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Emerging Lane | Spicing Up the Social Scene

Salsa Center owners Reena and Abel Reyes say dancing provides a way to socialize while getting a great workout

By Kathie Stamps

Salsa Center Dance Studio, which opened on Jan. 25 in Lexington, is the latest real estate and business venture from Reena and Abel Reyes.

Salsa dancing is so popular in Central Kentucky, the Salsa Center Dance Studio needed to double its space.

Last April, owners Reena and Abel Reyes purchased a building in south Lexington twice the size of their previous location around the corner. After gutting the building and doing a complete rehab, the couple opened the new space on Jan. 25. And that’s just the first phase, because there’s a full-size basement to turn into an entertainment venue and capture the nightlife crowd.

When it’s finished, The Salsa Center on Lane Allen Road will have about 5,300 s.f. for the Reyeses to share their love of Latin dancing with locals and those who travel from other cities and states.

They started The Salsa Center in 2011 and bought their first real estate three years later.

“We completely turned it around and tripled the value,” Reena Reyes said. “We sold it and invested in this new one.”

She’s had her real estate license nearly 12 years and works at Legacy Real Estate Firm. Her husband is a remodeler and got his general contractor license for their latest studio project.

“We are dancers and have that creative side,” she said, adding that it’s nice to work together on the business side as well. With a University of Kentucky finance and business degree, she gained industry experience by working at a title company and then was a loan officer. A friend suggested she try real estate “and I loved it.”

Realtor by day and dance studio owner also by day (and evenings and weekends), Reyes considers herself fortunate to be able to balance her time with both ventures.

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“Many artists are so passionate about their dance – and I am or I wouldn’t have started this business – but it’s hard for them to stay focused on the business side to survive,” she said. “You have to charge. You have to make it a business to keep your doors open.”

The Salsa Center is available as a venue rental, and Reyes wants to see other artists rent some space in the building and help the whole arts scene in town.

“We have beautiful floors, and the vision my husband had for the building is that it’s not your ordinary dance studio.”

Abel Reyes is from Havana, where he was in a band, so he knows all about live entertainment and the importance of music in dance and in life.

Abel and Reena are both master instructors at The Salsa Center. They are well-known for teaching their students the Cuban dance called Rueda de Casino, an upbeat dance in a circle (rueda is the Spanish word for wheel) with synchronized dance moves. In February they started the Rueda Social Club, a twice-monthly membership program.

“You can learn the steps online,” Reena Reyes said. “The highlight of what we offer is that you’re with people. If you’re not practicing with someone and changing partners, the whole ‘fun’ aspect goes away.”

The Salsa Center offers a variety of lessons and classes for different types of Cuban salsa and other Latin dances like the cha cha chá, lambada and mambo.

“Our group classes are very popular,” she said.

Many professionals like to attend a dance class after their 9-to-5 workdays. Dancing is a great way to exercise and checks all the boxes for physical, mental and emotional self-care.

“It’s good for your soul,” Reyes said. “Mentally, you have to learn something, practice and think about it to improve. The interaction with other people is social and related to emotional health.”

Taking salsa on the road, The Salsa Center partnered last summer with Kentucky Castle, the landmark attraction in Woodford County, with Salsa in the Sky, a series of salsa lessons on the castle’s rooftop entertainment space.

“It was a hit, a lot of fun,” Reyes said. She expects the program to start back up in May.

To give back to the community, The Salsa Center teamed up with the Down Syndrome Association of Central Kentucky to offer free classes on Sundays in February and March.

“They have a lot of great people that love to dance,” Reyes said. She approached the organization about developing the program. “I asked to speak to the executive director. We meshed immediately.”

Reaching out, bringing people in, and welcoming one and all to experience the excitement of salsa, the Reyeses have created a business providing a social life for others. Reena Reyes said, “We want our customers to feel really good when they’re in there.”