Often labeled as smart, sweet and fun, Hermalinda Acebede was born in Manila, Philippines and moved to the US just before her 3rd birthday. Growing up in Southern California, she remembers watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films and other dance movies like “Dirty Dancing” as a kid and feeling inspired to learn to partner dance someday. 

While in medical school, she religiously watched “Dancing With the Stars”, and thought to herself that she was definitely going to take dance lessons. But, due to lack of time and money, she didn’t get to start taking lessons until she finished her training and became an attending (physician), where her first job was at UCI. Even before she moved to Orange County, she looked up ballroom dance lesson reviews on Yelp, and the first hit was ATOMIC Ballroom. Never having taken dance lessons prior to attending ATOMIC. she began in September 2012 at age 32.

Hermalinda was inspired to learn how to dance (International Ballroom) from watching her favorite professional couple – Victor Fung and Anastasia Muravyeva. Fondly reminiscing on the very first time she watched a professional ballroom competition, the Open Professional International Ballroom Competition at the Emerald Ball. Whit a glitter ball-like glimmer in her eyes stating, “When I saw Victor and Anastasia dance, it was like magic.” Her dance training has mainly focused on ballroom, with her strongest styles in American Rhythm. She also competes in International Ballroom, American Rhythm, and dances American Smooth socially. And she just recently started learning International Latin. On her way to becoming a true ballroom aficionado, Hermalinda says “It sounds so generic, but my ultimate goal is to be the best dancer I can be. I want to be able to dance with great technique. And I want people who dance with me to enjoy dancing with me.”

Dance gives so much back to those who love it. As it relates to her own life Hermalinda explains, “Dance gives me a very much needed outlet. My job can be extremely stressful and depressing. Dance lets me express a side of myself that I don’t really show at work. And it brings me a lot of joy. It has really changed my life. I’ve always thought of myself as an introvert. However, once I started dancing and performing, it’s like this whole other side of me came out. I love performing and I suddenly become the biggest ham ever. I’ve also met so many special people who have become so important in my life through dance that I would never have met otherwise.”

And then there are the health benefits! Hermalinda recalls that prior to dancing, she was almost completely sedentary. Dancing got her out of the house and more active. However, things changed drastically once she began competing in Pro-AM in ballroom. She remembers being at a competition where she was so tired that she felt like she was either going to throw up or pass out in the middle of the ballroom. She knew that she had really let herself go and was completely out of shape. So she finally found the motivation to work on her health and getting herself fit. She joined a gym, signed up for personal training and boot camps and made better choices with her food. Now, she’s the fittest that she’s ever been in her life, and was able to do so because she knew that it would allow her to dance better.

Another thing that has helped to improve the dancing of countless others, as well as Hermalinda’s, is ATOMIC’s annual Showcase. Every year numerous ATOMIC students team up with their fellow dancers and instructors to perform a series of specially choreographed routines on stage in front of an eager audience. Hermalinda has been a Showcase regular for years, declaring, “I love Showcase! I have so much fun every year! Showcase provides me the opportunity to dance in a way that’s more enjoyable for my non-dance friends to see (as opposed to watching a ballroom competition). I love the production quality and feel like I’m participating in a real professional show. I love that I get to reunite with my friends who are also Showcase veterans and work on group routines together. We don’t regularly dance the same genres so we may not really see each other during the rest of the year.” She goes on to rally, “For people who have never done Showcase before, I would recommend checking it out. It’s a relatively low-stress way to perform because you get to dance in front of your friends and loved ones who are there to support you. There are no judges! And, it will give you a chance to make new friends.”

Speaking of making new connections, those who dance know just how much dance brings people together both romantically, in friendship and beyond. So on the subject of men who mistakenly think that dance is just for women, Hermalinda assures that this isn’t the case. Explaining, “I would say they’re missing out. Partner dancing requires two people, traditionally a man and a woman. Both parties have different roles during the dance. Also, partner dancing is a great way to meet women because there are usually way more women than men at a social dance. And if you’re a man who dances well, everyone is going to want to dance with you.” So to anyone hesitant to started dancing, students like Hermalinda would encourage that they give it a try and be patient with themselves and the process. Adding, “It takes time to learn and improve. So, don’t give up just because you’re not where you want to be in your dancing as quickly as you want to be there. Be patient and keep working hard!”

She also highly recommends ATOMIC as a great place to dance because it has a great social dance community. Enthusiastically adding that “Almost all the people you meet at the social dances are really nice. And I love that people are willing to dance with everybody. Even when a couple shows up together to social dance, they are still willing to dance with other people. I also love the availability of so many different genres of partner dancing at ATOMIC.” After nearly a decade of dedication to dance at ATOMIC, Hermalinda is just another testament as to how powerful, magical and life-changing that dancing can be!


  • Something people would be surprised to learn about you?

“That I’m a doctor and an associate professor when I’m not dancing.”

  • Other interests? 

Music (singing, playing piano), video games, watching TV, eating, traveling.

  • Which dance etiquette rule do you feel is the most important? 

“Don’t give unsolicited advice!”

  • *Favorite saying – “Work hard, play harder!”