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Salsa teacher Alex Da Silva held on suspicion of sexually assaulting students

April 06, 2009|Ari B. Bloomekatz and Kenneth R. Weiss
  • Salsa dancer and instructor Alex Da Silva, 41, was well-known in Los Angeles salsa circles.
Salsa dancer and instructor Alex Da Silva, 41, was well-known in Los Angeles… (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles…)

Alex Da Silva, a salsa dance instructor and choreographer for Fox's "So You Think You Can Dance," was arrested Saturday on suspicion of sexually assaulting four of his students, according to a statement from the Los Angeles Police Department.

Da Silva, 41, is accused of assaulting the students in his two homes in the San Fernando Valley over the last six years, police said. He is being held in lieu of $3.8 million bail.

Authorities said the four victims were all students of Da Silva at the time of the assaults.

"The victims allege that he lured them to his homes in North Hollywood and Van Nuys," the statement said. "He then used a ruse to get them into his bedroom, where he raped them."

Da Silva won the World Salsa Championships in 2002 and 2007 and teaches at the Edge Performing Arts Center in Hollywood and the Mayan club in downtown Los Angeles, police said.

Because Da Silva is a well-known figure in the salsa and dance communities, news of his arrest traveled quickly.

"It's big news in the salsa scene," Darrell Alatorre, owner of Mama Juana's restaurant and dance club in Studio City, said Sunday. "Everybody knows who Alex Da Silva is if you dance salsa regularly. He really was respected. That's the shock you're going to hear."

Alatorre said Da Silva taught at his club for about five years before he left about five months ago. Alatorre said Da Silva didn't always let him know if he needed to miss a class and would send a sub-par substitute.

Alatorre said Da Silva carried his head high "because he's the world champion." He would often be seen teaching celebrities he had brought to the class.

"The girls all knew him and the girls all talked to him. He was a guy who didn't really have to go after girls," Alatorre said. "That's just the type of guy he is, he's well-known in the scene," he said.

Vicky Ngo, 33, a psychologist who lives in Los Angeles, said news of Da Silva's arrest was "scary."

Ngo took about four lessons from Da Silva a few years ago and said "he's pretty big in the [salsa] community."

Anyone with information about possible assaults involving Da Silva is urged to call Van Nuys detectives at (818) 374-1926.

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ari.bloomekatz@latimes.com

ken.weiss@latimes.com

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