Laughter and song filled Susie’s as Marc Anthony’s “Vivir Mi Vida” was blasted into the room. Hips moved, hands waved, and bodies rolled as people began moving from the sides of the walls to the middle of the room. Some community members sang along, some danced salsa, and some managed to do both.
Salsa Night, which took place last Friday in Susie’s, was co-hosted by Alianza Latina, Andover’s on-campus affinity group for Latinx students, and Víva, Andover’s new Latinx dance group. The event was hosted both to teach students how to dance salsa and bachata—both Latin dances, although at different paces—and also to celebrate Alianza Latina’s first official Latinx Heritage Month at Andover.
Co-Head Ashley Alvarez ’20 said, “As Co-Head of both Alianza Latina, which is the affinity space for Latinx students on campus, and Víva, which is the new Latinx dance group, I felt it was really important to have a space for dance to be celebrated especially since it is Andover’s first time celebrating Latinx Heritage Month and dance is such a cultural staple for us.”
Salsa Night was open to the public, regardless of background, and students and faculty of varying levels of experience in dance were able to attend the event.
“It surprised me that so many people from different backgrounds were here, not just Alianza or people part of the Latinx community. I go to dances and people say that they can’t dance, but here they are and they’re learning how to dance salsa and bachata and they’re having so much fun,” said Denise Taveras ’21.
Dance Instructor Deborah Monk was brought in to teach community members how to dance salsa and bachata. Although she focused on teaching technique, she also wanted to make sure that everyone was having a good time.
Monk said, “I’ve taught here before, (doing) different things, and it’s always amazing. I’ve never really seen kids get into it so much. Sometimes, I feel like I have to be teaching every single minute in order to give people my attention, their time, their money’s worth. But sometimes they really just want to dance, so I have to be careful not to teach too much and to get into the technique. Dancing is supposed to be fun, that’s the first thing, that’s the most important thing about it.”
Many of the students who attended the event participated, as even those not experienced in dancing were encouraged to learn.
“There were very few people sitting on the sidelines. The environment was very energetic and it was filled with people who were really interested in having a good time with one another and who were interested in learning how to dance,” said participant Hayden Best ’21.
Although the night primarily focused on salsa and bachata, the event was part of Andover’s introduction to Alianza Latina’s larger initiative, Latinx Heritage Month. In previous years, the group was only allotted one weekend to celebrate Latinx culture, but Alvarez believes that their group deserves more than a few days to do so.
“It was really great to see the turnout especially since it’s seen that the school was responsive and wanted to celebrate with us this month. It’s showing that we deserve more than the weekend and everyone is willing to celebrate with us in that month,” said Alvarez.