In this episode of FACEism, we share the story of "The Dancer," who is showing the world the true meaning of human connection.
MONTERY PARK, Calif. (KABC) -- Four months after the Monterey Park mass shooting, we have a unique perspective of what the tragedy has taught us, and it's probably not what you think.
As we continue to recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, ABC7's David Ono is sharing the story of someone who courageously came out of the darkness to teach us that even in tragedy, you could find something uplifting.
In this FACEism exclusive, we share the story of "The Dancer," who is showing the world the true meaning of human connection.
It's difficult finding beauty in something horrible, but in this story, there is something beautiful.
You see it when two people connect. When their eyes lock and their hands touch.
On the surface, it's just dancing, but deep down, it's an escape from some of life's more painful demons.
Recent studies show loneliness is an epidemic in America and immigrants are especially vulnerable.
So finding connection to others is key to both health and happiness.
In communities like Monterey Park, San Gabriel and Alhambra - which have high percentages of Asian immigrants - dance halls thrive for this very reason.
It's where loneliness simply disappears.
"What I remember is how much happiness it brought my mom and dad and their friends. They were always smiling and laughing," said Kristenne Reidy.
Reidy's parents loved the dance halls, especially her father.
They immigrated from the Philippines and started their new life in Monterey Park.
"The Star ballroom was really close to where I grew up, to the house that I grew up, where we lived was walking distance," said Reidy. "That was his hangout spot."
From her earliest memories, she watched her father, Valentino Alvero, dance with his huge smile, shining under the lights of the mirror ball.
"Ballroom dancing was not only a way for them to socialize, to make new friends and to exercise, it was something that could give them beauty with the budget that they had ... being immigrants," said Reidy.
On January 21, that beauty quickly disappeared when a gunman walked in, killing 11 people, including Reidy's father.
Suddenly, the place her dad loved so much was now a place of such sorrow.
A video of Alvero share with ABC7 shows him dancing, just moments before the shooting. He had just met Amy, an immigrant from China and a newcomer to the dance hall.
Alvero was teaching her a dance when the gunman opened fire.
"I was scared, just really scared," she recalled.
Amy escaped the shooting unscathed, but the mental scars are deep. She's terrified to talk about it and still shakes and cries.
In a very soft voice, she squeezed together a few words about Alvero.
"He's my hero," she said. "I am always thinking of him."
Alvero saved Amy's life. She said when the shooting broke out; people all around them were falling.
"Just saw the people lay down on the floor and I'm so scared," she recalled.
Alvero pulled her down to the ground and covered her, then the shooting stopped so she got up. But the gunman was simply reloading.
She stood there, petrified as he started firing again.
During the interview, Reidy had just learned these horrific details, finding out her father pulled Amy down a second time - it was the last thing he would do.
The man whom Amy had only known for mere minutes just saved her life and lost his own. Amy wanted to make sure his daughter understood how thankful she was, calling Alvero her angel.
Alvero's gravestone has just been put into place and Reidy recently saw it for the first time. As she was cleaning away the dirt to better read it, a sweet man named Fernando came over to help.
"This is our community," he said.
As the inscription pops out, it's a verse from the bible.
"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."
"It's kind of hard to go up to a stranger, you know, and have a deep conversation, but when you go to a dance hall, you kind of expect to dance," said Reidy. "So you can be a stranger like Amy and my dad was, and yet all of a sudden, be the closest friends in just minutes."
That is the beauty of dance. But what is the future after such a horrible tragedy?
The Star Ballroom closed for good and the Lai Lai dance studio - where the gunman was disarmed - remains open.
Over in San Gabriel at the Elks Lodge, the memories of those who were killed lives on.
Linda Herman, a longtime musician, knew many of the victims. She said she can still see Alvero, who was there every Wednesday, sitting at his favorite table.
She said the dancing must not stop.
"I think dancing keeps everybody together," she said. "It's important for everybody. It's a way to heal. I haven't got over it yet. I still have a tear in my eye."
As for Reidy, you would think her love of dancing would now be tainted, but it's not.
"My dad was so positive that I can't stay sad for too long," she said. ""When I think of my dad dancing, all I could think of is joy and fun and maybe he's alive somewhere, continuing on that fun, that joy with the same people he used to always dance with".
...and that is a beautiful thing.
While the Star Dance Studio, understandably, will not come back from this tragedy, there are a number of other dance halls that will continue to bring this beautiful art form to the community.
They are open to anyone who is willing to dance.
To help the community heal, there will be a special event called "Community Dance" at the Lai Lai ballroom on Saturday, May 20. It's being held by Asian Americans Advancing Justice Southern California and it's all free.
Reidy will be attending the event to speak about her father's life. She's set to make her remarks at 4 p.m.
For more information, click here.