A well-known dance teacher died in an Elizabeth house fire Tuesday, authorities announced.
Damaryz Vazquez died in the two-alarm blaze that broke out at 852 Park Ave., around 6 p.m., City Spokeswoman Kelly A. Martins said.
Vazquez owned a dance studio in a small storefront on Elizabeth Avenue for many years.
"Not only was it a place where many of us learned the basics of ballet, jazz, flamenco etc.," said longtime family friend Natalie Pinero, "but it was a social place -- a gathering space for the community where Latin social culture flourished."
Vazquez cemented herself as a leader in the Cuban community, "and it seemed like she was everywhere and involved in everything," Pineiro added.
"She coordinated debutant balls, held leadership positions in social clubs, she coordinated charity functions and was a loving wife and mother.
"She cared so deeply about her community and was invested, like a mother-figure to all of us. Her loss will be deeply felt across generations of little girls who danced their way into womanhood with so many of the life lessons she instilled in us.
"This is absolutely gut wrenching," another loved one said.
"We all learned so much from her and gained a lifetime of confidence. Such a wonderful role model for us all."
Seballa Garcia says Vazquez's studio was a safe place. A happy place.
"I will never forget entering her classroom every night at 6:30 and smelling the incense burning and her big smile as I entered the studio," she writes.
"She would great me happily and provided such a calm environment. I knew that the moment I stepped foot in the studio I could let go of all my problems outside of dance and just focus on the art.
"She went gave me the opportunity to assist in teach younger girls ballet. It was an eye opening moment for me that lead me towards my career of being an educator today."
The cause of fire and death remain under investigation.
Anyone who would like to share photos or memories of Damaryz Vazquez can email firstname.lastname@example.org
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