive for a space of inclusion, love, respect, and safety.
Ace: Ciara truly hit on our goals! I’d also like to work on military bases with the Wounded Warrior Battalion. I am a prior Marine Corps service member and I served for several years. The military has a very high suicide rate of 29.1 of every 100,000. I would love to offer classes and recreational services to our service/wounded warriors with the opportunity to heal through dance.
Can you please describe the purpose of this discussion panel at the Amargue Fusion Weekender and why it’s important?
Ciara: This was actually the first time we hosted the Amargue Fusion Weekender and it was also the first time we decided to facilitate a panel. The purpose of this panel was to address topics and issues that are prevalent within our dance scene that are often overlooked, ignored, dismissed and yet people are impacted by these things on a regular basis. This panel was incredible and people shared authentically– we had laughter and tears and the room was fully engaged. However, we do recognize this was the first panel and we learned a lot from it! We received feedback on how to improve on it for the next time and will be taking it all into consideration in planning the next AFW panel.
We do know this is something we want to continue at all of our events! We (the community, event coordinators, promoters etc) need to be in the conversation about what people are facing and we need to work together to create change for the community.
Topics that need to be addressed or we feel require further discussion include, but are not limited to: safety, consent, respect, inclusion, accessibility, invisibility, visibility, toxic masculinity, racism, sexism, and representation. The list could go on. Our ultimate goal with the Amargue Fusion Weekender panel is to hold space for persons who haven’t been able to address the issues they have faced in their experience as people, dancers, artists, DJs, event attendees etc. We also wanted to create an opportunity for everyone in the space to be acknowledged and embraced.
We are excited to keep this going and we are committed to holding space for hard conversations that need to happen – this is all bigger than us. Dance brings us together and it is our responsibility to take care of our people and keep us all together.