From her perch in the back of the dance studio, Rios watched quietly, and soon learned the nuances of the fundamental salsa steps. One day, while her mother was practicing in their family living room, Rios stopped her and said, “Mom, no, it's like this.”
“My parents took me to their first salsa classes because they didn’t have a babysitter,” said Rios. “I sat and watched, but very quickly I was the one helping my mom to correctly practice the steps she was learning.”
Soon after, she began to dance with the classes and it wasn't long before she was dancing alongside the instructor in the front of the room.
Now Rios, 19, been teaching and competing professionally for five years. And last year, she was crowned the Salsa On2 division's youngest-ever World Champion along with her partner Elvis Collado.
Together, under the guidance of two-time World Champion Anya Katsevman and Abakua's world renowned Frankie Martinez, the dancing duo holds ten 2012- 2014 first place titles.
While dancing plays a central role in her life, Rios said her parents make sure she knows that education comes first. Balancing her demanding dance rehearsal schedule with a full-time class schedule at Brooklyn's St. Francis College, she somehow manages—even if that means studying, and sometimes eating, while on the way to rehearsals.
When she graduates from St. Francis, she plans to combine her love for dance with her passion to educate others. But for now, her main focus is on maintaining honor roll status while perfecting a new routine to defend her title as a World Champion Salsa Dancer.