‘We always want more people to dance with us’
Perhaps, on Wednesday nights you’ve seen the UVic Cuban Salsa Club dancing in front of the Student Union Building. Perhaps you’ve glanced at their table at Clubs and Course Union Days. Perhaps, in a rush to return home or get to class, you haven’t stuck around to find out more.
So, what is the UVic Cuban Salsa Club and how did it get started?
The club began around 2005, according to Evalyn Braybrook, the current president. It was started by two people, their names lost to time, who felt that the university would be a great place to have a Salsa club.
The structure of the club today is simple. The group meets every week for an hour, on a drop-in basis. To start, there’s the introductory class, followed by beginner, intermediate, and then advanced classes.
The club has done demos at festivals and dance socials in town, with a shift towards a focus on Rueda dancing. Rueda de Casino is a dance in a big circle involving swapping partners, where one person calls out the moves to dance to.
Originally, the club’s main focus was on partner-swapping dancing, but the focus has since expanded.
“We do whatever the instructors want because it’s volunteering time. If they want to teach whatever they want, we’ll happily take it,” said Braybrook.
The dance teachers are volunteers from the community operating on a rotating schedule. The club also provides after-class training for anyone who is interested in teaching.
Once, when the main instructors were on vacation, the club did a Bachata class as that is what the fill-in instructors wanted to do.
“We’ve also tried different dances … [but] Salsa’s been the most consistent for us,” Braybrook explained.
That open attitude is prevalent in the very structure of the club. “Our instructors have really great attitudes and they’re very welcoming. We don’t like anyone to feel left out,” said Braybrook. “After our hour of classes we have social dancing, where we encourage [participants] to come up [to] someone in the advanced circle and ask questions. If there’s a move you’re interested in and you don’t understand it or you want something broken down more, we really want people to come up and ask questions and hang out and meet people.”
How one progresses in the UVic Cuban Salsa Club is ultimately in the hands of the participant, as they get to decide if they want to progress to the next level.
“It’s really interesting seeing all these people who, when we first came back after taking the semester online, [were] starting to come up to the advanced circle and [had] a better foundation, it’s just neat seeing people learn,” said Braybrook.
But perhaps the biggest draw to the UVic Cuban Salsa Club is that it’s free.
“We’re really passionate about … keeping it free and accessible, we want it to be just a place for people to come and dance to have fun. We want people to come for the love of dance,” said Braybrook.
“It’s nice to be able to have reliable, free recreational activities that [are] not just open to students, but [are] open to the community.”
Braybrook’s philosophy is informed by her experience trying Tango at the now-closed Cafe Casablanca downtown, which was $30 a class.
When asked about who sticks with the UVic Cuban Salsa Club, Braybrook said that she joined from being pulled off the street and that’s how a lot of others join and stay in the club as well.
“If we see people walking by while we’re dancing outside, and they sort of pause for a second, we invite them in, we say ‘come dance with us.’ We always want more people to dance with us,” she said.
The draw of the UVic Cuban Salsa Club will differ from person to person, but ultimately, it provides a fun and welcoming environment for anyone looking to dance.
The UVic Cuban Salsa Club can be found on Facebook and Instagram at UVic Cuban Salsa Club and uviccubansalsa respectively. The student administrators are happy to receive messages and answer questions from anyone who is interested. Class locations and updates are posted Wednesdays on their Facebook and Instagram, and the usual hours are Wednesday nights, 7–9 p.m.