The lights dimmed. Out of the left corner of Edmunds Ballroom emerged Tracy Layden SC ‘13 in a leopard-print dress, searching for a partner. On the other side of the hall, Adam Littlestone-Luria PO ‘13 scanned the dance floor for someone who could keep up with him.
The two dancers swirled around the floor, each hoping to catch the other by surprise. Suddenly, their eyes met. Layden leaped toward Littlestone-Luria, and the two began a furious tango filled with sexual tension that made the crowd go wild.
Such was one of the opening performances of the Kickoff Salsa Party. The party, hosted by the Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company (CCBDC) at Edmunds Ballroom on Sept. 14, drew over 300 participants.
Some incredulous members of the audience asked CCBDC dancer David Derry HM ’14 if the dances were always like this—filled with the fierceness of pursuit and the role play they observed in Layden and Littlestone-Luria’s tango.
Derry nodded slightly and said, “Pretty much.”
Derry, an engineering major at Harvey Mudd College, became interested in dance during his first year of college, when he and his roommate tried out for the CCBDC on a whim with no previous experience.
“Dancing is one of the greatest choices I made in college,” Derry said. “And you can come out and have fun anytime, anywhere. Why? Because it’s fun, energetic and flirty.”
Salsa nights are designed to welcome students of all skill levels. CCBDC hosts lessons from 8 to 9 p.m. for first-time, beginning and experienced salsa dancers. Paul Roach, the Pomona College Ballroom Dance Instructor, CCBDC Director and National Latin Ballroom Dance competitor, helped teach these introductory lessons and was “thrilled to see so many new faces.”
“The Salsa Kickoff was a major success this year,” said Kelsey Gross CM ’13, Vice President of the CCBDC. “It’s definitely the best turnout I’ve seen in terms of numbers since my freshman year, and I hope people will continue salsa on future Friday nights.”
After the lessons, students gathered in Edmunds Ballroom to watch the CCBDC feature performances. In addition to Layden and Littlestone-Luria’s tango, performances included a salsa and a competition-quality quickstep.
CCBDC President Kelsey Frost SC ’13 stepped onto the floor in a blue satin dress, looking for a dance partner for the quickstep. She skipped across the floor, playfully searching for a viable candidate in the crowd before catching the attention of Kevin Jaatinen PZ ’13. As Jaatinen stood, he pulled a few shy audience members to dance with him.
“I think it’s all about the story behind the dance,” Gross said. “There isn’t as much fun if there is no chase and reward.”
Gross has been dancing with CCBDC for six semesters. Her passion for dance has followed her wherever she goes: from Argentina to Spain to New York to San Francisco and even to the rural areas of Oregon. She plans to continue dancing after graduation, as does Derry.
“Salsa can fit any type of personality,” Roach said. “You can show personal elegance, spicy love affairs, unrequited love and the fever of chases. Salsa can accommodate all of them.”
Newcomer Joel Freeman PO ’16 agreed. Despite having almost no previous ballroom dance experience, Freeman “enjoyed salsa very much and learned a lot about dancing in one night.”
For students more serious about dance, CCBDC is currently holding auditions for new members. But for anyone simply looking for a few hours of fun, Salsa Night is held every other week at different locations across the 5Cs.
“Everybody is welcome to Salsa Night, especially beginners,” Derry said. “We want everyone to have fun and meet new people.”