By Laura Willis, The Daily Iowan
A couple swiftly dances the six-step salsa sequence to a fast-paced rhythm. They weave in and out from each other’s arms, pausing for a mere second on the fourth beat.
The dance is structured but maintains a sensuous vibe. Salsa, which has roots in both Latin and Afro-Caribbean dances, has a defined culture all its own.
“If there is something stereotypically Latino, salsa is the thing,” said University of Iowa sophomore Jacqueline Correa.
Students and community members can learn the intricate moves of salsa at Gusto Latino at 6 p.m. Friday at Old Brick, 26 E. Market St. Besides dance lessons, the fiesta will feature a dance contest and music from the UI Latin and Jazz Ensemble, as well as Des Moines band Salsa Vibe. Beginning at 11 p.m., DJ King will play hip-hop. Admission is free for students, $5 for the general public at the door.
The event, a tradition for nearly two decades, is sponsored by the International Crossroads Living Learning Community in Mayflower. The floor consists of both international students and those who are interested in diverse cultures. Throughout the year, the group organizes internationally focused activities. Favorites have included a multicultural food-sampling event, study-abroad information sessions, and last semester, a trip to Chicago to watch the U.S. soccer team play Poland.
“Part of international cultures is not just about being diverse around the world but being diverse in thinking,” said resident assistant Wendy Tan.
This year, the floor has created innovative ideas to grow Gusto Latino. Tan’s vision is an event similar to the Party at Old Brick in January — a nonalcoholic event with live music and a DJ.
“I really want it to be a big hit,” she said. “With the 21-ordinance, I felt that Gusto Latino would be an alternative-to-alcohol event that would be a great way for people to create a bond, learn a new dance, and also to just have fun.”
Nine-member band Salsa Vibe will bring an authentic Latin America flair with trumpets, trombones, and percussion instruments. The group was formed in 2009, when members from different salsa bands across the United States returned to Iowa. The two founding members, percussionists Ryan Mullin and John Kizilarmut, met when they played in the same salsa band. Upon retuning to Des Moines, they gradually met musicians who shared the same interest in the upbeat music.
For Ecuador native and Salsa Vibe vocalist Fernando Aveiga, part of the joy of the music is the history behind it. He remembered his father dancing to the Afro-Caribbean style of salsa, while his mother enjoyed Colombian rhythms. In the 1960s and ’70s, immigrants with similar music interests as Aveiga’s family migrated toward the heart of Queens, N.Y., combining the rhythmic patterns of rumba, bolero, and merengue. The idea of sharing cultures and stories is one aspect of salsa that intrigues the band.
“It’s a creation of a community,” Aveiga said. “With salsa, you are invited to make friends. You are invited to dance. You can share time and space with someone of your tradition and human race.”