Having been raised in a household filled with music and dance, senior biomedical sciences major Mallorie Ruiz knew developing a love for the performing arts was inevitable.
“I will say that no matter what, I have always felt like dance is my first love,” she said. “It’s something I will always go back to, because it’s where I started. It’s something I shared first with my family and it’s something that will always be a part of me.”
Her older sisters had grown up attending dance practices, and as the youngest of seven children, she said it only made sense for her to follow in their footsteps.
Watching her sisters perform their dance routines for family after returning home from dance practice often served as one of her favorite forms of entertainment as a child, Ruiz said.
Her eagerness to join them only grew as she got older. After finding her performing dances in mirrors throughout the house countless times, she said her parents had no choice but to enroll her in classes at 4 years old.
Ruiz said one of her earliest memories of dance — a performance she coordinated for her family in their living room as a toddler — helped her recognize that dancing wasn’t just a hobby, but something with the potential to grow into a life-long passion.
“I definitely think my love of dance started with my family, with my sisters and their dances. When I was 3 years old, I choreographed a whole number to London Bridge by Fergie, and I knew it started there,” she said.
“Then I got into dance classes and there has been so many dancers, teachers, peers and friends I’ve met. Everything like that is what has kept me going over the years, but I think it really foundationally started with my family. We’re always singing and moving and it just made sense for me to be in dance.”
Her childhood dream to become a professional dancer, however, ended in middle school. Ruiz said she began developing hip problems that required her to step away from pursuing dancing on a professional track.
After learning about Latin Dance Club during the spring 2021 semester, Ruiz saw potential to rekindle her love for dance alongside balancing her intensive STEM-focused course load.
Despite joining early in the semester, her passion for dance and a close relationship she had developed with the departing club president and vice president motivated Ruiz to apply for the vacant presidential seat, which she quickly won.
Since then, serving as president has not only required responsibility, but an appreciation of the beauty of teamwork and cooperation, according to Ruiz.
Finding a leadership role in USF’s Latin Dance Club is something Ruiz said had not been a goal in mind when first starting college. What had once been passion for dance shifted to medicine, which she had been exposed to with her own injury as well as different illnesses experienced by members of her family.
Although dancing was still a great love and outlet for stress, she said she was at first solely driven by one goal during her freshman, sophomore and junior years of college: being admitted to medical school following graduation.
Though the stress of the tasks required to coordinate biweekly meetings — such as preparing dance routines and filming recordings for people to follow — can be overwhelming, Ruiz said the club’s family culture makes the position all the more worthwhile.
“I think the biggest achievement as a club that we have collectively is how much everybody feels like a family and that they have people on campus who will support them,” she said.
“A lot of our students are international students and I live at home with my family, I have them all the time. A lot of people at Latin Dance Club don’t have that, so I really appreciate the fact that they have a safe space [where] they can come to something fun and be able to meet all these amazing people.”
For Latin Dance Club vice president Simon Weissenboeck, Ruiz serves as not only the president, but the heart of the club. Whether it be her listening skills or passion for motivating others, Weissenboeck said Ruiz never fails to make others feel like a friend.
“She’s a person with a big heart and everything comes from her heart,” he said. “She always means things in the best way possible. Mallorie’s very good at motivating people, she’s very kind and she always puts herself at mass.
“Sometimes I’m not in the best mental state for cooperation and Mallorie always listens to me and helps me to calm down … once I get emotional, it’s really good for me to have her alongside me to balance things out.”
Despite her medical school aspirations, Ruiz said she is in no rush to apply immediately following graduation. Rather, she said her most important goal has been to work and focus on herself.
“In life, I want to say that my biggest achievement has just been staying Mallorie,” she said. “I have been met with a lot of challenges, I have overcome a lot of obstacles and I haven’t always been dealt the hand I wanted, but I haven’t let it change me, at least to try not to.
“There’s days that it’s harder than others or that maybe I wish I could just crawl into a ball and not have to do something ever again, but then I get up. You can’t stay in that mindset forever, and I don’t want things to change who I am.”