In the midday light of Grace Dodge Dining Hall, TC student Alicia Elias-Caballero spins around the impromptu dance floor to a festive Latin tune. She and her friend Yami Cao encourage everyone — including the dining hall staff — to join in, turning a typical April afternoon on campus into a much needed dance party.
“Sometimes, people tend to put us all in the same cultural category, but that is far from reality,” Elias-Caballero says of the diverse tapestry of Latin cultures in the TC community. "There is also so much value in the historical and cultural paths that have shaped who we are."
For Elias-Caballero and her friends, an expression of that culture is the heart of TC Hub of Dancers, a student-group founded by her friend Cao in early 2022. “Yami came up with the idea after searching for groups to dance with on campus…She wanted to create a more relaxed and inclusive space that would appeal to all students. You don't have to be a 'dancer' to join.”
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With members of the student club celebrating their diverse cultures through dance — practicing traditional forms of African, Indian, and Chinese dances, to name a few — the group has become a unique means of self and cultural expression among students connected by two key things: their studies at TC and their passion for dance.
“Most students approach us and ask, ‘Do you have to be trained in a specific type of dance?’ or ‘What are the requirements?’ I always respond: There are no requirements. Everyone is a dancer,” explains Victoria Fernandez, a master’s student in the Sociology and Education program.
For Fernandez, the core tenant of inclusivity is particularly important. “I'm a white Hispanic and frequently get questions or comments stating that I'm not 'white enough' or that I ‘don't look Latina,’” she explains. “Dancing Salsa with TCHD allows me to explore my authentic self without question in a safe and fun space.”
Fernandez and Elias-Caballero are just two of many Latinx students who have joined TCHD since its launch last year. “We have students from Mexico, Peru, and Paraguay,” Elias-Caballero says. “We were not expecting such an international and diverse turnout at first, but once we began sharing our styles and backgrounds, we quickly saw that Latin dance was a common ground.”
Hosting workshops and events for World Dance Day that honored artistic styles from across the globe last spring, the group hopes to “share dance and culture from around the world” throughout the TC community.
"There's a unique story behind each Latin dance form. We all look different, from our accents and the words we use to the dances we perform,” says Fernandez. “These underlying features bring us all together, but the reality is, we're a diverse group, and that is beautiful."