Latin Dance blazes trail in campus, Waco community

Baylor Latin Dance Society performs on the main stage during Dia Del Oso Apr 14, 2011, at Fountain Mall.
Nick Berryman | Lariat Photographer

By Linda Nguyen

Staff Writer

Let’s salsa.

Or merengue.

Or cha-cha.

The Baylor Latin Dance Society is a student club at Baylor whose mission is to encourage student and community involvement in the Latin culture and to demonstrate and teach the different styles of Latin-influenced dances such as salsa, merengue, cha-cha and more.

“What we’re trying to do is show people Hispanic heritage,” Katy junior Melanie Medina said. “Dancing is a way that everyone can do that.” Medina is the president of the Latin Dance Society.

The club meets every week. Medina said every week the club decides on a style of dance they want to specialize in for that week.

They warm up and learn the basic footwork together and then split into three groups by experience levels. The first level is for students who have never danced in a Latin style before and still need to learn the basics. The intermediate level is for students who have already learned the basic footwork and want to begin working with partners. The advanced level is for students who have had previous dance experience and are familiar with the more technical moves.

“We accept all levels,” Medina said. “That’s why for the second half, we separate into levels so people are in their comfort zones.”

Medina said dance experience can vary from people who have never done Latin dancing before to people who have had more professional experience and know more technical and advanced footwork. There is no limit to the number of students in each level.

“We leave it up to people’s discretion, but we say things like ‘to be in this level you have to know this and this and this,’” Medina said.

Atlanta sophomore Dominique Smith-Bryan, Baylor Latin Dance Society’s service and fundraising chair, said she really enjoys being able to learn the different dance styles.

“I saw myself getting better and better,” Smith-Bryan said. “People would comment and say, ‘You’re so much better than you were before.’ It made me happy and kept me excited about it.

Medina said the club was started in 2001, mostly by people of the Hispanic community who wanted to get together and dance because there was not a Latin dancing presence in Waco compared to bigger cities like Dallas and Austin.

“I love it because I love dancing, and it’s something I’ve always done,” Medina said.

Smith-Bryan, who had no prior dancing experience, said she joined for other reasons. “I joined last year because after I saw Dancing with the Stars, I wanted to learn how to dance like that,” Smith-Bryan said.

Dallas freshman Cristina Vega, a new member of Latin Dance Society, said she joined after a current member heard about her previous experience as part of a salsa band.

“I thought dancing would be the next best thing,” Vega said. “I wanted to get a lot more technical because I used to only know basic footwork.”

Vega said the Latin Dance Society has had a positive effect on her freshman year at Baylor.

“The environment is very healthy,” Vega said. “Everyone is friendly. Everyone helps each other.”

The society holds an event every year in the spring called Salsa Invasion, where the club brings professionals and Latin dancing enthusiasts together. The dates for next year’s Salsa Invasion have not been announced yet.

“We bring in other colleges and high schools,” Medina said. “Professionals come and teach workshops.”

Baylor Latin Dance Society meetings are every 9 p.m. on Monday in Russell Gym. Their first performance will be Nov. 9 in Waco Hall. Dues are $15 a semester and $25 for the year and includes a T-shirt and a discount for Salsa Invasion.