Erika Occhipinti (aka “Erika Caliente”) is the founder and owner of Salsa Caliente Dance Studio. Since opening the studio in July of 2000, she has taught thousands of students and trained some incredible instructors, most notably Jorge “Ataca” Burgos and Juan “TaTo” Paredes. Her salsa and bachata instructional videos on eHow.com and YouTube have collectively received millions of views and given her international recognition. She has taught workshops at salsa congresses all over the US, including New York, San Francisco, Washington DC, Atlanta, Miami, and Orlando, and was a judge at the Texas Salsa Classic. In 2015, she won Party Rock Chicago’s national “Best Social Dancer” contest for followers, she was a regular dancer on the TV show Caliente (Univision) for 4 years, and in 2007, she received the Miami Salsa Congress’s “Alex Award” for her instrumental role in the creation and development of the Tampa salsa scene. In addition to salsa and bachata, her dance background includes extensive training in ballet and jazz.
As an instructor, Erika places a heavy emphasis on technique, rather than just teaching steps and patterns. She masterfully executes and explains both the lead and follow and is equally skilled at teaching and dancing either “on 1” or “on 2.” Her instruction is extremely clear and detailed, but she also makes sure to keep the class fun and entertaining.
Cassie began her Latin dance training in 2004 and became a student at Salsa Caliente in 2005. Since beginning her dance journey, she has learned Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, Cha Cha Cha, and Guajira. She performed with our salsa team for two seasons, as well as with the Tampa Sensual Bachata team for one season. She joined our teaching staff in 2011 and is currently our primary Beginner-level instructor.