A DANCE teacher from Shiplake wants to increase the popularity of salsa after featuring in a film about it.
Jennifer Benavidez, 39, plays a backing dancer in Cuban Fury, a romantic comedy starring Nick Frost.
She hopes the film will spark more interest in the Latin dance movement and aims to lead the way by teaching beginners.
Mrs Benavidez, a Mexican-American who is originally from Texas, said: “Once you see this movie you will just want to dance.
“There’s actually a salsa community everywhere in the UK. A lot of people go on holiday to somewhere like Cuba or the Caribbean and they experience dancing and want to continue it.
“Henley doesn’t have classes right now but it used to and it would be great if it had them again. It’s so important that people’s first experience of it, although perhaps scary, is exciting. ”
Mrs Benavidez used to ballroom dance but tried other styles when she was at university. She performed in Los Angeles and then taught at a dance school in Amsterdam before moving to Britain three years ago.
She teaches at the Latin Dance Academy in London and has organised several charity “zumbathons” in the Henley area.
Mrs Benavidez was asked to take part in the film by associate choreographer Susana Montero, who co-owns the academy.
Cuban Fury tells the story of a former salsa prodigy (Frost) who makes a comeback to impress his new boss, played by Rashida Jones. Mrs Benavidez spent eight days filming in London and appears in one of the main scenes.
She said: “It is such a great film and hilarious and totally respects the art of salsa, making it really accessible to people.
“It was a lot of fun to do and I made some great friends on set. As this was a dance movie, we all started sharing dance moves and teaching each other.”
Mrs Benavidez has appeared in films, TV shows and commercials but says it is just “a bit of fun”.
“It pays nothing,” she said. “To make a living as a dancer is difficult and getting in a show or a movie is exciting. But you just don’t know what the camera is going to catch so maybe you’re in or maybe you’re not.”
Mrs Benavidez, whose husband Julian Glasspole runs Vehicle Weighing Solutions in Caversham, wants to encourage people to try salsa. She said: “When I did the film I thought of my husband because there are some people who say they don’t dance or are shy. I know it will help get the likes of him and his friends into salsa. They will realise it’s not that scary.
“I tell people ‘let’s do salsa’ and they say ‘I can never do that, I can never move my hips like that’ but Nick Frost could do it. He worked really hard on it for months.”
Mrs Benavidez, who is also a graphic designer for her husband’s company, is collecting humorous videos to help teach people.
She said: “I want it to be fun and entertaining because people get scared when it comes to dancing, which I tend to forget. They can take themselves too seriously sometimes but a lot more happens when you laugh.”
Cuban Fury, which also stars Ian McShane, will be released on February 14.