Gusto Latino promotes diversity

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By Julia Jessen, The Daily Iowan

The infectious beat and flurried movements of Latin music and dance will take center stage at this year's Gusto Latino.

"There are a lot of diversity events on the University of Iowa campus, but this one is a really great display of dance and music, and it gives the community and the student body a chance to have live, authentic music and be able to experience the dancing talent of people from all over Iowa," said Kimberly Tranel, a graduate student in the University of Iowa International Programs and an organizer of the event.

Gusto Latino will take place at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the IMU second-floor ballroom.

The event includes a salsa dance lesson, live music from the band Salsa Vibe, a dance contest, and a UI student DJ. Tranel said these aspects combine to create an event that shows the spirit of Latino culture.

This year's dance instructor is Melanie Rivera, a dancer from Des Moines. She has danced in traditional Latino style since 2001, and she is the co-artistic director of Salsa Des Moines.

"People should learn more about Latino culture for the same reason they should learn more about any culture — just to open up their minds and learn about different people and the way they live," Rivera said. "The American culture has dance and music as well, so this is the same thing but expressed differently."

Rivera said she wants to encourage people to not be intimidated about attending Gusto Latino.

"The biggest excuse I get is, 'I don't know how to dance,' and that's why people don't show up," she said. "But we're providing a basic lesson, so you don't need any experience."

Another organizer of the event is Wendy Tan, a resident assistant in the Global Village Living Learning Community on the UI campus. She said the event is important because it relates to a larger cultural climate.

"Because of the continuing globalization and mixing of cultures in today's society, it is important to not only be aware of various cultures but to also enrich oneself with its history and customs," she said.

Tranel said the event coordinators hope to bring together cultures in the community.

"It allows students to interact with community members and experience a culture that's in Iowa City and in the corridor area as well," she said. "It's specifically looking at the Latino population and connecting that with the university."

Those involved said that in addition to the cultural goals of the event, Gusto Latino also provides entertainment. Tan said her favorite part of the evening is the dance contest.

"In previous years, there was a mix of amateur dancers and professional dancers, and it was fun to watch how much fun everyone had with the friendly competition," she said.

Tranel said she looks forward to the overall atmosphere of the event.

"It's just a really great time, because there's so much energy in the room," she said.

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