Salsa classes are held weekly on Mondays in the basement of the Tyler School of Art. | Maggie Andresen TTN
Past vibrant hallways scattered with sculptures, faint music rises from a staircase entrance to the basement in the Tyler School of Art.
In room B90, approximately 10 people step methodically to Abraham Ramos’ voice as he counts – one, two, three, five, six, seven. The fifth week of salsa dancing class at Temple begins.
“Dancing is a sport,” said Ramos, an 18-year-old salsa instructor from the Thomas Alva Edison High School in Philadelphia. He leaned forward with animation. “You sweat, you get hurt. It’s the same thing as football and all of that. It’s a sport.”
Hidden in the colorful basement at Tyler, salsa classes are open to the public and held Mondays at noon. Ramos and colleague Molly Caro, a 16-year-old salsa instructor also from Thomas Alva Edison High School, collectively teach the art of salsa dancing to students and faculty.
“We review it slow, because I know every time we’ll be seeing new people coming in,” Ramos said.
Caro and Ramos focus more on technique than appearance so students are able to perform the dance correctly.
“The point of teaching them the steps of salsa is to break it down to show them the foundation in order for them to understand the dance,” Ramos said.
The two rotate with all the students, allowing each participant to receive individual instruction. Each week the lesson consists of singular movements as well as partnered routines.
“I always wanted to be a choreographer,” Caro said. “I prefer to teach everything. I like going all around the world with it.”
The two referenced their Hispanic heritage as a significant contribution to their salsa knowledge.
“I started doing regular salsa at house parties and family parties,” Caro said.
Caro then learned the professional technique from Ramos.
“In a Hispanic house, that’s all you hear – Spanish music 24/7,” Ramos said. His progression with salsa continued with a professional styled dance company, Fuego, and then the school-based organization High Step, where he taught Caro.
Technique is important with salsa dancing, but the style itself changes with time. “Now [salsa is] so modern, just so down, so new,” Ramos said, “I guess we do kind of twist it up, we do throw some old stuff in it, but it’s modern dance.”
Tim Gibbon, a graduate student in art education and community arts practice and project manager for reForm project, said the intimate classes serve a greater purpose than sharing the art of salsa dancing.
“These salsa lessons are part of the reForm project, which is a project of artist and [Temple] professor Pepón Osorio,” Gibbon said.
“And this [salsa dancing class] is an extension of one of the many different activities that are going on for the reForm project,” Gibbon said. The project is a process of a two-year art installation that addresses the 2013 closing of Fairhill Elementary School, a school once located at 6th and Somerset streets.”
The installation, which will open to the public in June, will be in room B85 of Tyler.
“It incorporates materials and furniture in the old Fairhill building,” Gibbon said.
Caro and Ramos attended Fairhill School prior to its closing, where they were Gibbon’s students. Their involvement with dance and the school community initiated Gibbon to reach out for this latest project. Caro and Ramos also participate with the student planning committee for reForm.
“It’s like an exchange,” Gibbon said. “[Caro] and [Ramos] are sharing their gifts and talents with [Temple].”
Beginning with singular routines, the dancers move their hips and feet in time with Ramos’ counting. After a grandeur pose for the finale, the students partner up to take on couple dancing.
“The [students] are amazing,” Ramos said.“They make me smile every time I come. I love my job.”
Allison Merchant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.