Gloria Rockhold: Civic butterfly

Photo: Elli WIlliams Photo: Elli WIlliams

Tango is the dance of passion: a gendered, structured improvisation of impossible closeness with fluid patternings that prioritize expression and intimacy, and the result of the collision of European and American cultures at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata. Maybe it’s no surprise then, that Gloria Rockhold, co-founder of the Charlottesville Tango Society, is also the product of cultural plate tectonics. Having split time growing up in Asuncion, Paraguay and Baton Rouge, Louisiana, she is, in her own words, “perfectly bicultural.”

Rockhold came to Charlottesville in 2000, first landing in the countryside before gravitating to town to take a job with Albemarle County Schools as a community engagement coordinator. Her arrival coincided with the growth of the area’s Latino community, and since then she’s been that community’s voice in the public school systems.

“I have startup energy. I can start any program. Give me all the problems and I’ll put them in a format that will work. You have to be both creative and organized,” she said.

Whether she’s in Southwood Trailer Park or Townwood Trailer Park near Hydraulic Road, Rockhold’s energy is out on the streets, so much so that her boss jokingly threatened to get her a T-shirt that just said “No” on it.

“I think my passion comes from bringing a child into an environment that he or she has never seen and getting this huge smile. That motivates me,” Rockhold said.

Rockhold’s latest plan is to start a two-week bridge camp at Agnor Hurt Elementary School for rising fifth graders. Bridge for fifth graders? That’s how her mind works. It’s like the scene in Ghostbusters where they cross the streams of their ray guns and it magically works out.

“I find something old’s that’s dying and I find these kids that it might inspire and we put them together to learn socialization, negotiation, numbers,” Rockhold said. “I think in many ways I mix my personal desires with the job. In a way I merge my passions.”

The most passionate thing about Gloria Rockhold is the way her life overflows from its vessel, bursts at the seams. She serves on the boards of the Charlottesville Free Clinic and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Charlottesville, as a committee member for the Charlottesville Democratic Party, as the chair of Creciendo Juntos, and she’s on the citizens action committee for the Office of the Public Defender. That’s in addition to her tango dancing and working and social butterflying.

And she does all of it with the style of the “precisely creative” dance she loves.

“I just want to mix people up,” she said. “That’s fun to me.”