Students, faculty, staff and community members came together to learn Latin American dance styles and traditions and dance the night away.
Colorful decorations and a DJ playing Latin American music greeted students, faculty and staff entering the SSC Atrium last Friday evening. Attendees arrived to find Cinco de Mayo-themed decorations and Latin American cuisine before receiving salsa, merengue and bachata dancing lessons and dancing the night away.
The dance, organized by the Latin American Studies Committee, has been an annual event for more than a decade, but the continuity of the annual event has been interrupted by the COVID-19 lockdown.
Participants in the dance included participants with no experience as well as participants who had attended the event before the lockdown.
Tony Calderon, a Latin American student, said he had limited experience with this type of dance, but appreciated the opportunity to attend a COD event to develop more confidence and experience with the styles. of dance. Calderon said he appreciates the college’s efforts to promote diversity.
“I appreciate how COD tries to teach my culture to other students in a good way like this,” Calderon said. “I think it’s done in a way to enrich other students.”
COD student Nolan Shipley said he had no experience with this type of dancing and that the event gave him a greater perspective and connection to Latin American culture.
“It’s very interesting to see all these different cultures being promoted at COD and at the college in general. It’s really refreshing to see the diversity,” Shipley said.
Faculty and staff who attended the event echoed the same sentiments as the students.
Admissions and outreach staff member Hilary Chapa said the event helped her and her husband connect and better appreciate their Latin American heritage.
“I didn’t know how to take a single step until I came,” Chapa said. “Now I can do salsa and bachata. Her husband, Steve, said the couple were looking for dance lessons and were happy to have attended the event.
English language studies faculty Melissa Leismer said she attended the annual event before the lockdown.
“I think it’s different but it’s fun to see more and more people coming out now after Covid,” Leismer said. “So I think it’s exciting to see a great group of people having fun again.”
She said she finds joy in dancing and seeing everyone dancing and having fun.
“I know that dance is a very important part of Latin American culture. It’s fun to see an exciting and vibrant part of this culture,” Leismer said.
Last year, the dance took place virtually on zoom. Maureen Heffern-Ponicki, co-chair of the Latin American Studies Committee, said declining levels of COVID-19 cases guided the committee’s decision to find a way to hold the in-person dance for the first time after the lockdown.
“When we started planning, we were like, ‘How can we make it happen in person?'” Heffern-Ponicki said. “So we thought we’ll do it outside.”
The dance is usually held in February close to Valentine’s Day. The committee planned to move the dance later in the year to an outdoor setting to reduce the risk of exposure to COVID-19. Heffern-Ponicki said the drop in COVID-19 cases allowed the committee to decide to hold the event in the SSC atrium.
Heffern-Ponicki said the goal of the Latin American Studies Committee and other global education committees is to spread cultural awareness.
“When you bring food, culture, and people together, it brings the joy of that culture to other people,” Heffern-Ponicki said. “And other people can share what they did growing up. It’s just the sharing of a very great and beautiful tradition.
“The purpose of the committee is to bring awareness of the culture, traditions, history, politics, of all of Latin America and Latin America to the COD community and the wider community of the College of DuPage, so everyone is invited from the community to come to the dance,” Heffern-Ponicki said.
Heffern-Ponicki said the committee is looking for more input and involvement from Latino students. All students interested in getting involved in these events should contact David Swope, Director of the Center for Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI).
The event was organized as part of a collaboration between the Latin American Studies Committee, Latino Awareness and Center for Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.
Students interested in these events can also find information on DEI PageInstagram or COD student life Instagram page.