Burning up the dance floor: QU’s Latino Cultural Society hosts its annual Latin Dance Fest

David Matos, Arts & Life Editor

Latino Cultural Society Vice President and Event Coordinator Ana Allen practices dance steps at the annual Latin Dance Fest on April 14. (Nicole McIsaac)

As “Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar and Lucenzo echoed in the background, cries of laughter flooded the dance floor while students tried to make sense of the salsa dance steps they were being taught at this year’s Latin Dance Fest.

To kick off the long weekend, Quinnipiac University’s Latino Cultural Society hosted its annual Latin Dance Fest in Dance Studio B at the Athletic and Recreation Center on Thursday, April 14. The event allowed students to bond with the Latin community on campus through traditional Latin dishes, Latin pop music and dance lessons from professional salsa dancers.

The president of LCS, Stephany Perez-Pinto, a junior biomedical science major, said that the event is an opportunity to share culture from Latin America with the community at Quinnipiac, a predominately white institution.

“I think especially if you are Latino-identifying, it’s really nice to have a piece of your own culture on campus,” Perez-Pinto said. “It’s nice to see a little bit of your own flavor on campus (such as) dancing with other people that look like you and have the same experiences as you.”

As students entered the dance studio, they were met with a table of food from Collado, a Dominican restaurant in New Haven. The entree of the evening was pernil, a pork and chicken dish, with tostones, which are fried plantains, and rice.

For dessert, a slice of tres leches cake and flan was offered from the New Haven Mexican bakery, La Tapatia. Finally, to wash it all down, students had the choice between a cup of Jarritos mandarin soda or Ting, a sparkling grapefruit-flavored drink.

After attendees finished their Latin-style cuisines, three dance instructors from Latin Rhythm Dance Studio, a Stratford, Connecticut-based dance company, began the evening festivities with a lesson on Merengue, a traditional Dominican style of dance.

Favorite Latin pop songs like “Stand By Me” by Prince Royce and “Suavemente” by Elvis Crespo continued to play while participants were being taught other types of dances popular in many Latin communities like bachata and salsa.

Multicultural Student Leadership Council representative Alondra Santos, a sophomore diagnostic medical sonography major, said that this experience allowed her to “brush up all my skills.”

“My favorite part of this event was being able to connect with my cultural dance, bachata,” Santos said. “I don’t find myself dancing it a lot due to being away at college all the time, it’s just nice to reconnect sometimes when you’re away from home for so long.”

Last year, LCS’s Latin Dance Fest was held outside on the Quad in collaboration with Quinnipiac’s African and Caribbean Student Union, due to COVID-19 restrictions. Perez-Pinto said that it was less dance-focused and mainly featured games, music and food. However, the multicultural organizations made the best of the circumstances by providing students the opportunity to take a picture with their nation’s flag.

“Basically for all of our events, we just wanna make sure that students, whether they’re Latino or not, have a space to come together and not feel like a minority,” Perez-Pinto said.

Nube Fajardo, a graduate student in the biomedical science program, urged her friends to finish off one of the final weeks of their last semester at Quinnipiac by bonding together in the celebratory cultural experience.

Fajardo said her favorite part of the night was watching her friend, Tulimalefoi Vaofanua, a graduate student in the biomedical science program, learn the dances.

“Definitely getting to learn something new, exposing myself to different types of culture and just learning more about their culture as well is beautiful,” Vaofanua said.

LCS Vice President and the Event’s Coordinator Ana Allen, a senior political science and psychology double major, said that this dance experience also acted as a great opportunity for the Latin population on campus to revitalize their relationship with their heritage.

“A lot of times we are so focused in kind of showing that we know everything, that we have all the dances, but we actually don’t,” Allen said. “So it’s really good to kind of reconnect with your community and, you know, just learn, just start from the basics without any judgment, without any fear, be with your friends and meet new people.”

As the night concluded around 11 p.m., the LCS executive board posed together for a group photo so everyone can remember this magical night of dance, food and Latin American appreciation for a lifetime.