ROANOKE, Va. – For Dream Dance and Fitness Studio owner Marina Trejo, dancing isn’t just a part of her job, it’s her personal therapy.
As she leads her class and moves her body to salsa, merengue and bachata, she can feel herself becoming immersed in the music that surrounds her.
She can’t help but smile, seeing her clients closely follow her choreography and hoping that moving in unison with the music brings them as much happiness as it brings her.
After all, dancing is her purpose.
“Working is not working for me just because I get up and do what I love every day,” explained Trejo. “If I can provide something for you to feel better and I can do it through dance, through an exercise, I will.”
Located in downtown Roanoke, Dream Dance and Fitness Studio is the only studio in the Roanoke area that offers bilingual dance classes, fitness classes and Quinceañera choreography and classes.
At this time, Trejo rents the space and hopes to one day own an entire studio for her classes.
From Bhangra rhythms to Colombian cumbia, the Latina business owner strives to not only teach people different dance styles and techniques but the cultures behind them.
She explained that learning about cultures different from your own helps minimize stereotypes and allows you to better understand those around you.
That advice applies to her as well.
“I have learned so much. I have learned how to talk to people and understand them because listening to where they come from and what their culture is about makes me understand why they act the way that they do,” said Trejo.
She was born and raised in Mexico and said that her fervor for dancing started at just 5 years old. She explained with a laugh that dance was treated like a sport back in Mexico and kids were often forced to.
“If you’re not doing it, they make you do it pretty much,” she said. “We have dance presentations at, like, every celebration, whether it’s Mother’s Day, Independence Day, I mean you name it.”
While dancing is a pleasant memory from her childhood, Trejo was faced with many challenges growing up.
At just 6 months old, her parents left her to be raised by her grandmother in a small town in Central Mexico without potable water or electricity.
When she was 12, she came to the United States looking for employment to help support her grandmother.
“It was a very common thing for young girls, between the ages of 13 to whatever, to come across the border and work as maids and that’s how I came to the United States,” she said.
In Texas, she got her first job cleaning for a family and taking care of their children. She said she was barely making $60 a week.
Trejo said it was a difficult season and for the longest time, she thought she wouldn’t make it out of the storm.
However, when she was 15, while at church, she met Maria Consuelo Fernandez, who took her into her arms, adopted her and helped register her for school.
Trejo credits the kindness of both Fernandez and her long-time best friend, Dominique Rodriguez, for helping her push through that difficult period.
“They aren’t my blood family but they are the people that pretty much rescued me from the situation that I had going on,” she said.
Now, nearly 10 years later, Trejo calls Roanoke home and is a proud mother of two as well as a business owner. Her tenacity in the face of adversity enables her to still support her grandmother who is now nearly 93 years old.
“Now, because of my dream and all this trouble that I went through, I can send a little bit more money to my grandmother. I built her a house. I have her set up like a queen,” said Trejo.
Trejo hopes her story will encourage others to follow their dreams, regardless of what’s thrown their way, just as she did.