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Strawberry dance instructor makes salsa a journey

Strawberry resident Mark Ellis (front left) leads and teaches salsa dancing students during his Friday-night classes March 8 at his dance studio in San Rafael. Ellis, who founded Salsa Marin Dance Academy in 2012, has students travel from across Marin and beyond to learn from him. He also helped choreograph the Marin Theater Co.’s production of ‘Bees & Honey.’ (Francisco Martinez / The Ark)

Strawberry dancer Mark Ellis says he strives for his students to learn more than just the steps and motions.


As founder and chief instructor of Salsa Marin Dance Academy in San Rafael, the 57-year-old says he wants his students to hear, feel and move beyond the 4/4 time signature of salsa — the Caribbean dance style he teaches and the musical genre it’s associated with.


He’ll step in during lessons if one of his students is “just moving because it is what (they) think it is,” telling them to immerse themselves by feeling the music and their partner’s movements.


“You can’t dance individually with somebody,” Ellis told The Ark last week before one of his Friday classes. “You have to dance with the music and with your partner.”

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