Airman dances his fears away

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Lauren M. Johnson
  • 23d Wing Public Affairs

Cinderella had the night of her life in a beautiful ballroom, wearing the perfect dress, while her Prince Charming spun her around on the dancefloor. Imagine how different her night may have been if Charming’s moves weren’t so swift and he continuously stepped on her glass slippers.

One Airman was tired of being the one stepping on toes and transformed his own challenges into his strengths, which he later used to help others during dance classes here.

“I was tired of having [two] left feet,” said U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Simon Pena, 23d Force Support Squadron lodging officer. “I never liked dancing, it scared me. Any time there was a formal function I was just a wallflower, until I started taking classes.”

Pena faced his dilemma and pursued an education in dance in 2011 at Iowa State University.

 “I realized how pathetic it was that I was running from my fears and I decided I wasn’t going to let that happen again,” said Pena. “One of the best ways to get past something you’re afraid of is to just throw yourself at it; so that’s what I did and I took the course again. It wasn’t until the second course that I started to really get it down.”

To further his skills, Pena decided to become a teacher’s assistant for the university’s dance program in 2012.

“There’s a difference between doing something and teaching it that helps you grasp the fundamentals,” said Pena. “As a teacher’s assistant, I picked it up a lot faster and enjoyed it, so I kept doing it until I graduated in 2014.”

During his time in school, Pena learned nearly 20 different styles of dances, including salsa, waltz, swing and tango.

After arriving last summer to Moody, Pena decided share his passion through dance classes for Airmen and their families.

“I remember when I moved here, people would say ‘there’s nothing to do,’” said Pena. “They were tired of the same stuff and were looking for something new, so I decided to start teaching dance.”

So far, Pena, with the help of Amber Dexheimer, 23d FSS community programmer, has held four swing dance lessons and one waltz dance lesson, bringing anywhere from three to 21 participants to each class.

“[Pena] is a really good teacher,” said Dexheimer. “When people are struggling, he knows how to help them fix it. He takes the time to figure out what techniques work for each person and he adjusts to each of their capabilities.”

With Pena’s personal teaching techniques, participants have been able to have a good time and actually learn and master the moves they are taught, said Dexheimer.

“[Pena] has helped build my confidence through dance,” said Senior Airman Candice Bates, 23d Aerospace Medicine Squadron dental assistant, who participated in the ballroom dance class. “He encourages you if you’re doing something great and he makes you feel really comfortable. It makes me more willing to try other things I may not have been comfortable doing at first.”

Not only do his students gain confidence, Pena benefits from dancing as well.

“Dance has contributed to a boost in my own confidence,” said Pena. “In overcoming something that was initially so hard for me to grasp, it made me realize that many things can be mastered if you strive onward with dedication and hard work. In doing so, I’ve found that I respect myself more and am more confident in my actions and decisions.”

“Dance is about shattering boundaries,” Pena added. “It’s not that people can’t dance, it’s that they haven’t. They are far more capable then they think they are.”

After “shattering these boundaries” himself and mastering what he once thought was impossible, Pena passes his own experiences and skills onto those starting out where he did years ago.

For more information regarding the 23d FSS dance classes, contact Amber Dexheimer at (229)257-9213.