Gabrielle Aguiar-Forrest is the owner of Alegria Ballroom Dance Academy in downtown Turlock. She’s married and has a 14-year-old stepson and 2-year-old toddler. Gabrielle and her husband live on a 10-acre ranch which they share with Mark Sr. and Robin Forrest — and many animals and dead plants. She has two older sisters, Lucia and Cecilia Aguiar, who own Aguiar Milk Testing, a family business.
“If I'm not on my own ranch or ‘minding my own business,’ I'm on their ranch with them, helping them mind theirs,” she said.
Gabrielle is 100 percent Portuguese, and part of the first generation born in America on both sides of her family. Her favorite color is purple, and she loves coffee and long walks down Main Street. She’s lactose intolerant — but still “eats way more ice cream than I probably should.”
Q. When did you first become interested in dancing?
A. I started dancing when I was 4 years old with ballet. I wish I could tell you that I stuck with it, but I didn't. I spent most of my extra-curricular time in musical theater and only danced if it was required for a show. Fast forward to my teen years, when my parents were taking ballroom dance lessons, and encouraged me to try it to expand my repertoire. I eloquently declined, telling them that "ballroom dancing is for old people." I later ate my words. My interest in ballroom dancing started when we moved to Livermore and they continued lessons with a young, attractive instructor whose charms wooed me onto the dance floor to teach me a Cha Cha. I dabbled further with dancing in college, but it didn't engulf my life until I was 21. The January after I turned 21, I found a job listing for Arthur Murray Dance Studio and the rest is history.
Q. What is your favorite dance to teach to your students?
A. Oh that's a really hard question! I love to teach Cha Cha because it was my first love, but I competed in Waltz and Tango, so I feel like I have a little extra passion for those dances. Swing and Salsa are essential for social dancing, so I love those too. It's like asking me what my favorite flavor of ice cream is.
Q. What is your favorite part about owning a ballroom in downtown Turlock?
A. I love being integrated with the downtown culture and encouraging people to walk to dinner, or coffee, and enjoy the downtown community after they take their dance lesson. I also love to be able to walk to LaMo for a cup of coffee and stroll in and out of shops if I have a lazy afternoon before the rush of evening classes.
Q. When you’re not dancing, what is your favorite thing to do in Turlock for fun?
A. Shop and meet friends downtown for drinks or coffee and good conversation. I wasn't kidding about long walks down Main Street. It's my favorite thing to do with a friend.
Q. What is the last book, TV show or movie that captivated you?
A. I love science fiction and fantasy. I just started re-reading "A Wrinkle in Time" in preparation for the movie coming out. I can't wait.
Q. What is one thing most people would be surprised to learn about you?
A. I am also a pretty decent singer. I used to sing the National Anthem at school sporting events and bullfights. I absolutely love to karaoke.