Baile! LSU continues hosting salsa workshop

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Isabelle Tavares

Step on counts one, two and three, hold on four. This footwork tempo is the rice and beans of salsa dancing that will be taught at the Salsa Workshop: Let’s Dance!, held bi-monthly by NMU’s the Latino Student Union (LSU).

Over 200 people attended the first baile, Spanish for dance, held by LSU; shuffling their feet and swaying their hips to a live salsa band, brought from the Grand Rapids area. Since the first event had such high attendance, LSU decided to host bi-monthly workshops to get attendees up-to-step for the upcoming baile in the fall.

The origins of the baile started with the desire to build community through dancing, associate professor of modern languages and literature and LSU adviser, Maria Arenillas said. The next workshop is tonight at 7 p.m. at the Whitman Commons. Arenillas said the inclusive event is free and open to everyone, not just students: family, faculty, kids.

“The first one went well, we had more than 40 people, although we advertised in two days. It was really a lot of fun. Everyone was committed and it’s a good way to get together,” Arenillas said. “That’s what it’s all about, getting together and having fun.”

After applying for a grant to the Student Finance Committee, LSU members were able to fund the baile event, workshops and instructor. LSU President Marina Mankee, junior chemistry major, gains leadership and experience from advertising and organizing the workshops, Arenillas said.

“I give a lot of credit to the students, it’s for them. I just applied for the grant,”Arenillas said. “It’s a good learning experience for the kids to organize the event and advertise.”

The instructor, Devon Grice, is amazing, Arenillas said.

“She is the best instructor we could ever get. She’s good with people, a great dancer, stand-up comedian, a mother, powerful woman and a good role model,” Arenillas said.

For workshop returnees, LSU makes the lessons progressional, so a dancer can advance each time. On the flip side, someone can jump into the dance for their first time, regardless of how many workshops have been held. Arenillas said the workshops are primarily based on learning salsa, but is open to the possibility of other styles, such as merengue. Although salsa is the predominant Hispanic dance, merengue comes in a close second. Originating from the Dominican Republic, this quick-tempo based style has basic steps similar to salsa dancing.

“Something that brings people together is music, it doesn’t matter where you’re from,” Arenillas said. “When we talk about Hispanic and Latino community, it’s so diverse and I don’t like to think of it as homogeneous. You have people from all different backgrounds. That’s the beauty of the workshop.”
The last workshop will be held on March 28 and LSU members are organizing it to be held at the Ore Dock Brewing Co. as the debut of building
community.