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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
May 6, 2024
Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
May 6, 2024
Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
May 6, 2024

Grinnell gets groovy

dancingA healthy body complements a healthy mind, so it comes as no surprise that fitness is a vital aspect of a happy and satisfying lifestyle. In terms of fitness, jumping on the treadmill or grabbing a few dumbbells might be the first things that come to mind. However, from Zumba to Salseros de Grinnell to Swing

Society, Grinnell has a wide range of student dance clubs that can provide opportunities to be physically active outside of the weight room. All of these dance organizations are casual and open to any students willing to explore new forms of bodily expression. Along with the occasional performance or campus-wide event, the three groups hold regular sessions, which are excellent opportunities for students to break a sweat and dance their way to better fitness.


What is Zumba exactly?

“Basically, a fitness party,” said Marlu Abarca ’14, Zumba student club coordinator at Grinnell.

Characterized by high-energy music, Zumba is a combination of aerobics, dance and cardio exercise.

“We jump around, throw in a lot of salsa, Latin dances and also some hip-hop,” Abarca explained.

Taught by local fitness trainer, Deborah Beck, Zumba takes place throughout the entire year. The club also works closely with Wellness Coordinator Jen Jacobsen ’95 and is regularly featured in the campus Wellness Fairs.

“[Zumba] is just something we do for recreational fun. It’s a choreographed workout,” Abarca said.

While initially a dance group for students, Zumba has expanded to faculty and community members. According to Abarca, faculty members in the Spanish Department contribute the most attendance. Members of the community who have memberships at the Bear also frequently drop by to dance.

Many underestimate the intensity of Zumba, which Abarca contends is a very physically demanding activity.

“It’s actually a huge workout. It’s no joke, but if you think about it, it’s way better than running on a treadmill for half an hour,” she explained. “It’s so much more cool to dance it off.”

Abarca encourages Zumba for anyone who wishes to become more physically active but is intimidated by the repetitive routine of working out in the gym. Zumba aims to transform invigorating dance into a rigorous workout. The group also emphasizes that no prior experience is necessary in order to participate.

“People tend to feel awkward with their bodies. But it’s supposed to be a space where you can let go of that awkwardness,” Abarca said. “I mean, you will feel awkward because it’s a new way of thinking about working out and moving your body, but ultimately, it’ll be really fun and you’ll want to keep on coming back.”

Zumba meets every Wednesday and Friday, and every other Monday in the Bear Multipurpose/Dance Studio from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Salseros de Grinnell

Salseros de Grinnell is the dance group on campus dedicated to learning salsa dancing, which incorporates a great deal of hip movements, dramatic spins and chemistry between the dancers.

Salseros, which is frequently referred to simply as “Salsa,” currently has two levels, beginner and intermediate. Isaac Chadri ’15, one of the club’s five leaders, is in charge of teaching and choreographing the beginner group. Chadri gets most of his inspiration from watching YouTube videos and being involved with the group since his first year at Grinnell.

“Salsa is about expressing yourself and having fun doing it and teaching people how to express themselves,” Chadri wrote in an email to the S&B. “Enjoying the laughter and fun with them is what makes Salsa.”

As for the intermediate level, a dance instructor from Iowa City leads the group, which regularly performs in more professional settings—for example, their performance at Student Organization of Latinas/os’ (SOL) Latin American Festival later this semester, which has attracted a very large crowd in the past.

“[Last semester] we had a large turnout—approximately 200 people. We brought a lot of people together,” said group leader Tea Kljaic ’14 in her email to the S&B.

Many of the people who join the group often do not have any prior experience or exposure to salsa dancing.

“I had never danced before I came to Grinnell, but I went to the NSO salsa event last year and decided it was something I’d really like to try,” said Taylor Watts ’16 in an email to the S&B. “We hung out and danced so much we became one big, happy, dancing family.”

Salseros de Grinnell holds a beginners session at 7 p.m. and an intermediate session at 8 p.m. every Tuesday, as well as joint beginners-intermediate session at 3 p.m. on Sundays.

Swing Society

“Rock, step, kick, triple step.”

These instructions and the clap of prancing feet are the sounds you’ll hear Monday nights in Loose Lounge, where members of the Swing Society group gather every week. Having been around for a few years, the swing dance group has several experienced leaders who are able to teach anyone with any level of experience.

Kristen Dabney ’15 is one such leader. She has been in the club since her first year at Grinnell.

“[This year] has been different from other years because a lot of our teachers graduated … which is hard, but there’s a lot of really excited people, so it’s fun,” Dabney said.

The atmosphere of the sessions is very relaxed, with teachers proceeding step-by-step through the correct foot movements, instructing dancers on how to lead and how to follow. Dabney explained that most of the dance moves are actually not choreographed, but improvised to display the many different styles and strengths of each individual.

Swing dancing is also a good way to work in some exercise to a busy schedule.

“It’s a really nice activity to stay active,” said Kasey Fralick ’16. “It’s a nice break after studying for a while.”

Partners occasionally switch off, so that by the end of the session, each person will have danced with several different people.

“It helps, so that you won’t form bad habits … if you rotate all the time and work with different people, there [are] different habits,” Dabney said.

The group welcomes anyone who wants to learn the ropes of swing dancing, whether students, staff or members of the town community.

Swing Society meets 8 p.m. for the lesson and 9 p.m. for open dance on Mondays in Loose Lounge.

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