A salsa song with a lively rhythm blares through the speakers at a Santa Rosa entertainment venue, and DJ Rosie Rodriguez has a crowd of dancers on their feet, moving to the music as the dance floor seems to float amid a rainbow of balloons.
The mood is celebratory, as it typically is when the energetic Rodriguez is hosting an event. She’s been a disc jockey and emcee in Sonoma County for 40 years, playing music and bringing people together.
Forget that Rodriguez, 60, has had two hip replacement surgeries. Petite and dynamic, she’s a whir of motion, with an outgoing personality and a genuine desire to make others happy.
“If you catch me in a chair, I’ve sinned,” the Rohnert Park resident said. “I don’t even think about sitting down.”
She prefers to dance and engages party-goers to twist, spin, shake, rattle and roll.
Even when the playlist features easy-listening tunes during dinnertime, Rodriguez isn’t stationary. She’s tapping her toes, swaying, sometimes clapping to the beat.
Her recent anniversary dance party was four hours of nonstop action, a spirited fundraiser for The Living Room, a Santa Rosa day program for homeless women and their children.
Wearing a signature purple wig and sequined attire that sparkled from head to toe, Rodriguez was in her element.
“Music takes you away,” she said. “I bring my love of music. Making people happy and sharing their joy give me great pleasure.
“That’s what’s important to me. I’m the emotional ride you’re going to take for the day.”
Her anniversary party marked her four decades spinning tunes, with a series of poster boards showcasing her long career. Although she grew up dancing and listening to music, she never aspired to become a DJ.
Her Latino parents — her dad is from Mexico City, her mom is Puerto Rican — instilled a love of family, music and dancing. They remodeled the basement of their home in San Francisco into a room with a dance floor so they could host dance parties for family and friends.
“Those were the days,” Rodriguez said. “Man, we had party after party after party, and celebrations.”
Even church was an opportunity for dance and music following services.
“I didn’t go to church to go to church. I went to church to dance,” Rodriguez said.
Of four siblings, three became DJs. Rodriguez happened into the profession after getting a job at The Music Box bar and restaurant in Santa Rosa in the late 1970s. Benita Mattioli, a co-owner, invited Rodriguez to spin disco tunes.
“What she saw in me was something I didn’t see in myself,” Rodriguez said. Rodriguez was 20 at the time, “with two kids and no husband and no self-esteem. All I knew was to dance.”
It was the disco era, with Rodriguez playing 45s by stars like Donna Summers and The O’Jays and popular songs like “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. and “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward. She never looked back.
“My family taught me how to dance and party and play good music.”
That foundation provided her with enough knowledge to relate to a crowd and keep the energy moving.