Students learn the art of Latin dancing

Tanya Marsh

Tanya Marsh

For two hours last Tuesday night, the Barn was transformed into a Latin American dance hall as a crowd of more than 100 gathered to learn the basics of salsa and merengue.

Though the reasons for attending were varied, most mastered at least a few basic Latin steps from professional dance instructor Mary Lou Steib of Sioux Falls.

Working on the basic step in lines, Steib voiced encouragement like “Stay off that heel. Move those hips. I like it!” Then the dancers were paired off, though gender didn’t have the chance to be the distinguisher.

“There’s three times as many ladies – you guys are so lucky I can hardly stand it,” Steib said.

The gender imbalance was one aspiring-Latin dancer’s motivation to attend.

Freshman computer science major Mike Hall said his residence assistant tipped him off to the dance as a way to meet girls.

“I heard there were 50 girls to every one guy,” he said.

Others came to dance the night away with friends or their special someone, and a few came because of cinematic inspiration.

Brittany Nussbaum, freshman agricultural business and dairy science student, said she heard about the dance lessons after she had watched Dirty Dancing: Havana Night and decided to try it out.

Sophomore history student Natasha Stoick agreed.

“I’ve always loved Dirty Dancing – both one and two – and tried to imitate the moves. Now I thought I’d actually learn,” she said.

Some came for the chance to dance as they had while living elsewhere. Sarah Jones, a junior consumer affairs student, wanted to do some Latin dancing again after spending a couple of months in Central America.

“I danced it in Costa Rica, and that’s how I grew to love it. That’s why I came here tonight,” she said.

Jones’ friend Nicole Benevento, an SDSU Spanish instructor, came to re-experience dancing from a land less far-off.

“I took lessons as an undergraduate at the University of Florida,” Benevento said. “I just wanted to dance with people again.”

Steib said regardless of why the dancers showed up, she takes pleasure in watching them learn and enjoy themselves.

“After a half an hour everybody knows the dance and that’s very rewarding,” she said. “By the next half hour they’ve got smiles on their faces and they’ve forgotten their study troubles.”

Steib has been teaching the Latin dance basics annually at SDSU for four or five years, she said, and it has gained in popularity and attendance each year.

However, students have limited opportunities to use the skills they learn at these annual workshops.

Ian Thompson, a senior Spanish major, said he’s only been able to apply his skills at the class each year, and probably won’t have many opportunities to do Latin dancing.

“Maybe I’ll do it next year when they come back,” he said.

While Steib encouraged students to sign up for a weekend dance workshop in Sioux Falls, students’ pocketbooks and calendars didn’t seem to allow for it. Instead, they hoped for other opportunities to show up.

“It would be fun to actually be able to use my skills on the real dance floor with real music,” said Sara Landau, a senior electrical engineering student.

Freshman Kellin Johnson said he wants to cut loose again.

“I want to find a club that plays this kind of music because it’s fun,” he said.

#1.885892:750679451.jpg:coupleonewithblue.jpg:Senior Vannapha Thammazong and her partner practice some of the moves they learned.: