Bellevue College’s Multicultural Services, in collaboration with professor Oriana Estrada, held a public presentation and performance on Salsa music and dance last Tuesday in the BC cafeteria, during which event goers learned about the history of Salsa and practiced dancing it.
The event, which lasted from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m., was broken into two parts. The first was a presentation called “Roots, Rhyme, and Raza,” which covered the history of Salsa and the cultures and circumstances which inspired it. The second part was when attendees got to practice dancing as Salsa music was played. About 100 people participated.
According to Henry Amaya, head of Multicultural Services, there were two academic purposes of the event: “One is to provide the intellectual story behind Salsa, its origins and roots,” he said, “…and the other is to teach the students how to do the Salsa dance.”
Salsa, or sauce, emerged in Latino, in particular Cuban, communities in New York City following WW2. It takes primarily from Spanish and African influences, as Afro-Cuban music spread across Cuba in the early 20th century. Immigrants who came to live in NYC went on to combine this with other Latino influences to form what we now know as “Salsa.”
Amaya also said one purpose of the event was to help build community after Covid. “[O]ne of our goals and objectives is to bring people together and create that community because the pandemic left us very isolated,” he said. “What we are trying to do is to make sure that people have the ability to connect with others, and to share and to learn from each other.”
The planning of the event took about a month, according to Amaya. It involved choosing a venue and a date, as well as coordination with other employees and offices, among other concerns.
One obvious factor in planning this event was getting Professor Estrada involved. Multicultural Services thought that she would be a good fit for the event because she teaches dance and ethnic studies classes at BC. Regarding Estrada, Amaya said “…it makes sense for us to tap into the talent that we have right here at the institution.”
Tuesday’s performance was part of a series of events held by Multicultural Services as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. Three to four have already been done this month, and more are planned. This will include an event for Dia de Los Muertos.