By Luciana Perez Uribe
The Prince George’s Room at the Stamp Student Union lit up with salsa hits Wednesday, October 9. More than 50 University of Maryland students tapped along to the “1,2,3, … 5,6,7” basic salsa step count of the Maryland Latin Dance Club instructor.
Jumping in to dance salsa and bachata for the first time can seem intimidating, especially if one doesn’t have any experience. The Maryland Latin Dance Club makes Latin dances accessible and fun to members of the UMD community with Bachata Mondays and Salsa Wednesday classes, as well as dance socials.
Liz Castillo, a government and politics major and vice president of the club, had not previously danced bachata and salsa before joining. Her family, with Nicaraguan roots, would play bachata and salsa music at home, but she had not yet learned the dance steps prior to joining the club.
“I came to my first bachata class, and everyone was really really nice to me, it was like a great environment. I got to know the instructors, I got to know people, and really integrated myself,” Castillo said.
According to the Office of Institutional Research, Planning & Assessment, 3,283 out of 40,743 students at UMD, or 8%, are Hispanic American as of October 2019.
Kayla Dillon, a criminology and criminal justice student and secretary of the club, loves the diversity on campus.
“When you step in there you see a diverse background of people, from different majors, people from different countries, racial groups, religious groups. Honestly, when you come in you become part of a big beautiful puzzle,” Dillon said.
Dillon had also never danced salsa or bachata when she first joined. The instructors were not like some dance instructors, she said; instead, they were funny, nice and approachable.
One instructor, Andrew Sanchez, college retention advisor at DC College Access Program and UMD alum, takes the first couple of minutes of class to explain where salsa came from and provides cultural context and history.
Most recently, on October 12 , the Maryland Latin Dance Club hosted the Spooky Neon Social, an event where students danced and socialized. In this event, students generally switched dance partners every song, learned new techniques and practiced moves.
Featured Photo Credit: Luciana Perez Uribe/Bloc Reporter.
Luciana Perez Uribe is a masters multiplatform journalism student and can be reached at Lperezu@umd.edu.