They sway to the beat of motivation

USFSP Student Reporter

GULFPORT – Zureida Gonzales dances to relieve pain from double-joint disease and depression.

Milana Sidorenko dances for stress relief and exercise.

And Steve Abrams? He comes in hopes of meeting someone.

Whether it’s relieving stress through movement, getting a sweat from a good workout or searching for a soul mate, many Gulfport residents find themselves counting their steps to the beat of motivation.

The joys of dance come alive on Thursdays, when the Gulfport Casino holds a Salsa dance class that welcomes anyone interested.

“Dancing takes away my pains and releases endorphins,” said Gonzales, a regular.

Gonzales explained how dancing has always been a passion of hers, and that she now dances to cope with the depression and pain caused by her hypermobility joint syndrome.

The dance class offers a physical and mental release.

“It lets me live in the moment,” said Sidorenko, another regular. “I can just clear my mind and feel the music.”

She attends to release stress and to exercise. From swaying hips to swinging legs, she said, the class requires the movement of many parts of the body, not just one.

With smiles and high-fives of encouragement, some students enjoy the social aspect of the class.

“I get to meet some nice people,” said Abrams, another regular.

He said attends the class weekly in hopes of meeting someone.

The instructor, Mack McGuffin, described many benefits of dancing, from being able to use the creative side of his brain to preserving his memories and mental functions,

The Gulfport Casino, on the city’s waterfront at the foot of Beach Boulevard, hosts activities nearly every day.

There are regular dance lessons. Ballroom and Argentine tango lessons are on Tuesdays, swing dancing on Wednesdays, salsa on Thursdays, and disco, funk and Motown every second Friday.

The casino also holds weddings and receptions.

The casino dates back to 1905, five years before the city took the name Gulfport. A dock was built to accommodate St. Petersburg residents who took the trolley to the waterfront, where they climbed into boats for a cruise to popular Pass-a-Grille beach.

As the casino expanded over the years, it became a destination itself.

While each student has their own reason for taking the class, they all dance with smiles.

“If you’re not enjoying it, you’re doing it wrong,” said Sidorenko.

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