Welcome to

Alegria Dance Studio

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About Us

Maria Palacio- Owner and Artistic Director

Maria is the owner, instructor and artistic director of Alegria Dance Studio. Born in Madrid Spain, she moved to South Carolina in her late teens. Maria studied dance as a kid and as an adult, found her love for middle eastern dance. For the past 20+ years, she has studied with multiple teachers, traveling across the USA to learn from her mentors. Maria studies various styles including folkloric styles of Egypt, traditional middle eastern dance and its more modern forms. In 2008, she opened her studio in Columbia. She became Columbia’s first certified American Tribal Style Bellydance instructor and Sister Studio. She has earned several certifications and continues to pursue her studies. Maria is certified Level II in the Salimpour Format of Bellydance. Maria is also working on her 8 Elements of Bellydance certification with Rachel Brice. From 2017 until 2021, Maria taught middle eastern dance at the University of South Carolina. In October of 2020, she opened her studio in West Columbia. In the past few years, the studio has grown to offer Flamenco, Ballet, Contemporary, Hula and Yoga along with traditional and modern fusion bellydance.


ATS Certified Instructor - April 2011

Technique For Teachers (ATS) - August 2018

Salimpour Level II Certifications - Jan 2018

Datura - 8 Elements Certifications - Phase I, II, III and IV

Datura Style Bellydance Instructor - October 2023

Over 20 years of dance experience.

Alegria Dance Studio is open to anyone that is interested in learning how to dance or to continue their dance study. We believe that everyone can pursue their dance dreams. We hold an open and safe space for you.


Flamenco - Adults - 5PM

Level III Bellydance - 6PM

Level II Bellydance - 7PM

Contemporary for Adults - 7PM (Studio B)

Level I Bellydance (Fundamentals) - 8PM


Bellydance for Kids - 4:30PM

Flamenco for Kids - 5:15PM

Modern Fusion Style Bellydance - Datura® Style - 6:15PM

American Fusion Bellydance - ATS® Style - 7:15PM

ATS Manton/Fan - 8:15PM


Ballet for Kids - 4:15PM

Contemporary for Kids - 5PM

Hip Hop for Kids - 5:45PM

Fundamentals of Fusion Bellydance - 6:30PM (Studio B)

Ballet for Adults - 6:30PM

Finger Cymbals for Dancers Series - 7:30PM (Studio B)

Fundamentals of Dance - 7:30PM


Hula - 5:30 (Studio B)

Flamenco - 7PM (Studio B)

Salsa - 7PM

Choreography Series - 8PM (Studio B)

Bachata - 8PM

Our Classes

for everybody

Register for classes through our Punchpass website. Click here to register today!

Alegria Team

Valerie “Walelia Kapuakaimi” Hostos found her love of dance at a young age and grew up with music and movement playing a big part of her life. She performed the folkloric dances of Puerto Rico asa member of Grupo Taíno for 10 years. She begain studying and performing Bellydance at Alegría Studio over a decade ago. She began studying Hawaiian Hula under the tutelage of Maupana Beauregard-Axelson and has advanced to instructing Hula with the goal of sharing her love and knowledge of Hawaiian culture in South Carolina through dance.

She is a member Halau Alohalani in Columbia, SC

Laura has always had artistic creation in her heart (painting, drawing, sculpting, graphic design, hairdressing), but never took a dance class until 2018 when she found Alegria. Dancing is like creating art with movement. With everything she does, she is ‘Always An Artist.

You can find her in Raqs Sharqi, ATS, Datura, Flamenco, ATS Mantón & Contemporary classes at Alegria. She believes in being a well-rounded dancer. Discovering dance has been life changing for her, and has become a spiritual practice as well.

Laura has a BFA in Fine Art and Education from the UofSc, and is the Owner of The Purple Chair, Columbia’s most creative, healing hair salon. Laura is our Social Media Designer and Videographer.

Jose Vergara is originally from Milwaukee Wisconsin. He has been dancing over 10 years and is also a veteran. Jose has competed at the top salsa world championship last year.

Luz Alvarado is from México City, México and has been dancing over 20 years. She specializes in bailes tipicos folkloricos (traditional folkloric dances) and has competed in major salsa championships.

Originally from Pennsylvania, Crystal began to call Columbia, SC home in 2004. She briefly left Columbia to live and work in LaPorte, IN before coming back and joining Alegria as a student in early 2017. Using her background in communications and many years of stage-managing experience, Crystal has helped around the studio as the Communications Chair, among various other hats she has worn when needed. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Shippensburg University in communication and journalism and an associate degree in computer and information science from Midlands Technical College. When not dancing, she is proofreading studio correspondence; writing press releases for events; helping plan and put on events at the studio; and working in the local film industry. She currently resides in West Columbia with her husband and three adorable kitties and works as a data analyst.

Krista Haidle is orginally from Pittsburgh, Pa. She has lived in SC since 2009 when she graduated college and began working as an Athletic Trainer for the United States Army. Krista's dance journey has followed her through the states as her education in health and wellness continues to expand.

Krista started dancing at the age of three at Steel City Academy of Dance (formally known as Pat's Dance Studio). Throughout her years at the studio, she danced Ballet, Pointe, Jazz, Tap and Acro. She was also on the High School Dance Team. Krista then went on to continue her dance journey and take up a minor in dance with Slipper Rock University. She worked mulitple summers as a choreographer for local highschools, winning McKeesport High School, Best Choreogrpahy,

Since the move to Columbia in 2009, Krista has once again found her love for dance. In 2019 she joined the Alegria Dance tribe and is proud to continue to be a student of Flamenco, Datura, ATS and Bellydance. She currently has the privledge of teaching Kids Ballet and Hip Hop as well as Adult Ballet and Contemporary. Alegria Dance studio has allowed for her to not only stay in her passion but finally pass down the gratitude of all the teachers before her by teaching others.

Born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York. US Army Veteran Joel Rodriguez learned to dance 24 years ago. Discovering his passion for dancing after completing a Basic Salsa class, he studied with some of the leading Salsa, Mambo, Cha Cha and Bachata instructors in the world. Joel’s career milestones include performing on live television, participating in Bachata & Salsa Invitationals, and participating in various regional events and programs. He has produced/directed and organized the Columbia Salsa Summit (5th Yr) (The Largest Salsa Congress Event in South Carolina). Joel’s talent for choreography is clearly evident in his performances. His improvisational skills on the fly, he can take one move and add countless variations. His love & passion for dancing is evident whether he is teaching, performing or dancing socially. Host of various Salsa / Bachata Socials, Producer & Artistic Director of the Columbia Salsa Summit, Choreographer and DJ at various Dance Congresses.


Get in Touch

We are located at

1125 B Avenue, West Columbia, SC, 29169

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