The Underground was transformed into a Latin dance club on Friday, Sept. 28 when Lambda Theta Phi hosted its sixth annual Baila Conmigo. The event, held during Hispanic Heritage Month, is a celebration of Latino culture through dance lessons and food.
“We want to promote the Latino culture to the Temple community. That’s our main goal,” said Thomas Perez, a senior risk management major and president of Lambda Theta Phi. “We provide everything for free so everyone can enjoy the food, the performances, the social dancing and the lessons. That’s really our goal, just to promote the Latino culture especially during Hispanic Heritage Month.”
The night started off at 7 p.m. with a meal consisting of yellow rice, pink beans, pork and plantains. After an hour of dining and socializing, the dancing began.
Mike Andino, owner of Estilo Dance Studio and a brother in Lambda Theta Phi, led participants through the basics of salsa dancing. The mood was set with the sounds of classic Latino musicians like Eddie Santiago and Hector Lavoe.
There were free lessons being raffled off to multiple attendees throughout the night. The lessons could be reedemed at Estilo Dance Studio at a later date.
Attendance was not limited to only students of Latino descent.
“I’m Filipino so we have a little bit of this in our culture in the form of line dancing and such,” said Kathrina Salonga, a freshman speech pathology major.
Salonga said she first heard about the event through a friend, and although she had some exposure to Latin dance in high school, she was a bit apprehensive.
“I was a bit skeptical about it at first, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh a lot of these people are going to know how to dance and I don’t really know [how to dance salsa].’ But once they broke it down with everybody in a group and [split us up into pairs] it was really good,” Salonga said. “We got to meet different people and break out of our comfort zones.”
“We try to invite not only the Temple community but everyone in general so everyone [feels] welcome,” Perez said. “My parents are here, a lot [of other people’s] parents are here. Our fraternity brothers and sorority sisters have seen this program from the beginning to the end.”
Baila Conmigo also sought out to be an event to promote unity among the Latino community at Temple.
“I think the most important thing is it brings us together,” said Jonathan Vega, a senior architecture major of Puerto Rican descent. “It lets other Temple students [who have a Latino background] know that we’re here and there are people who share the same culture. It doesn’t seem like there’s [many] of us so it does help create a stronger bond, and we get to meet people who share the same experience.”
This year, Baila Conmigo ended on a high note, having the largest attendance in its six-year run, members said.
Alumna Erlina Ortiz, a sister of Lambda Theta Alpha, came back to take part in the annual tradition and said she was impressed by the turnout.
“It’s here and thriving, even though people might not know it,” Ortiz said about the Latino community on Main Campus. “I think it needs a little push, a lot more can be done to bring us all together.”
Luis Fernando Rodriguez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.