Salsa Magic promotes cultural awareness

Aaron Gotter, Head Photographer

Students danced to a different beat in the University Center (UC) commons on Friday, September 3 during Salsa Magic, a University Programming Board (UPB) hosted Latin dance workshop dedicated to cultural awareness month.

“I do this show primarily for two reasons,” dance instructor Lee (“El Gringo”) said. “One, I want people to look around and realize the cultural diversity that every university has. And most importantly, two, back on September 11, 2001 when the towers went down, people forgot that there were people representing over 90 different countries in those towers.”

This was the third year that UPB hosted Salsa Magic on the FMU campus. According to Lee, FMU ranks in the top 10 out of 500 universities in willingness to step up to dance and have a good time.

“I was very impressed there was a lot of diversity and a group of five or six guys that really were very good,” Lee said.

This year Salsa Magic taught students how to do three different dances from two continents. The first two dances that were taught, the merengue and the bachata, originated in the Dominican Republic. The last dance that was taught, the salsa, came from Cuba.

The dances taught at the workshop were energetic and unique with their own grace and style that made them amusing to observe.

Lee explained the differences between the three dances in simple terms.

“All dancing is broken down into a bar of music,” Lee said. “So in merengue it’s pretty much a step, step pattern; bachata is three steps with a tap or a hip rock and salsa is three steps with a pause.”

After the group was done practicing the new dances that they learned, everyone had an opportunity to compete for a chance to get free VIP admission into the Latin Music Festival in Washington, D.C. coming up later this year. Lee said that the value of the tickets is $250.

“It is a really amazing international event,” Lee said.

At the last Latin Music Festival, Lee said that there were over 3,000 people from 40 states and 11 countries in attendance.

The first competition that the students had a chance to win the VIP passes in was Latin dancing. In total four brave couples stepped up to dance under the careful eyes of the instructor and the crowded UC.

After each round Lee used the audience to help him decide who would stay and who would leave. The competition lasted for two rounds before a final decision was made on what group would win the VIP passes.

A tie was declared between the final two couples. The two couples that won were made up of senior Tom Kaiser with sophomore Morgan Rogers and sophomore German Reyes with sophomore Veronica Star.

The second competition that took place was jokingly referred to by Lee as the “booty shaking” contest. In reality it was a freestyle dance contest. In this contest dancers competed individually for a chance to win another VIP pass to the International Dance Festival.

In a similar fashion Lee used the audience to help him narrow his choices down to two people. After the audience showed favor on both contestants Lee decided to call another tie. The winners of the freestyle international dance competition were senior T’kra Richardson and junior O’neal Simpson.

After the workshop, Lee explained why culture was important to him.

“I graduated from George Mason University in 2003 and part of the reason I went to George Mason was because at that time it was the second or third most diverse school in the world,” Lee said. “My degree was in government and international politics, so I have always had a love for culture. And I think that the nice thing about Latin dancing is that it is transcending and really becoming popular world wide. It really bridges the gap. You don’t have to speak the same language, but you can look like you have been dancing with the person for years.”