UVI is light on its feet

Salsa Club works to promote Latin culture on campus

MARKIDA SCOTLAND|

ST.CROIX — The counting of steps and Latin music could be heard from the cafeteria of the Albert A. Sheen campus on Tuesday afternoon, as the Salsa Club worked to promote Latin culture through dance.

According to University of the Virgin Islands graduate and president of the Salsa Club, Ismael Rosado Jr., Latin culture, especially salsa is underrepresented at the university.

“I was a part of the first Salsa Club in St. Thomas, and after three or four solid years over there I decided that since I’ve been home for about a year, let’s see if this could work out,” Rosado said. “There is nothing like that here, no salsa exposure.”

Humanities Professor, La Vaughn Belle teaching students how to dance Salsa
Humanities Professor, La Vaughn Belle (center in black) and  Ismael Rosado Jr (back center in grey) instructs students on dancing salsa

According to the listing of clubs and organizations on the university’s website, there are no clubs or organizations geared towards Latin culture. The closest organization would be the “Social and Cultural Committee.”

While the Salsa Club is led by Rosado, the class was taught by Humanities Professor La Vaughn Belle, and her husband, Rivert Diaz, which was the first time the class was taught by guest instructors.

The instructors were chosen for their background in knowing how to dance salsa, although their salsa style is more Cuban.

“I wanted to see how their teaching style was, and how the students received them,” Rosado said. “Hey, anytime you have a guest professor who knows salsa you take them up on it.“

Diaz and Belle are in the process of opening a dance studio called “House of Clave,” but are currently instructors at the Bailar Casino Social Club on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Comanche Hotel, and Saturdays at La Laguna.

“We’ve been teaching for a long time,” Belle said. “I was going to start a Salsa Club, but it just happened to be synergetic that he was starting one at the same time so it was perfect.”

Belle said that while she would not be able to attend every class, she would try to attend as many as possible.

According to Rosado the classes are scheduled for Tuesdays and Fridays at 12:30 p.m. in the cafeteria.

One of the most challenging tasks with the club is attracting male students.

“Originally it was just girls and with some recruiting on the day, which is why I think 12:30 is a good time, you can kind of recruit guys,” Rosado said. “Generally, towards the beginning recruiting is a lot easier than later on because they already are exposed and they know what it is. So if they don’t want to come, they just don’t want to come. But I’m optimistic.”

Rivert Diaz teaching UVI students how to dance salsa
Rivert Diaz teaching UVI students how to dance salsa

With National Hispanic Heritage Month coming up in November, Rosado is hoping that with some practice, there will be a group that can represent the Salsa Club, even if it is only a small performance.

“It’s going to take some work, but ideally that would be great. Maybe if we can get La Vaughn Belle and some of the other instructors and students who are more skilled, we could do a simple performance,” Rosado said.

“I had fun,” nursing major and Dance Team captain, Deidre Dubois, said. “I knew Ismael for a very long time and he invited me to take just one day of classes and I decided to stick with it.”

One of Rosado’s ultimate goals is to get a worthwhile group that can participate in and bring awareness to the community.

“I’m hoping to get a solid group together that can learn gradually and develop their skills to potentially being able to perform and go outside into the community and participate in the social culture, which is salsa and Latin dance,” Rosado said.

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