Latin Dance Night brings cultural flair to Krannert Center


The Daily Illini File Photo

The Goodwin street entrance of the Krannert Center. Krannert will be hosting a commemorative concert in honor of Project 500 and the alumni who were apart of it.

By Madelyn Foster, Contributing writer

Reggaeton, Salsa, Cumbia, Merengue and Bachata are just some of the many types of dance that make up a few of the cultural puzzle pieces of Latin heritage and identity. With this in mind, The Krannert Center for the Performing Arts has teamed up with La Casa Cultural Latina to host its second Latin Dance Night, free of charge, on Saturday from 9:30-11:30 p.m. 

Monique Rivera, co-director of engagement at Krannert, said the first Latin Dance Night received so much positive feedback that Krannert was happy to partner up with La Casa Cultural Latina for the second time around.

Rivera also said Latin Dance Night is a gathering place for people of “all walks of life to come and have a collective arts experiences.”

She said she feels that the event helps manifest a cultural experience into something that is really natural.

“We want people to come as they are with what they have to be a part of this communal gathering,” Rivera said.

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When it comes to measuring the success of the event, Rivera said she hopes to see an increase in student engagement with Krannert and La Casa. She also hopes that the event may eventually be institutionalized in the fall and spring.

Rivera said Krannert hosts over 300 different events per year and the lobby is a prime space for hosting events. She said they had to book their next Latin Dance Night — April 30, 2018 — so far in advance to guarantee a space.

“Future successes and opportunities depend on the availability of the space, but we are working hard to ensure that this event happens at least once in the 2017/2018 year,” Rivera said. 

Rivera also said in the hours before Latin Dance Night, Krannert will host a concert by Tiempo Libre as its ticketed Marquee Artist on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

“Tiempo Libre is an Afro-Caribbean flare type of musicianship from Cuba, so they are classically trained artists and they will be performing but then there’s a little break and then Latin Dance Night begins,” Rivera said. 

The concert is a highlight of the evening and the director of La Casa Cultural Latina encourages everyone to enjoy the concert as well as Latin Dance Night.

Dr. Gioconda Guerra Perez, director of La Casa Cultural Latina, echoed some of Rivera’s aspirations for the event. This is Perez’s second time working with the event and through Latin Dance Night, she said she hopes to increase student interactions with latino culture, the community and the arts.

Perez said she feels Tiempo Libre will be the highlight of the evening.

“The more people that come, the better,” Perez said. “We want everyone to come to learn and to understand. It’s just two hours having fun and enjoying something different here on campus and I think that people will appreciate what we are doing. It’s a space for people to dance and just have fun.”

Perez said dance connects her, and many others, to their roots and to the joy of embracing an art that is a part of who they are.

“I was still in the womb and my mom was dancing and I was dancing too,” Perez said. “Dance is part of you, and when we are far away from what we call home we get detached a little bit because it’s a different culture. So keeping that connection to dance and maintaining that helps us adults and it helps our students because that cultural piece helps them connect to their identities.” 

Rex Miller, senior in LAS and president of Ritmo y Sabor-a Latin Dance Group on campus, said he believes everyone, no matter their background, can get behind the goals of La Casa Cultural Latina.

“La Casa is there to not only help people who have Latin-American heritage or Spanish heritage but also to promote a lot of the beauty of the several different cultures that are within everything that that encompasses because every country is a little different,” Miller said.

Miller has found a passion for the beauty of dance and has been salsa dancing for seven years. He, along with other members of Ritmo y Sabor will be helping to teach students a few simple steps during Latin Dance Night.

“We will show up early to the event, teach people the basics really quickly if they need it and then we’ll be there throughout the event for them to come up and get some assistance,” Miller said.

Miller is excited for the event and encourages people to come. He believes that dance is something that everyone can enjoy.

“Anyone, regardless of background whether they enjoy the idea of dancing or even if they are unsure about it,  they should come and judge for themselves because they will not regret it,” Miller said.

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