From the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to Iraq, Irene Chaves has found community in Latin dancing.
Before finishing the last months of her eight years of Army National Guard service, Chaves has consistently sought out these Latin communities of dancing.
At Fort Bragg in North Carolina, it was with the Puerto Rican enlistees; in Iraq, it was Salsa nights organized through the Armyâ€™s Moral Welfare and Recreation Program.
And it was these experiences that inspired Chaves to create the new campus organization Latin Rhythm.
â€œItâ€™s camaraderie in a respectful way, it teaches you how to treat people,â€ said Chaves, a double major
in business marketing and computer information systems.
Originally from Costa Rica, Chaves said her heritage and the â€œchance to show people what our culture has and what our culture is about,â€ also motivated her to start the group.
The first thing that Chaves inquired about during her first semester on campus was the existence of a salsa club similar to one she joined at UNCC.
After finding that the Salsa Club that was on campus was no longer existent, Chaves began inquiring about students potential interest in a Salsa Club at other Salsa outlets in town.
â€œI saw a lot of students (at the Rio) and noticed that a lot of them werenâ€™t sticking around and realized that it was probably because they didnâ€™t feel comfortable,â€ Chaves said.
By their second meeting of the semester, the running tally of attendees was at 23 students with dozens more signed up and showing interest.
â€œIâ€™m obsessed,â€ said Mariah Coler, a senior biomedical science major, â€œI plan to attend the meeting until the end of the year.â€
Coler started salsa dancing at the Rio five months ago, saying part of the reason she stayed was the sense of community she has felt when dancing.
While the groupâ€™s initial goal is to provide basic lessons, Chaves said they later want to hold socials, start competing and grow.
The dance groupâ€™s second meeting began informally, with instructor Max Vallejos, a first year Ph.D student in biomedical science, started with the basics. He practiced each move until he felt the group was ready to move on, sharing style tips along the way.
â€œDonâ€™t move your elbows. This is not salsa,â€ Vallejos said as he flapped his elbows in mimic of his current partner, â€œthis is flying.â€
Alex FitzSimons, a chemical and biological engineering major, and Carrie Howard, a civil and environmental engineering major, both freshmen, found out about the group through the Hispanic
Heritage Evening of Music and Dance held on campus earlier in the semester.
Both plan on attending future Latin Rhythm meetings on Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. The group plans on meeting on a wood floor in the future, but will meet at the Lory Student Center this week in room 195.
They will post all future meeting locations on their Facebook group page, which can be found at Latin Rhythm at CSU.
â€œRemember this,â€ Vallejos said as he approached FitzSimons and Howard, â€itâ€™s always the guyâ€™s fault. If you do something wrong itâ€™s because the guy didnâ€™t know how to lead you.â€
Staff writer Vashti Batjargal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Class
- Where: Lory Student Center Room 195
- When: Every Wednesday at 7 p.m.
- To find more information: Go to the groupâ€™s Facebook page at Latin Rhythm at CSU