Dancer offers classes to help his native Puerto Rico

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Samir Andrades visited his family in Puerto Rico over the summer before returning to his home in Youngstown. Just a couple months later, in September, Hurricane Maria devastated his home country.

“The government wasn’t prepared to deal with this disaster because of financial problems. It’s desperate. The rate of suicide is crazy,” he said.

Three months later, Puerto Ricans including his parents still struggle with not having water, electricity and basic supplies. Andrades knew he needed to do something to help.

Teaching Latin Dance classes on Saturdays in a fiery red room of the Coy Cornelius building on Belmont Avenue is the start of his efforts to raise money for Puerto Rico while trying to spread joy in Youngstown.

After all, he said he came to Youngstown in the first place because he knew he could use his talents to bring something fresh to the city.

“I knew I could bring something new in the community, with my talent and experience,” he said.

The move to Youngstown was needed because Andrades said he wanted a change of pace. He teaches dance classes at the SMARTS (Students Motivated by the Arts) art school in Youngstown.

Andrades was born in Puerto Rico, and then moved to Orlando, Fla., for 20 years. He worked as a stage assistant in Diagon Alley at Universal and danced at the Holy Land Experience park. Then, he started working for Dance Revolution, where he went around the United States teaching a variety of dances. From there, he worked with Project Dance, where he still works, and taught classes around the world.

“I didn’t speak English when I first started with Dance Revolution, but dance is a universal language. It’s movement and counting,” he said.

Andrades uses the $10 fee from each dance class to buy supplies and clothing for children in Puerto Rico. Today, after his final dance class of 2017, he and some of his dancers are boxing care packages filled with toys, school supplies, candles and clothes to be sent to children in Cabo Rojo, Utuado and Barranquita.

“It makes me feel connected to my people,” he said.

The past couple months, Andrades taught six dance classes, and he will resume teaching again Jan. 13. He said he has about 10 dancers who come regularly.

Megan Tomas is a belly dance teacher and massage therapist who participates in all Andrades’ classes. She helped him secure the room for his classes.

“Dance is a celebration. To use dance to help others is a great thing,” she said. “Love is always the motivation.”

There will be a pop-up shop at the Coy Cornelius building, 1931 Belmont Ave., from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, and Andrades said people can donate items for Puerto Rico. He asked for school supplies, toys and candles.

For information about his classes, call 234-228-4286.

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