A diverse crowd came out to participate in CAM Club’s first major event: the Salsa Social. The social was designed to introduce USF students and the community to the history and techniques of salsa dancing. Deputy Director and Curator of Latin American and Caribbean Art, Noel Smith, gave a brief introduction and shared a video showing the dynamic and multi-layered history of salsa. Salsa emerged as more than just a dance, but as a way of self-expression and socialization.
Our instructor for the night, Dan McGraw, continued with this theme by telling everyone to relax and let go of any insecurities. Salsa, as he put it, is just walking with style. Dan and his partner Ireana Ugarte took us through some moves to get us going. We learned the basic steps, a left turn, and the Suzy Q. Dan and Ireana were excellent at breaking everything down for an absolute beginner to understand. Everyone from students, to community members, and even some children danced, stumbled, and salsa-ed. After some solo work, Dan threw us a curve ball; he told us to partner up. Almost immediately many of us tensed at the thought of dancing with a stranger. Dan, sensing some apprehension, was encouraging.
“Salsa is about socializing and being open and friendly. No one is here to judge you.”
So, we moved tentatively at Dan’s instruction, but when DJ M Junior started up the music everyone was back in the salsa groove, and we were even adding in a turn here and there. Before we knew it we were salsa dancing. It was fun, exciting, and hard. Trying to get the basic steps while navigating with your partner is challenging, but that doesn’t hinder the satisfaction of getting a move right or the freedom that comes with letting go and trusting your body.
Once the lesson ended, Alex and Rachel from the Latin Dance Club gave a spectacular performance. They came out and showed us what dedicated practice can achieve, and invited us to participate further in their culture. After their beautiful demonstration, many went back to the dance floor to practice what they just learned or try something new altogether..
The Contemporary Art Museum’s current exhibition Climate Change: Cuba/USA focuses on recent changes in the relationship between Cuba and the United States. On a much smaller scale salsa is the changing dynamic between dance partners and even oneself. The conversations and the socialization these expressions of art spark is the aim of CAM and CAM Club.
BA Undergraduate, English
College of Arts and Sciences
University of South Florida