Some wore bandanas and others used props, but all brought coordinated, high-energy performances to the Gamma Phi Sigma “Hermanos Unidos” fraternity’s annual Stroll Show.
On Friday, Nov. 19, Mitten Hall was filled with hip-hop beats and an energetic crowd, as Greek teams competed in the sixth annual Latin-influenced performance.
Strolling is a kind of line dance that originated in the 1950s during the “American Bandstand” era. Participants line up and perform coordinated moves with others in the line or form two columns that couples take turns passing through.
Gamma Phi Sigma President Randy Narvaez-Ruiz served as the event coordinator for the last two years. Planning the event meant involvement in everything from start to finish – from inviting other organizations to participate to overseeing the final itinerary the day of the show.
“It’s a fun Greek event, and it’s really evolved in the amount of people who come out for it,” Narvaez-Ruiz said. “We often do community service, but this is a great way to exhibit the fun side of Greek life for both Greeks and non-Greeks.”
Beyond an entertaining Friday evening, attendees and performers supported a cause that is of great importance to the brothers of Gamma Phi Sigma.
This summer, Ramon “Guatu” Baez, a Gamma Phi Sigma brother, passed away after battling a rare form of brain cancer. The fraternity decided to hold this year’s stroll in his honor. Eric Cortes, the event host and vice president of the fraternity’s national board, asked for a moment of silence at the event in honor of Baez.
“It’s been a tough year for us as a chapter, and as an organization,” Cortes told the crowd.
The stroll allowed the group to move forward positively in Baez’s memory. Both this year and last, the proceeds from the event were donated to the American Cancer Society.
“Ramon was on the stroll team. He was a fun and energetic guy,” Narvaez- Ruiz said. “He taught salsa dancing at the YMCA in his hometown. He loved to dance. We thought the stroll would be a very appropriate fundraiser because Ramon loved this.”
A panel of five judges, three of whom are Greek affiliated, scored the teams’ synchronization, creativity, difficulty and enthusiasm. In the first round, audience members voted on the teams by donating money, all of which went to the American Cancer Society. Teams were required to prepare three separate strolls, each no more than two minutes long.
The competition showcased the talents of Greek brothers and sisters from several East Coast schools including Kutztown University, University of Maryland and Temple.
Daniela Acosta has been a member of the Lambda Theta Alpha Latin sorority since spring of this year and is currently the fundraising chair for Temple’s chapter. It was her first stroll performance, though her sorority participated in the event for the last three years.
“I love performing and representing my organization with pride, and it was special because we were honoring the late Ramon Baez, and his love for dancing and strolling,” Acosta said. “Our three strolls were unique and full of original movement, and although they appeared to be very different from one another, they all exemplify the attitude of a Lambda Lady.”
For the three women who performed from Lambda Theta Alpha, each of the stroll routines held different meaning.
“Our first was precise, athletic and a little playful, while our second was more abstract and hard-hitting, showing how we excel at executing things traditionally while also being capable of stepping outside the box and bringing something brand new to the table,” Acosta said. “Our third stroll was slow and exact, and it represented us as sophisticated women who truly respect themselves and are as beautiful on the inside as they are on the outside.”
While teams brought their own unique style with each routine, the Chi Upsilon Sigma sorority from Kutztown received first place. The first-place prize included a $500 donation by Gamma Phi Sigma in the winning team’s name to a national or local philanthropy of their choice. This year’s donation was made to the I Have a Dream Foundation – an organization that gives financial support for higher education to children in low-income communities.
Junior Gabriela Sanchez attended the event for the first time this year after hearing positive reviews of past events from friends.
“I’m really enjoying the show – it’s great just seeing the energy, and everyone having fun,” Sanchez said. “I’m a theater major so I know what it’s like performing, and I wanted to support the students involved. What you’re performing isn’t as important as having fun while you’re doing it.”
Kara Savidge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.