By Mimi Hoang
CCC Journalism Program
CAMDEN – The Camden County College Hispanic Culture Club holds salsa dance lessons several evenings a week in the student lounge on the Camden campus.
The club officially started on Sept. 15 and held its first meeting on Sept. 18, coincidentally during Hispanic Heritage Month. The club has about 35 members.
One of the club’s first activities is holding the salsa dance lessons. The lessons are scheduled for 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from Oct. 29 to Nov. 27. They normally draw from five to 10 participants.
At the Nov. 13 session, nine participants learned the third lesson for salsa dancing. Before class started, club officer Elliot Nieves wrote notes on a board in the middle of the room. The notes served as a guideline for participants to see the steps to the dance.
Nieves clapped and counted slowly for participants to learn the sequence of the dance. After that, he added music for participants to dance the sequence, then he stopped to help those who needed guidance on parts of the sequence. After a five-minute break, the participants went over the parts again and then moved to the actual pace of the dance, faster than when they were practicing.
“I love parranda and aguinaldo types of songs,” said club adviser Natalie Jimenez, who started the club.
“Parranda and aguinaldo are traditional music from Puerto Rico,” said Nieves.
Natalie Tran, a student from the Blackwood campus of Camden County College, said she enjoyed taking the salsa dance lessons. “As someone who loves to dance but doesn’t have many opportunities to, salsa dance lessons have been a very fun and liberating experience for me. I look forward to them every week and I’ll be sad when they stop, but thanks to Elliot the dance teacher, Natalie the club director and all the other friendly members of the Hispanic Culture Club, I hope to carry this new knowledge with me and use my new moves in the future.”
The purpose of the club is to help students. For example, “There was a homeless student who was going through a rough time making ends meet and through our connections with other organizations, we were able to help that student with her situation. We never know what others are going through until they are given the opportunity and time to share about it,” Jimenez said.
The club also runs fitness workshops and fundraisers and provides a place to gather and learn together. “It’s the bonding that everyone is able to experience and I hope it will feel like a home for people with the same background, but I find it amazing that this club is reaching out to all cultures, too,” Jimenez stated.
The club’s upcoming events include a fundraising party on Dec. 6 in the community room on the Camden campus, at which participants will be invited to eat traditional Hispanic food, experience the culture’s music, learn about the 21 Hispanic countries and donate to the club by giving $5 to join. The club also plans to visit the Cathedral Kitchen in Camden on Dec. 2 to help the homeless.
For information about joining the club, email Jimenez at firstname.lastname@example.org.