Roger Thayer Stone Center For Latin American Studies

Tulane University

The Hullabaloo: Grad student embraces culture through salsa dancing

September 27th, 2016

From the Tulane Hullabaloo
Written by Kate Jamison & Canela Lopez

If body rolls, hip isolations and fancy footwork aren’t currently part of your fitness routine, Ph. D. candidate Vanessa Castañeda wants to teach you how to salsa.
Castañeda teaches hour-long Latin dance classes at 7:30 p.m. on Mondays at the Reily Student Recreation Center. She encourages her students to “let go and embrace looking silly at first.”“I feel that the class promotes body positivity in that students really learn to connect with their bodies and use or move their bodies in ways that could feel unfamiliar at first,” Castañeda said.

Though she isn’t a trained dancer herself, Castañeda uses her own general newness to the art of Latin dance to bolster the spirits of students trying to salsa for the first time.
“This can be very intimidating, especially if you are surrounded by trained dancers who are able to execute the moves smoothly,” Castañeda said. “However, I make it clear in class that I am not a trained dancer and that we have to look silly before we can look like anything else.”

Salsa dance isn’t the only teaching that she does. Castañeda founded a volunteer program that teaches English to Spanish-speaking immigrants working in the restaurant industry in New York City. In addition to her dancing, Castañeda teaches Introduction to Latin American Studies every semester, centering her expertise in Brazil. At Tulane, she is studying the cultural identity politics of baianas de acaraje, a cultural group in Salvador, Brazil, descendants of African slaves brought to South America during colonization.

See the full article here.