Vanessa Alcazar and Jessica Ramirez pose with another member of the new campus Salsa Toro club at AWC.
Salsa isn’t just a spicy condiment. It is also the name of a Latin dance, combining Afro-Caribbean rhythms and jazz. What really makes salsa different from other styles of music is its drums.
This dance inspired two students, Jessica Ramirez from Colombia and Vanessa Alcazar from Mexico, to create the Salsa Toro group at Arizona Western College. The project officially began last fall, and many students have become inspired to join.
“In Colombia, it is common for people to learn how to dance from a young age by watching their parents,” says Ramirez.
Her culture likes to have music during celebrations and even conversations. The way Ramirez learned was at parties while watching people dance and enjoy the feeling that salsa transmits. This experience inspired her to continue practicing in a professional academy and her passion for salsa is now transmitted to AWC.
“My love for Latin dance arose when I began to feel represented by music,” she says, adding that the dance became a way in which she portrays her culture and expresses her feelings.
One of the feelings that inspired her to create the Salsa Toro group was her desire to teach.
“What motivated me to start this dance club,” she says, “was to discover that, although the college has a dance group, it is a group where you should already know how to dance.”
She identifies with those young people who don’t know how to dance or are shy, and that sense of empathy inspires her to share her experience with others.
“I was also motivated to see that we are in a small city in the United States full of many Latin cultures,” she adds.
Another motive for her was to unite cultures. Besides the many Hispanic people who live and attend college in Yuma, not to mention the students visiting from Latin America, AWC has many other international students from around the world.
What Ramirez and Alcazar seek to transmit to young people who want to participate in this group is the joy and freedom of expression that salsa offers. They want to create a space in which students and community members can share and feel completely free.
“We want them to be able to identify their feelings through dance and release stress,” says Ramirez.
“The reaction of the students has been gratifying because people who did not know how to dance come to class and make an effort to improve,” adds Alcazar. “They have the opportunity to develop their skills, and they have shown great potential.
“The most important thing is that students have identified that their attitude in their lives has improved. Whoever dances salsa reduces stress, and becomes more positive.
Besides the regular classes, the Salsa Toro group also has given presentations on the AWC campus. Latin rhythm unites various cultures with dance, and this new program gives students the opportunity to feel free and show themselves.