During International Week, students had the opportunity to experience Latin culture through salsa dancing. El Centro Latino held salsa lessons taught by Vanessa Villalobos, owner and instructor of BALORICO, an arts and entertainment company providing partner dance classes and creative consulting services. The salsa lessons were held in C120 on Wednesday, Nov. 15, where students gathered to learn basic steps and rhythm of the Latino dance.
Salsa is a mix of Latin musical genres, with its primary component hailing from Cuban dance music. “Salsa is a hybrid of lot of Afro-rooted movement and form. It was just an explosion of Latin music with all its different rhythms and variations at the same the American jazz music was evolving,” explained Villalobos.
In the mid-40s and 50s, Cuban musicians started the influence the New York music scene. With diplomatic relations between Cuba and the U.S. disintegrating, however, the Cuban population began to die down. With a mild Cuban flair, New York’s music was taken over by Puerto Rican and NuYorican, New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent. From this fusion, salsa was born, with distinct Puerto Rican and Cuban sounds, jazz structures and fast footwork.
During the event, students paired up and began to learn basic steps from Villalobos. After some practice, Villalobos encouraged the students to apply the dances to the fast-paced music. In addition, Villalobos taught the attendees how to perform parts of the dance without a partner. This portion of the dance, according to Villalobos, is for the dancer to “feel out” the other dancers in the room and allows participants to find a connection.
El Centro Latino’s coordinator Aylin Manuel hoped that this event would give students a fun insight into Latin culture. “At this time in the United States, we have a lot of different cultures. It’s good to demonstrate to students the new cultures for them to understand it and for them to learn a little from it. They can learn the significance of the dance to us,” said Manuel.
For both Manuel and Villalobos, the significance of salsa dancing is apparent through how influential the dance became after its birth in the mid-1900s. “Salsa is big in a lot of countries. It brings people together because people in Mexico and El Salvador and all these places are learning from each other through dance,” explained Manuel.
“In February, we’ll team up with Black Student Union to have and Afro-Latino type of event. We want to bring awareness to black Latin culture. We will also have Latino Night in Spring quarter. It’s a dance and students should definitely look out for it.”
“Salsa continues to evolve and brings the various Latino cultures together. Just like any country, there’s different languages and cultures,” added Villalobos. “Salsa is the bridge that brings these different countries together.”
In the upcoming months, students should also look out for additional events held by El Centro Latino such as the Afro-Latino event in February and a Latino dance night during spring quarter.