Rachel Castillo, a woman whose guilty pleasure is watching politics and kitten videos, in that order, is also described as funny, compassionate and silly.

Her first introduction to dance was at a Wellness Center 8 years ago. This special place held free art, crafts, and self-improvement classes for those struggling with emotional or mental health conditions. It helped build self-confidence and relationships with peers. Only dancing sporadically since Rachel became addicted to dance once she discovered ATOMIC. It was the twenty-dollar new student special that got her in the door. This special includes a week of group classes plus a mini private lesson.

Dance may run deeper in Rachel’s veins than she once realized, as her mom used to go out dancing as a young girl to rhythm and blues clubs. Fast forward a generation later and Rachel still enjoys genre’s from that era so much that she has spent the last three years working on lindy hop. She also likes to fusion dance to break certain patterns. She hasn’t yet tried Flamenco but is considering adding that to her repertoire.

Rachel’s ultimate dream is to open a community studio that matches resident artists to classrooms that cater to underserved communities. She explained, “Every artist will have their strengths and way of relating to students, and I want them to be able to use their gifts to promote the wellness of their students. It would be open to artists of all mediums – visual, musical, performance, and more. I’d want the causes in focus to be near to the teacher’s hearts, such as poverty, mental illness, LGBTQ issues, and so on.”

If not dancing at ATOMIC Rachel would be collecting art materials and making art. As well as frequenting swap meets and thrift stores for interesting clothes. Rachel goes out dancing 3-4 nights a week, but even if she doesn’t have much time she still makes it a point to go dancing at least once a week, as dance is such a priority in her life.

Since taking up dancing Rachel has had to battle a reoccurring issue with plantar fasciitis, which required her to take it easy for a few weeks. However, she still came to the studio to socialize even when she wasn’t able to dance; that’s just how much she loves ATOMIC! On the other hand, as a result of dancing, Rachel has experienced many health benefits, including maintaining healthy blood pressure and having the luxury of eating just about anything. Dance helps countless people get through many of life’s struggles, Rachel is no exception to this. She confided, “Honestly, I deal with mental health issues involving depression and anxiety. I realized a few years ago, that I need to move to keep that anxious energy from condensing like dark matter in my body. I used to go to a gym, but there was no love there. So I have gone to ATOMIC to feel like new.”

Rachel is a part of ATOMIC’s Scholarship Program, in which participants work in exchange for dance credit. One day Rachel saw a Facebook post looking for people interested in helping to clean the studio. Rachel quickly responded and initially began by polishing trophies. Some weeks later she was asked to back in exchange for dance credit. She gleefully recalled, “Of course, I did it. I was the perfect way to fund my dance addiction.” Adding, “I come in one day out of the week and clean the ballroom. I give it a deep clean – dust and wipe the cubbies, vacuum dust bunnies, dust/polish the trophies, and anything else that needs it. I get to listen to Radiohead and zen out while cleaning smudges off the mirror.”

The things that Rachel loves most about dancing at ATOMIC are friends, staff, and a sense of community. Adding, “I feel like I am in the TV show, ‘Cheers’, and everyone knows my name. I come in and start hugging everyone I see – all the way from the doorway to the fan at the end of the opposite end of the dance floor.” Dance means a lot to Rachel and has impacted her life greatly. In part that she views the dance floor as a microcosm of the universe, as well as a reflective surface where she watches her life lessons play out.

Rachel advises newbies just to have fun. Encouraging with, “Watch people if you don’t feel comfortable dancing at first. It is a good community of people to become involved in.”

To those who don’t consider dance a sport, Rachel retorts, “How many t-shirts do you sweat through in one night?” And to men who believe that dance is just for women, Rachel snaps back, “You are probably not man enough to touch a female partner!” Rachel finds that the pros of doing such frequent, high-level dancing (and often) so late at night are, Pros: “The high energy music and the momentum is infectious and you don’t even realize that you are exercising. Also, my brain is more creative at night. Cons: I can’t get up in the morning!”


*Animal most like: A Dog. “Because I can live on other peoples’ scraps.”

* People are often surprised to learn Rachel’s age.

*Other hobbies: “Art and more art and vintage sh*t.”

*Most embarrassing dance moment was when her skirt came off while she was dancing.

*Favorite saying: “Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.” – John Lennon

*Favorite superhero: Wonder woman, because she imposed moral values.

*Dream Superpower: To heal people.