Rice Salseros, a student club, offers free dance classes via Zoom each week.

Courtesy of Rice Salseros via Facebook

What better way to get rid of the pandemic blues than by dancing salsa? If you don’t know how to salsa and need to maintain social distancing, don’t fret. The Rice student club Rice Salseros is offering free salsa classes via Zoom to anyone interested in learning how to dance the night away Latino style.

The classes, already underway, are being offered through the summer on Mondays from 7 to 8 p.m. Central time.

“We’re offering these classes during the pandemic because we know that we can’t meet to dance in person, and salsa socials in Houston and around the world are canceled,” said Jordin Metz, former president of Rice Salseros and current treasurer. “We love building the salsa community at Rice. We want to provide an opportunity for the community to come together virtually to dance, learn, listen to salsa music and enjoy each other’s company.”

Metz said the club teaches the salsa style that is danced in Houston, which is On1. Occasionally, the club offers Cuban salsa en rueda classes. Bachata dance is also offered from time to time along with zouk, a dance that originated in Brazil.

Of those dances, Metz said he prefers salsa because it is danced all over the world. “It’s a skill that you can have for a lifetime and can transcend languages and borders,” he said. “It’s also very popular in Houston. I want to help teach something at Rice that people could take with them into the Houston community and out on their life journeys.”

Rice Salseros has several instructors from the Rice community: Metz, who is a graduate student; Aaron Bayles, also a graduate student; Jerry Fu ’02; Andrea Galindo, a staff member; and Melissa Cassel, an MBA student.

The salsa Zoom classes are designed so that the participant does not need a partner, said Bayles. “Given the current situation, we can’t assume that our members have access to other people interested in learning dance, so we make sure our lessons are optimized for people dancing solo,” he said. Though once you learn the steps, he added, you can easily apply the moves to dancing with a partner in a social setting.

Each session starts with a warmup, stretching the muscles and practicing body isolations used in Latin dance. Then the lesson begins with the instructor breaking down the entire dance sequence step by step and practicing it several times. Students are encouraged to ask questions during the session, which the instructors promptly answer.

At the end of the lesson, the dance sequence is recorded so the students can view them on their own and practice.

Bayles loves to teach salsa, but teaching via Zoom has been a challenge and has forced him to be more creative as a teacher. “It is harder for me to see how everyone is doing and physically help people if there is a misunderstanding,” he said. “However, it is worth seeing our friends every week and keeping our community strong.”

For more information about the free classes, visit Rice Salseros’ Facebook page at www.facebook.com/groups/ricesalseros.

“Tiny Acts of Kindness,” a project from Rice’s Office of Public Affairs, features stories about Rice Owls responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in kind, creative and effective ways. Read the Rice Magazine series here.

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