The Programming and Diversity Board (PDB) of Whatcom Community College organized for the first time three cultural dance
workshops in May covering salsa, free style hip-hop and Afro-Caribbean dances.
Board members, Samantha Williams and Lizbeth Rodriguez organized this event as part of the national “Get Up and Move!” week. “It’s a sort of a mini health initiative,” Williams said.
Williams also said that each instructor for each workshop brought their own music and that the sound system was provided by the PDB. “We wanted to give them as much freedom as possible to teach the way they would like to teach,” she said.
During the first workshop, on May 7, two instructors, Antonio and Heather Diaz, who teach salsa classes at Café Rumba in downtown Bellingham, came and volunteered their time to share their passion about Cuban dances with students from Whatcom. “I like to involve high-energy people like students,” Antonio Diaz said.
Antonio Diaz alternated between teaching dance steps and telling the cultural background of three different Cuban dances: merengue, bachata and salsa.
Before starting to dance to the rhythm of the music, Antonio Diaz taught the students how to dance those different styles by teaching apart various patterns for every dance. Then, they all applied together what they learned with music in background. The students got the chance to dance on their own as well as in pairs.
At the end of this workshop, the two instructors shortly performed the three types of dances to give an overview of what it is like to master those dances.
“I really liked it,” said Karan Malhotra, a student who participated to the workshop. “It’s smooth and passionate.”
Justin Ferguson and LaMon Allen, two students at Whatcom, taught the basics of freestyle hip-hop dance during the second round of workshops on May 7. They are both part of the 11-person dancing group Outkast. They said that they both learned how to freestyle hip-hop dance by watching videos on Youtube.
“If you ever want to dance, Youtube is your best friend,” Allen said. Everybody dances differently, he said. “You have to put your own swag on [your dance].”
Ferguson first taught lateral shuffling which is when people shuffle their feet while moving laterally.
Then, Allen taught tutting, jerking and dougie. Tutting is “basically when you do right angles with your fingers, hands and arms,” he said. Allen and the students shaped squares with their arms and hands. Jerking “is skipping backwards,” he added. He explained that the feet have to be really far apart when people are jerking to make big movements.
Ferguson and Allen taught the last basic which is popping. Popping is a move where dancers contract and tense their muscles. During the workshop, they taught how to pop the arms. “Every movement is rigid,” Allen said. “My muscles are tensing my arm.”
At the end of the workshop, Allen and Ferguson turn on the song “Cupid Shuffle” by Cupid, and they all dance to the music. They are able to apply what they learned during the workshop.
“I liked this event because I get to dance with people very enthusiastic,” said Xiani Jamenez, a Whatcom student who participated in the workshop.
During the third workshop on May 10, Reese Rolison, a student from Western Washington University, taught Afro-Caribbean dances, mostly from Cuba, and their history.
He taught how to dance the rumba, palo and makuta. Rumba is a dance involving a movement of the feet, which can be lateral, backwards and circular, Rolison said.
Palo is a dance, involving arms and feet, originally created by Afro-Cuban slaves to fight against their masters. “This one is all about anger, [your moves] have to be sharp,” he said.
Makuta is a dance involving arm movements combined with circular hip movements and lateral feet movements. Dasuni Garunsinghe, a Whatcom student who participated in every workshop, said, “I like [every dance involving] the hip movements.”
Then, after learning some basic salsa and mambo steps, they combined everything they learned to create a little choreography.
Dance can be beneficial in different ways, “I personally think that dance is a really good way to express yourself. It relaxes me.” Ferguson said. “I don’t have the time to take a dance class. I love going to this type of workshop between my classes. It’s a good alternative,” Garunsinghe said.