Dancing to that Latin beat

On Friday nights at USF, Latin music fills the air and a pulsating rhythm calls dancers to the floor. Couples pair up and move to the music doing classic Latin dances like Salsa, Merengue and Bachata.

The Salsa Club is a new student organization that meets weekly at the Phyllis P. Marshall Center. Here, students can learn to dance the most popular Latin dances that can be seen at many nightclubs in the Tampa Bay area.

“The dance lessons are fun, cheap and easy,” said Amy Doss, the organization’s secretary/treasurer. “You don’t have to have any previous experience and you don’t have to bring a partner. The class is almost evenly split in half as far as males and females go and we switch partners because that is what happens at real Latin dance clubs.”

The dancing that accompanies Latin music is fundamentally different from other popular forms of dancing because it is partner dancing, Christopher Cook, the organization’s president said.

“Salsa is a dance in which gender roels come into play,” Cook said. “When doing this dance, the point is for each couple to emphasize their masculine and feminine traits; the man exhibits strength and power and the female shows her sensuality and sexiness — this is what separates the good couples from the great couples in this form of dancing.”

Another popular Latin dance taught by the Salsa Club is Merengue.

“Everyone does Merengue; if you can walk, you can do this dance. All this dance basically consists of is moving left, right, left, right,” Cook said. “We also do a dance called Bachata, a very close couple’s style of dancing.”

After the organization meets Friday nights, members that are interested freshen up and rejoin the group for a night out on the town to put some of the dance moves they just learned to the test in a real Latin dance club.

The club’s president said there are a number of places to dance Salsa in the Tampa Bay area and that, with two to three months of lessons and practicing at clubs with various partners, a person can become accomplished at Latin dancing.

The dance instructor for the club is Daniel Pineda, a USF student, who, in the past, has taught Salsa classes for USF’s Ballroom Club. Pineda and the organization’s president met through the Ballroom Club, Cook said.

“I never danced until I was 23 years old, then I took a Salsa class for credit here at USF and found out about the Ballroom Club and joined,” Cook said.

On occasion, the Ballroom Club, which does not meet over the summer, experimented with other forms of dancing such as Salsa. Cook really enjoyed the Latin dancing and he decided to start the Salsa Club with the help of Pineda, Cook said.

“Daniel is a really good dancer. He took a few lessons and went to clubs and danced with everybody he could and he got really good,” Cook said.

The club is currently coordinating with the Spanish Club to throw a Salsa beach party later this summer, possibly at Fort Desoto. They also plan to work with the Ballroom Club when it reconvenes in the fall, Cook said.

The Salsa Club meets Friday nights, from 6-8 on the second floor of the Marshall Center (the room number changes weekly). From 6-7 p.m., attendants learn club-style Salsa, and from 7-8 p.m., the focus changes to Merengue and Bachata.

“Don’t be afraid to come in just because the classes have already started. Daniel starts with the basics every class, he goes really slowly and he repeats everything so you can get it,” Doss said.

Attendants can go for either one or both hours and pay a fee of $3.50 for the evening.

“Our purpose is not to make money on the classes, but to have a good time and to bring the passion of Latin dancing into peoples lives,” Cook said.

Cook added that people who want to learn how to do this type of dancing can go to a local dance studio, but that they are substantially more expensive.

“The local dance studios are three times more expensive and at the end of 50 minutes, the class is over and you have to go. At the Salsa Club, we’re there because we love to dance and if people want to stay until 9:30, then that’s what we’ll do,” Cook said.