ORANGE COUNTY, N.C. — A free dance class in Carrboro is making exercise more accessible. Not only is the class donation-based, but its instructors are bilingual and teach in both English and Spanish.

For instructor Oscar Garcia, dance comes out of joy and necessity after he was diagnosed with diabetes during the pandemic.

What You Need To Know

  • A free dance class meets every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Carrboro Town Commons

  • Instructor Oscar Garcia teaches in both English and Spanish

  • The class is free, but they the instructors do accept donations

"I started working on myself, coming here doing Zumba four days a week, eating healthy, and I made a promise to myself," Garcia said. "After a year, I didn't have diabetes anymore.”

He started dancing at Carrboro Town Commons with his mom. Once people started noticing, Garcia asked if they wanted to join.

"One by one people were driving on the street or walking and they just started to come," Garcia said. "I love dancing and I love music. I think music is a therapy for us as humans and it brings so much joy."

Oscar Garcia

Now, every week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, dozens of dancers come out to join him. And because Garcia is originally from Mexico, he speaks and teaches in both English and Spanish.

"This is the perfect spot if you don't know how to dance salsa, cumbia - then here you can practice. We don't judge nobody, you just have to get into it," Garcia said.

Bilingual teachers like Garcia are needed as the Hispanic population in North Carolina grows. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the state's Hispanic and Latino population grew from just over 75,000 people in 1990 to 800,000 in 2010. And the latest numbers from 2019 show there are now 1,026,000 Latinos. 

So, as Garcia teaches in both languages, he is bridging a gap and building community. He reminds us that you don't need to speak the same words to move to the same beat.

"We need to come together as a whole," Garcia said. "I think this pandemic taught us to look into ourselves, help our neighbor and help whoever needs help. I think that is how we are going to be a better community."

The dance class meets every week at Carrboro Town Commons on Tuesdays and Thursday at 6:30 p.m. It's offered for free, but the instructors do accept donations. Anyone is welcome.