Written by Betsy Abraham Thursday, 06 June 2013 00:00
Alfred Pena doesn’t believe in the two-left-feet excuse.
“There is no such thing as two left feet,” Pena says with a smile. “That can be fixed.”
As founder of Rhythmology, a Westbury dance studio that teaches Latin dance, curly haired Pena is confident that anyone—regardless of age or previous experience—can learn to move.
Located on Union Avenue across from the Westbury train station, the studio is easy to pass by. The exterior is simple and unspectacular: a brick building with a black banner reading “Rhythmology” hanging over the glass double door.
But inside, a vibrant world awaits. Three spacious rooms with hardwood floors and art adorning the walls invite dancers new and old to let go of their inhibitions. Private and group lessons take place every day and Pena says that people travel over 45 minutes to come to the studio to learn from him and his dance partner, Aleksandra Kozlowska. They are the current United States champions in bachata, a hip-popping dance form that originated in the Dominican Republic.
Pena was studying math and economics at Cornell when he saw a flyer for Latin Dancing. He took a class, and fell in love.
“A hobby became a very serious hobby and out of nowhere I decided I wanted to make it a career,” Pena says. “Once I came across dance, something awakened in me. [I loved] the idea of art, of creating, of being my own boss. I realized I didn’t have to go the traditional business direction and it’s been super exciting."
After graduating from college, he started a private in home math tutoring company. But instead of just teaching math, he soon began offering dance lessons to his clients.
“I thought it would be a winning combination,” Pena says. “To make a well-rounded student you need a balance of athleticism, arts and the sciences.”
Many of his students had math phobias or simply hated math, but after teaching them both math and dance, he saw many become more social and confident. Their parents became interested too, and Pena began teaching whole families.
Soon, Pena gave up the math portion and focused on the dance, or what he called the rhythmology, portion of teaching. He wanted to create a community around dance and soon, Rhythmology was born.
Pena first started teaching classes on weekends at Sambuca (now Avanti) on Post Avenue, building up interest and a network of dancers. A year and a half ago, he opened up the studio at 361 Union Ave.
The studio focuses primarily on three types of dance: salsa, bachata and flamenco. There are private lessons every day and group classes Sunday to Thursdays. Instructors put a lot of emphasis on partner dance and technique.
"Technique allows your body to get out of the soul’s way to express itself. If anybody felt they were awkward or had two left feet, with technique, they were able to get rid of that,” Pena says.
And for those who want to take their hobby to another level, there is also a teachers training program. Students can train with Rhythmology to become full time dance instructors, and Pena has enjoyed seeing students progress from having no experience, to their first competition, to teaching classes.
But holding true to Pena’s original vision of creating a dance-centered community, Rhythmology is a lot more than just a dance studio.
The studio tries to create events and special occasions for clients and the community. They also started the Long Island Young Latino Professionals, a networking group where clients who range in professions, can meet and interact socially and professionally.
Pena encourages everyone, including families, to come in and give Latin dance a try. The studio will be holding a dance camp for kids this summer and has recently opened up a location in Patchogue.
For more information, visit rhythmology.us or call 516-280-6677.