Richmond with a Side of Salsa

As culturally diverse as Richmond is, the Hispanic community isn’t one of the prominent cultures of the city but it is growing.

By Amber Galaviz

Clara Toro has made it her career to teach and share her passion for Salsa so she teaches private and group lessons on top of planning weekly and monthly events for the Salsa community of Richmond.

The Hispanic community of Richmond took getting used to for NY native and Salsa instructor, Clara Toro, realized after relocating with her family here in 1998.

“Some of the differences I find in comparison to NY is that in the Hispanic community in Richmond is much smaller in size when it comes to the clusters of different types of Hispanic cultures,” Toro said.

Clara Toro grew up in the Bronx, NY and started dancing Salsa in 1993. She is of Puerto Rican descent and got to experience many different heritages while growing up in NY.  After graduating from Baruch College with a B.B.A in accounting, she moved to Richmond where she began teaching and promoting Salsa events. In 2008, Toro took her passion for Salsa to the next level and established her own company,

Toro directs Salsa4Life with her son and dance partner, Giovanni Roggiero, who started dancing Salsa when he was 14. Roggiero teaches Salsa classes, DJs and is a full-time student at VCU, majoring in business administration.

“The Hispanic community in Richmond is a lot smaller than the Hispanic community is New York. There is more unity with Hispanics is Richmond versus New York.,” Roggiero said. “I don’t see as many Hispanics in Richmond as I see other cultures but I have seen the number of Hispanics increase in attendance.”

The Salsa community is one Toro hopes will continue to grow with the formation of Salsa4Life.

“Salsa is not just a style of dance or music, it’s our passion and a way of life,” Toro said. “It is through this dance that we’ve met wonderful people throughout the world and great relationships have been created. Our goal is to continue to grow our Salsa community in Richmond, VA by providing monthly and weekly events that are fun, friendly and vivacious.”

Tanya Smith is a Salsa instructor from Mr. Mambo’s in the District of Columbia, who often attends Salsa4Life events.

“They make the studio a fun place to be and learn,” Smith said. “They host and organize several of the hottest weekly and monthly Salsa events in the Richmond Area.”

“Even if you’ve never danced before, we’ll help you feel right at home. We always provide a dance lesson before our events,” Toro said. “Salsa dancing is fun for all ages. It’s a great way to make new friends, be active and even relieve some stress.”

Sara Bass is a former student of Toro’s and has an increasing love for Salsa.

“Clara Toro is an amazing teacher and person. I have had so much fun learning to dance and meeting people in a new area of interest for me,” Bass said.

Owning a company was never a dream of Toro’s but was an easy transition after she became so involved in promoting Salsa in Richmond.

“In New York, you may not see a lot of businesses owned by the Hispanic community,” she said. “I think Richmond has a lot of potential for the Hispanic community in terms of growth and achievement in the work sector and financial economics,” Toro said. “Richmond is growing in the Hispanic sector and will continue to grow.”


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