Every Friday X block, Victoria Gonzalez and Thomas Sulikowski (both ’19) demonstrate salsa dancing with sharp steps and fluid motions in the center of the Chorale room, spinning with ease before a small crowd.
In October of last year, partners on and off the dance floor Thomas and Victoria created the Latin Dance Club. Both had individual dance experience and began the club their junior year after participating in salsa lessons together outside of school.
Having done ballet for 12 years, Victoria took a two-year break from dance before taking up salsa with Thomas in July of 2017. Thomas’ interest in dance was sparked when his sister, Sofia Sulikowski ’17, spent part of her Senior Spring Project learning a variety of rhythmic ballroom dances like salsa, cha cha, samba, and mambo. Thomas then enrolled in lessons at Arthur Murray in Cambridge.
“After about two months, I told Victoria, because we were friends at the time, that I had been dancing,” Thomas said, smiling. “Then she started showing up to my lessons.”
Now they both waiver for dance during the winter season, spending four days a week at their studio, where they learn a full range of dance styles. Salsa, cha cha, mambo, rumba, samba, swing, and bachata are their rhythm dances, and the waltz, tango, and foxtrot are their smooth dances.
“Clearly rhythm is what we’re better at, but we want to include smooth as well,” Thomas said. “It makes you a better all-around dancer.”
Although they don’t compete, they participate in Arthur Murray studio showcases every three or four months. During showcases, the pair performs their specialty—salsa—in front of five judges who then offer feedback.
“The studio also has dance parties every Thursday night, and we sometimes go to those,” Victoria said. “They play a bunch of music styles, and you go in and out, dancing whenever you want.”
During X blocks on Friday, 10 to 15 people meet in the Chorale Room to snack on munchkins and put together salsa steps in small routines. The routines begin fairly basic, Thomas said, and become more advanced as the year continues. Each routine is comprised of three to four moves that Victoria and Thomas hope to teach in the same number of weeks, they said.
“People can show up for three or four weeks straight,” Thomas said. “Then, if they want, they can take a [break] and come back when we start another routine. That way they have two full routines that they can combine and mix however they want.”
Club member Stephanie Gutierrez ’21, who has family from El Salvador, said the club is a chance to learn more about Latin American culture and a great release from the stress of schoolwork.
“Even though I’m Latina, it’s still exciting to explore a new aspect of my culture. El Salvador is one of my favorite places to go because I get to relax and get away from stress. Latin Dance reminds me of El Salvador,” Stephanie said. “Also, speaking Spanish lets me explore Latin music—I like Latin Dance Club because I get to hear more Spanish songs I might not have heard before.”
Thomas and Victoria—who both speak Spanish fluently—come from families from Argentina and Venezuela, respectively.
Isa Gonzalez ’21 lived in Venezuela with Victoria, her older sister, for the first 10 years of her life and described the club as a welcoming and fun community.
“Victoria and Thomas are very patient and open,” she said. “Ollie [Garvey ’21] and I both learned a turn and finally got it right—that was really fun.”
Jaden Young ’21 said the club has boosted his confidence in dancing.
“I can finally move my hips,” he said. “I had no experience before, but I’m finally in the category of people who know how to dance.”
Thomas and Victoria said their mission is to spread Latin American culture through dance and music.
“The ultimate goal is to let everyone have a sneak peek into a really nice culture of dancing and having fun and enjoying parties,” Victoria said.