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Building Community through Investments in Cultural Capital

Group doing dance workout outdoors (muevete)

DSAL Fitness Instructor Angie Gonzalez Uses Dance to Build a Better Community

Angie Gonzalez started dancing for exercise because she wanted to lose weight. It was 2012, and she heard about a dance program for adults that was being held at her kids’ school, so she decided to give it a try. Pretty soon, Angie not only lost the extra weight, she also began volunteering as a dance instructor at La Familia to share her knowledge and passion for dancing and movement with others.

“To be honest I don't like to do exercise, but I loved dancing ever since I was a kid,” said Gonzalez. “Once I tried dancing to lose weight, I really liked it. After a time, I wanted to share my knowledge with others, because maybe some people are like me who don’t like to go to the gym, but dancing is something you can do, and you can enjoy it while moving your body.”

In 2016, Gonzalez heard about an opportunity to start a dance class at DSAL. DSAL’s recreation programs were flourishing, with boxing, soccer, and a variety of other fitness programs, but no dance. Gonzalez’s style of dance instruction, called Muevete!, was a perfect fit for DSAL’s community-led recreational programming.

“Muevete, means move it! Be active!” said Gonzalez. “I mix different types of dance, like salsa, merengue, cumbia, samba, and reggae. I combine the dance with cardio fitness, and then we do some stretching and yoga at the end of the class.”

Fast forward to 2020, and Gonzalez has built a dedicated following of “ladies” who not only attend her Muevete! class, but also follow Gonzalez’s lead in volunteering to give back to the community.

Gonzalez, who lives in Cherryland, is a busy mom with a husband and two children, but she always has time to volunteer and help her community. It’s the sense of community she cultivates in her class that keeps her ladies coming back again and again.

“I don’t treat my people as teacher-to-student,” she said. “I treat my ladies as friends and as a family because we are a community. When they attend my class, they say, ‘you work with us all the time, every single minute you're working very hard with us. That motivates us to move our body, and to keep working.’”

“The ladies support each other,” said Gonzalez. “It’s so nice. It’s like a big family.”

Muevete! moves online

Unlike other gyms and fitness activities that were forced to close during the COVID-19 pandemic, DSAL continued supporting the community by moving all of its fitness activities online. This presented a big challenge for Gonzalez.

“Actually, let me confess that I had a panic attack,” said Gonzalez. “I never had Instagram or Facebook before I started doing my Muevete! videos during COVID-19. I love working in person, but now I realized I had to learn how to motivate people through this phone! Through social media! I tried my best, and I asked the community to help me do better.”

“I'm the kind of person that wants to know everything and do things perfectly, but I learned that I have to take it step by step, and I have to be patient,” she said.

In addition to shifting to online classes during the COVID-19 crisis, DSAL, through its Dig Deep Farms social enterprise, is helping to lead Alameda County’s efforts to provide food-insecure families with free, healthy food. Dig Deep Farms began hosting weekly, socially distanced food distribution events and delivering food to seniors and other vulnerable populations.

When DSAL and Dig Deep Farms asked for volunteers to help with the food distribution effort, Gonzalez didn’t miss a beat.

“First, I went to Dig Deep Farms to help clean, then I volunteered to do the food pickup and to package meals for delivery. It's a lot of work, so I invited all my ladies to volunteer there because we need a lot of support to help our community during these times.” said Gonzalez. “You can see that people are so grateful to receive the groceries and the meals that DSAL provides, and I enjoy spending time there.”

“I know through my Muevete! classes that a lot of people still don’t know DSAL exists, they think DSAL is just us, the fitness instructors, but I tell them DSAL exists to make the community better,” she said. “I also see how DSAL can be a model for different communities, showing how, if we all work together, we can change the community, and we can have a better community.”

When the COVID-19 crisis is over, Gonzalez is looking forward to returning to in-person classes. She’s also interested in growing her program and involving seniors.

“Our seniors are part of the community, and we need to do something to get them involved,” said Gonzalez. “Sometimes they feel nobody loves them. They feel that they don't fit. I want to do something special just for them. to keep our seniors moving.”


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