Bailamos! Students, Faculty And Staff Learn To Salsa

Students, faculty, staff and community members came together to learn Latin American dance styles and traditions and dance the night away.


Alexia Lukose

Cinco De Mayo decorations at the Salsa, Merengue and Bachata Dance

Devin Oommen, Staff Writer

Colorful decorations and a DJ playing Latin American music greeted students, faculty and staff walking into the SSC Atrium this past Friday night. Participants arrived to find Cinco de Mayo themed decorations and Latin American cuisine before they received Salsa, Merengue and Bachata dance lessons and danced the night away. 

The dance, hosted by the Latin American Studies Committee has been an annual event for over a decade but the continuity of the yearly event was disrupted by the COVID-19 lockdown. 

Attendees of the dance included participants with no experience as well as participants who had attended the event prior to the lockdown. 

Attendees at the Salsa, Merengue and Bachata Dance (Alexia Lukose)

Tony Calderon, a Latin American student, said that he had some limited experience with this kind of dance but enjoyed the ability to attend a COD event to build more confidence and experience with the dance styles. Calderon said he appreciated the college’s effort to promote diversity. 

“I enjoy how COD tries to teach other students about my culture in a good way like this,” said Calderon. “I think it’s done in a way to enrich other students.”

COD student Nolan Shipley said he had no experience with this type of dance and that the event gave him an increased perspective and connection to Latin American Culture. 

“It’s very interesting seeing all these different cultures being promoted at COD and college in general. It’s really refreshing to see diversity,” said Shipley.

Dance instructor Diane Cole gives lessons to attendees (Alexia Lukose)

Faculty and staff that attended the event echoed similar sentiments as the students. 

Admissions and Outreach staff member Hilary Chapa said the event helped her and her husband connect and appreciate their Latin American heritage more. 

“I didn’t know how to do a single step before I came,” said Chapa. “Now I can salsa and Bachata.” Her husband Steve said the couple had been looking for dance lessons and were glad they attended the event. 

English Language Studies Faculty Melissa Leismer said she attended the annual event prior to the lockdown. 

“I think it’s different but it’s fun to see more and more people coming out now after Covid,” said Leismer. “So I think it feels exciting just to see a large group of people together having fun again.” 

She said she found joy in dancing and seeing everyone dancing and having fun.

“I know that dance is a really important part of Latin American culture. It’s fun to see an exciting and vibrant part of that culture,” Leismer said. 

Attendees at the Salsa, Merengue and Bachata dance (Alexia Lukose)

Last year the dance was held virtually on zoom. Maureen Heffern-Ponicki, co-chair of the Latin American Studies Committee, said decreased levels of COVID-19 cases guided the committee’s decision to find a way to hold the dance in person for the first time post-lockdown. 

“When we started planning, we’re like ‘How can we get this to be in person?’” said Heffern-Ponicki. “So we thought let’s do it outside.”

The dance is typically hosted in February close to Valentine’s day. The committee planned to move the dance later in the year to an outdoor setting to reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure. Heffern-Ponicki said falling COVID-19 cases allowed the committee to decide to host the event in the SSC atrium. 

Heffern-Ponicki said the objective of the Latin American Studies Committee and other Global Education committees is to spread cultural awareness.

“When you bring food, culture and people together it brings the joy of that culture to other people,” said Heffern-Ponicki. “ And other people get to share what they grew up doing. It’s just a sharing of a really great, beautiful tradition.” 

“The whole purpose of the committee is to bring awareness of Latin America and Latin America’s culture, traditions, history, politics, everything to the COD community and the larger College of DuPage community, so anybody is invited from the community to come to the dance,” Heffern-Ponicki said. 

Heffern-Ponicki said the committee is seeking increased input and involvement of Latin American students. Any students who are interested in becoming involved in these events should contact David Swope, manager of the Center for Student Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). 

The event was hosted in a collaboration between the Latin American Studies Committee, Latino Outreach and Center for Student Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Students interested in these events can also find information on DEI’s Instagram page or COD student life’s Instagram page.