Lambda Theta Phi fraternity hosted a salsa dancing lesson for students Friday, Sept. 30, last weekend.
Friday, Sept. 30, marked the 5th annual “Baila Conmigo” event, presented by the brothers of Lambda Theta Phi, Latin Fraternity Inc.
Scheduled to be held in the Student Center Underground from 6:45 p.m. -8:30 p.m., the event ran late and didn’t start until after 7 p.m.
“We’re Latin, it happens,” said LTP alumnus, Miguel Angel De Jesus.
Despite the late start, however, the event engaged a wide range of guests with food, performances and an interactive dance lesson.
A metropolitan chapter, Lambda Theta Phi has only four brothers currently active on Main Campus, making an event like this one even more challenging to pull off.
“Pretty much everyone shares responsibility,” said fraternity President Thomas Perez. “It’s been hard, but it helps that we’ve been with each other for more than a year. We’ve learned from last year what worked and what didn’t work.”
The event comes every year during Latino Heritage Month with the goal of raising awareness of the Latino students on Main Campus. At a school as large and as diverse as Temple, Perez said students can get lost.
Baila Conmigo originated five years ago as an accident.
“We wanted to have a Mr. and Mrs. Latino competition in 2007,” De Jesus said, who was a brother on campus at that time. “I was in charge of it. We had teamed up with Esencia Latina and the Association of Latin Students and had everything together. Then three weeks prior, some things went wrong with contestants and it fell apart.”
Left with a room rented and promotions underway, the groups were under pressure to deliver something.
“Esencia Latina is a dance group, so we just thought we’d use that,” De Jesus said.
After a successful first event, the brothers of LTP agreed to do it again at the request of Esenecia Latina the following year.
When the other organizations couldn’t participate last year, the brothers of LTP stepped up and decided to continue producing the program on their own.
The evening was a tribute to Latino culture. With authentic, homemade food from the mother of one LTP member and a salsa lesson directed by LTP alumnus and dance studio owner Michael Andino, the atmosphere was vibrant and peppered with enthusiastic greetings in both Spanish and English as family and friends arrived to enjoy.
Every year the event manifests itself differently.
“Last year we did the Bomba,” Perez said, who chose the salsa this year because of its gain in popularity and notoriety. “We’re open to suggestions.”
The diverse audience may have been surprising to some, yet Andino was hardly taken back.
“Salsa is a melting pot of people and looking around the room that’s exactly what I see,” Andino said.
Even the dance troupe was diverse, who combined to make the crowd feel comfortable, if not confident, in putting themselves out there to learn how to salsa.
Though intimidating at first, by the end of the evening everyone in the crowd was crammed onto the dance floor, learning the steps.
The presenters started by demonstrating their own impressive moves while the audience ate rice, beans and meat and clapped enthusiastically. Everyone was then instructed to get onto the dance floor to learn the basic forward-backward step, a turn and a side-to side step. After some coaching, the attendees partnered up and began practicing their social dance skills.
“In social dancing, the only connection you have is through your hands to tell you how to react,” Andino said.
“The reason you swing your hands is to ask permission to turn her,” Andino said as he instructed attendees. “Ladies, you don’t just want to give it away, step forward, think about it, then turn–you don’t want to be easy about it.”
“My favorite part is the dancing. It’s rare that you can just let go and dance,” Perez added.
After five years of success, LTP hopes to continue to host Baila Conmigo in future years. To submit suggestions or for information about getting involved, keep in touch with LTP on Twitter @AlphaRhoLambdas, or email Perez with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Victoria Marchiony can be reached at email@example.com.