By Meredith Cutro
January 27, 2020
The first thing I noticed as I walked into the Student Union was the music. Oh god, the music! It was sensuous. It was also infectious. As I listened to it my heart beat faster. My feet wanted to start tapping to the rhythm. Next all my body wanted to do was sway to it.
I had my card scanned for entry into the event. As I walked in I noticed that everything was already set up. The food was set out in buffet style. The tables and chairs had been removed to create a dance floor. People were starting to arrive. They clustered into groups according to who they knew. As we waited for more people to come, the buffet opened up and we lined up to experience the tastes of Latin culture.
The food! How to describe the tastes and textures of a different culture? The rice and beans had a delicious flavor and the beans added to that and to the texture of the dish. I couldn’t get enough of it. The potato salad had a nice mild flavor with a little bit of crunch to it. I may not be a big fan of potato salad; but you can bet I ate it all. The pulled pork-butt was marvelous. Extremely rich and moist. My mouth was still watering after I finished it. And the skin was nice and crispy. The sweet plantains, or maduros as they are called, looked as if they had been burnt to a crisp. I was a little leery but tried them anyway. What an experience! They had a sweet but tart taste to them, and they were fairly firm on the inside but crispy on the outside. I was instantly addicted. I even cut them into small pieces to make them last longer.
Next the dance lessons started. Everyone was in a circle as the instructor began to explain some history about the three dances we would be learning. They were the Merengue, the Bachata and the Salsa.
The instructor started with the easiest dance first, the Merengue. At first everyone seemed uncomfortable and a little embarrassed. But as they practiced the steps they started to relax and get into it. The music sped up and each person partnered up. They were working together as they sped up their steps to the music. They soon got the steps down pat.
The next dance was the Bachata. These moves were a little more difficult. Everyone looked excited at the prospect of learning another dance. Partners broke apart to learn the moves on their own first. There was a bit more struggling with this dance. It was more footwork than the Merengue. The instructor went from person to person to help everyone become more comfortable with the moves. With a little bit more effort everyone began to master the steps. They then again paired up and as the music got faster so did they. Everyone was now laughing and joking with each other. Spirits were very high.
The final dance was the Salsa. It was the most difficult of the three dances. They started on their own to learn the new steps. Smooth as a breeze they picked up the steps. They were doing so well and having a grand time as well. As each person mastered the steps, the smiles were overflowing with pride. As the music sped up again they broke into pairs. The dance seemed even more complicated with two people. Everyone seemed excited as they danced in pairs. The laughing and joking was at its highest.
The music stopped and everyone took a short but needed break. The instructor then explained that he would be quizzing them on the different dances and footwork. He played a song and the participants had to do the right dance moves. No one was put off by this, to the contrary, they seemed excited and ready to go. Each was partnered to the person next to them and the quiz began. At first it seemed as if they were fumbling but as the next song came on everyone was doing the right moves. The music kept changing and the laughter and smiles were infectious. Everyone was having a fantastic time.
I think everyone did stupendously well with the lessons. The music stayed on for the rest of the evening for ambience and for anyone who wanted to practice all their new skills. Most worked up an appetite and were getting more food. A few people stayed and danced for a while.
Latin Night was a grand success. Everyone had a wonderful time. There was talk of another event. I think that is a wonderful idea. I hope that more people come after hearing about it. It was a fantastic experience in my book.