GSU students get a taste of Salsa

pular Dancing with the Stars it is no wonder that salsa dancing is gaining popularity.
Even though salsa is most often associated with Latin Americans, people of all races in United States and Europe are dancing the merengue and cha cha cha.Grambling State University’s Cross Cultural Club offered salsa dance classes on Thursdays in Woodson Hall.
Talar Tcholakian organized the classes because she realized that people like to dance. “Many people are interested in salsa. People in the Cross Cultural Club wanted it,” said the social work major.

She and her boyfriend helped to demonstrate proper dance techniques. Both grew up in Lebanon and like to dance the salsa. “He used to take classes and won competitions,” she said.
Students were taught the cha cha cha, bachata, cumbia and merengue. Professional salsa dance teacher Skarleth Vargas was the instructor.

Tcholakian saw Vargas performing at an international program at Louisiana Tech University and asked her to give lessons at GSU.

A native of Bolivia, Vargas was reared in Argentina, where she started teaching six years ago.
“I started doing it for fun. I used to teach in hotels,” she said.

She said she likes to make her dancers feel comfortable and encourages them to try. “It looks difficult, but I make it easy. People like it once they try it.”

“When people dance, it breaks the ice. When they begin they are shy. I tell them they are not dancing for Dancing with the Stars,” said Vargas. “I tell them to relax and have fun.”

Vargas said that Latin rhythms comes from African dances. This is substantiated by Cameroon native Joanne Domeza, a senior majoring in electronic engineering technology at GSU.

“We do these dances at home. The rhythms and steps are the same. We just don’t call them by name,” said Domeza.

Domeza decided to take the classes to have fun and dance. “I love dancing. We learned why we do steps and the names of dances. We just come together and talk. The classes are fun. People are laughing and enjoying themselves,” she said.

“Salsa” is the Spanish word for sauce, connoting a spicy flavor. This seems an appropriate description of the dances associated with this genre.
Psychology major Tammy McMurray said she attended the classes because she loves to dance.

“I like salsa dancing. It has sexual, sensual movements. Some of the moves I learned were similar to dances that I already do, dances like the cha cha cha. I love the different names of the dances and the music.”

GSU students are not the only ones taking advantage of the classes. Justin Rice, a graduate student at Louisiana Tech said he took the classes for enrichment and exposure to other cultures.

“If I am in a social environment, I want to be able to dance. It is nice to have a repertoire of dance skills you can use,” he said.

Rice says he would tell males to take lessons. “There are a lot of women who want to dance but can’t. Those who can dance do not have anyone to dance with. You can make them look good.”

Dr. Chimegsaikhan Banzar, advisor of the Cross Cultural Club said the dance classes were to help promote Latin American culture.
“We want to make students aware of diversity on campus. It is a good opportunity for students to get to know each other and work with Tech students. Students are really having fun,” said Banzar. “It is beneficial for students to share each other’s culture.”
“If you can walk, you can dance. First learn the movements; then enjoy yourself when you dance,” said Vargas.
Tcholakian said the students want the classes to continue.

The word salsa was coined in 1933 when Cuban song composer Ignacio Piñerio wrote the song Échale Salsita. According to the late Alfredo Valdés Sr. the idea occurred to Piñerio after eating food that lacked Cuban spices according to www.salsa-dancing-addict.com.