La Salsa to enter first interstate competition this weekend

Tufts La Salsa prepares for its upcoming competition in Chicago during a rehearsal in Jackson Gym on Friday, Jan. 6, 2015. Caroline Ambrose / Tufts Daily

The Tufts La Salsa team will participate in its first interstate competition as entrants in the annual Chicago International Salsa Congress, which will be held over this Presidents’ Day long weekend.

Seven couples on the team are scheduled to compete in the amateur competition this upcoming weekend, according to Maya Taft-Morales and Nico Johnson, co-presidents of Tufts La Salsa.  Taft-Morales, a senior, explained that the team has never attended one of these congresses before.

“This is the first time La Salsa has ever traveled beyond Harvard, so it’s really exciting for us to go to Chicago and also to see a level of dancing that we’ve never been exposed to outside of YouTube. We’re going to be dancing in front of and with some of the best salsa dancers in the world,” Johnson, a senior, said.

Taft-Morales took the initiative last semester to organize the paperwork and put in the team’s submission to the competition, Johnson said.

“I give Maya so much credit for this,” Johnson said. “It was such an afterthought, and Maya just put in a submission.”

Travel to the competition was made possible through a grant of supplementary funds from the Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate, according to Taft-Morales.

“[TCU Senate] is paying for our flights and entrance, and we will pay for the rest of the stuff in between,” she said.

The Chicago International Salsa Congress aims to celebrate the culture of Latin dance, and the weekend will be filled with workshops, lessons and dancing, Taft-Morales said.

Cerel Munoz, a member of La Salsa, will be traveling with the team to Chicago. According to Munoz, the weekend will be jam-packed with activities.

“The schedule leaves little room to breathe — we are in workshops from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and there is a large showcase from then until dinner. Then, after dinner there is a party every night,” Munoz, a junior, said. “I’m looking forward to all of it, but mostly having the opportunity to meet people whose styles I’ve been trying to emulate just from videos.”

Co-vice President of La Salsa Ian Cross hopes to be able to teach the Tufts community what he learns at the congress.

“I teach the salsa lesson every Tuesday [for La Salsa], and I want to be able to learn new techniques so that I can spread them to Tufts students. I also want to experience a new level of dancing,” Cross, a senior, said.

According to Taft-Morales, the highlight of the congress is the experience, rather than how well the team performs in the competition.

“Honestly, for me it’s not about the competition at all. I’m honored to be performing and excited to be going, so for us it’s just getting that chance,” she said. “I haven’t even thought about it as a competition.”

The Chicago International Salsa Congress is being held one week after La Salsa hosted an open event called Noche Caliente in the Sophia-Gordon Multi-Purpose Room.

“We had a great time and were really happy with the turnout. It was awesome to see so many people excited about Latin dance,” Johnson said. “People were so pumped about the event that I had a few ask if we’d do it again before the semester ended. We didn’t have plans to do so, but now that the interest is definitely there, we’ll have to see if we can put something together,”

As seniors Taft-Morales and Johnson have seen La Salsa grow over their time at Tufts.

Maya was part of the group that brought [La Salsa] back. The group really disappeared around 2010/2011, and Salsa has really been establishing itself again,” Johnson explained. “We have a lot more responsibility as a group because people know more about us. People have expectations of us – lessons, Noche Caliente, performances. It’s been awesome.”

While half of the team will be graduating this year, Taft-Morales said that she is not worried for La Salsa’s future.

“We’ve put a lot of effort into thinking about sustainability of the group. We built it up from the ground, and we want to make sure it’s able to continue doing all of its great stuff and making an impact in the Tufts community,” Taft-Morales said.