Tones of Spanish music drift through the air, energetic chatter and laughter permeate the mood, and a variety of students gather together. This diverse group of individuals, ranging from Montanans to Brazilians, is Danza Latina, MSU’s Latin Dancing club. Founded three years ago, this lively and expressive group offers a non-traditional social experience, and natural energy boost.
Danza Latina’s mission, according to current president Zhansaya Utegenova, to help people learn Latin American dances, experience a new community and have opportunity to participate in dancing competitions outside of school. Originally from Kazakhstan, Utegenova’s interest in the group was sparked by attraction to the accompanying culture. “It was so wonderful to get to know these people from different parts of the world,” she said.
Danza Latina teaches four traditional styles: Salsa, Merengue, Bachata and Reggaeton, each lending its own mood and atmosphere. Utegenova explained Salsa as being lively and energetic. It originally comes from “sauce” in Spanish, meaning the “sauce of the party.” She characterized it as “very lovely and cheerful… you just have fun while you dance it!” On the other hand, Utegenova described Bachata as sensual and smooth. “It’s more about connection,” she stated.
Parmella Venegas is Danza Latina’s lead instructor. Originally from Chile, and with an infectious smile and graceful poise, Venegas volunteers her time for the club. She has been instructing for six years and teaches professionally in Bozeman. Venegas appreciates how dancing draws people out.
“People here are really shy,” she laughed. “Salsa helps them with that [when] they start to feel their own bodies, there’s the magic.” Echoed by Utegenova, Venegas teaches with patience and good communication.
“She does it for free, just because she wants to develop this culture of dancing… she wants people to know how fun it is,” Utegenova commended. “Not every person would do that.”
In Utegenova’s view, dancing offers an additional benefit: a natural buzz. “I feel really happy,” she said, “If I go out with my friends, I don’t need to drink because dancing gives me enough energy; it’s this inspiration.”
She sees Danza Latina as an excellent upbeat setting to be social and elated, notably without the inclusion of excessive alcohol. In a college community where drinking is a prominent issue, Utegenova encouraged students to consider activities such as these in lieu of ones characterized by drinking contexts.
A diverse group of students attended their regular Thursday night dances, and a sense of camaraderie was apparent as they smiled and rehearsed steps. In the context of 15,000 college students, Utegenova appreciates the close community of dancing. “It’s easier to socialize,” said Utegenova, “When you dance with people, you can have a short chat; even if a person steps on your toes, it’s a funny moment.”
Danza Latina usually attracts around 30 participants and they hope to increase attendance. Planned for early October is a promotional event with dancing performances, as well as an open dance floor. “People can see how fun it is,” Utegenova eagerly conveyed. The local “Just Dance” competition, held in March has also given them opportunity to promote Latin American dancing; previous instructors and members have placed first and second.
Danza Latina gathers Thursday evenings, on the third floor of Romney Gym Dance Studio. Refresher steps are at 6:30 p.m., followed by open dancing at 7 p.m. “You don’t have to know how to dance Salsa, you just come over and learn!” Utegenova said, then added, “Not everybody is born as a dancer, but they can become one.”