I first heard about the Latin Dance Club soon after I arrived at OU, and being both a dancer and a Spanish language learner, I was naturally curious. Unfortunately, my schedule hasn’t permitted me to attend any of their regular meetings so far, but several weeks ago they hosted a Salsa Ball in the Union. They had a quick dance lesson right before the ball where they taught us the basic step and a right turn. The ball was a lot of fun. I haven’t been able to dance as much this semester, so I was really happy to be moving again.
After the ball, I found out that during the month of April, Latin Dance Club would have four weeks of introductory classes on a different day of the week than their regular meeting, which I was able to attend. At the classes, they taught us the basics of both Salsa and Bachata. In high school my Spanish teacher, Mrs. Sustaita, taught me a little bit of Salsa in class, but I’ve always wanted to learn more. I’ve learned in several dance styles in the past, and I think there is something to be gained from each of them. For me, the biggest takeaway from these classes was an introduction to social dancing. In ballet and modern dance (the styles that I am most familiar with) there may be a few improvisation exercises, but the vast majority of what is done in class and on the stage is a memorized combination or piece of choreography. Additionally, these are dances which are meant to be performed, not done spontaneously or in a social situation. These are things that I really enjoy about ballet and modern; I love practicing a sequence of steps again and again, performing on a stage, and choreographing. But I have a lot of trouble improvising. I’ve long been awed by people who could just…get up and dance, and I’m amazed by Latin and ballroom dancers who somehow execute steps in sync without memorizing the routine beforehand. In these Latin dance classes, we did learn some choreographed combinations, but we were also taught about leading and following. I know that if my partner moves his hands this way, I should do this, and when he moves his hands that way, I should do that. I’m still a Salsa beginner, but I feel like even if I were dancing with a stranger (and they stuck to some simpler steps) I could follow along, and dance the whole way through a song without ever having choreographed a step, which is a new experience for me. Dancing this way really forces you to be present in the moment and react to what your partner is doing, which I think is a valuable skill that could help me in my other forms of dance as well. I’ve also starting going to Dancing in DLB, a swing dancing club on campus. It isn’t an international organization, but it is another form of social dancing, so I thought I’d mention it here. I hope I can continue to be involved with both of these groups next semester.