Five, six, seven, eight! On Nov. 3, UCSB’s Strictly Social dance club hosted Chips & Salsa, their quarterly evening of social dancing fun. With a professional DJ, mood lighting, and a welcoming posse of passionate, friendly instructors, this event was a perfect way to escape the stress of midterms while experiencing a new culture.
Salsa, an upbeat partner-dance that originated in Eastern Cuba, is a widely popular dance style all across Latin America and the U.S. Its roots are in Afro-Caribbean son and Rumba dance rhythms, but it has been heavily influenced by American jazz, and regional styles differ greatly in both dance steps and instrumentals.
Salsa is a recurring favorite dance style of Strictly Social, which hosts casual weekly dance nights that alternate between salsa family dances (salsa, bachata, and kizomba), and west coast swing and blues. Dancers with all levels of experience are welcome, with the focus being individual improvement, cultural exposure, and — most importantly — creativity and social fun.
The $10 salsa event began at 7 p.m. with an hour-long salsa lesson, which was attended by about 10 people. It covered four or five basic steps, then introduced a few extra trills and turns to add flair. By the end of the lesson, everyone was able to go through dance steps without instructor guidance and create their own step patterns. At 8 p.m., people began to trickle in for the social dancing segment of the evening.
For the next few hours, salsa dancers from both UCSB and the general Santa Barbara area met new partners to practice their moves to a constant flow of upbeat, rhythm-heavy salsa music.
The two lesson instructors, both of whom are Strictly Social board members, clearly expressed their love of social dancing, and their desire to introduce it to the wider UCSB community. John, a Strictly Social co-director, explained that the “idea is to make sure that everybody can find a place that they can dance,” indicating the inclusiveness of the club. John himself began dancing with UCSB Cotillion Dance, a competitive ballroom club, before branching out and focusing on salsa at Strictly Social, which “gives people a chance to exercise their social side, rather than their competitive side.”
Mariah, the publicist and facilities board manager, comes from a more traditional studio dance background, but transitioned to partner dancing in college because of the social aspect. She expressed her love of partner dancing and her desire to get more people into it, explaining that “you get a lot out of it,” because of the invaluable practice of social dancing after the lesson. In addition to weekly events, the club organizes carpools to larger dance events in both L.A. and SLO, for more exposure to big-city dance scenes.
Two event attendees were Sophie, a UCSB student, and her father, Jesse, who was in town for parents’ weekend. Despite their zero previous experience with salsa, they both found it “super fun,” and “pretty easy to follow.” Sophie, having found the Chips & Salsa event through the parents’ weekend schedule, said she was definitely planning on attending future weekly dance events.
This event was a unique and underrated way to meet new people, listen to great music, and find a new form of fun, creative expression, all while munching on your favorite chip and dip! Strictly Social holds weekly dance nights in the UCen Hub, with beginner lessons from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. and social dancing until 11:30 p.m., so if you’re scrambling for an exciting new activity to cure your Monday blues, swing by for a saucy night of rhythmic fun!