Anyone can dance if they want to, and with Irina Feldesh, nobody gets left behind
By Liam Newbigging | June 14, 2023
Irina Feldesh is a dance teacher, performer, DJ, and event organizer who has been part of the city’s growing Latin dance scene with her Social Tuesday dance events. While she normally teaches mainly Latin styles, her upcoming free event on June 16 will mix both bachata and swing. But Feldesh says that the most important thing at any of her events, whether they’re free or paid, bachata or swing, is that they are safe.
When she first started putting on private Latin dance events during the pandemic, the safety of her patrons was a major focus. She remembers struggling with some public events that failed to take precautions. “There were no safety protocols in place. There was no communication about, like, what’s your plan to make sure people don’t get sick,” she says. “So based on that, that’s how I started doing private events.”
But when dancers were able to return to public socials without restrictions, many of Feldesh’s students and patrons were curious about her continuing to organize events. First, she began with outdoor public events at places like Louise McKinney Riverfront Park, which attracted a following. But then venues began reaching out to Feldesh, and soon she began putting on events at Central Social Hall, Station on Jasper and, now, at 9910 underneath The Common. “That’s kind of how my social Tuesdays were born.”
But even with the restrictions behind us, safety is still as important as ever for Feldesh. She says she’s both witnessed and experienced sexual harassment within the city’s Latin dance community. As a response, her events are structured to maintain safety and keep things focused on dance. “It’s one of the reasons we always have, like, at least two hours of dance classes [before social dancing] because that tends to weed out the people who aren’t there for dance,” she says.
And the two-hour classes also give dancers the skill sets to be able to dance comfortably and to be able to adjust based on each dancer’s ability. “I have some students that come to my classes, and they’re in their 80s or 90s,” Feldesh says. “And we can still dance safely and comfortably because I give my students the tools to do that and adjust to their partner.”