We Are All Marquette: ‘Power through virtual dance,’ Latinx dance student organization adapts during social distancing

By Saul Lopez, graduate assistant in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion

Students Abigail Favela, Sergio Cano and Kaela Gutierrez never thought they’d have to engage members of “Paso a Paso,” their Latin dance organization, via smartphones. But during these unprecedented times, these three students have found a way to connect with more than 100 members through social media.

Thanks to platforms like Instagram and YouTube, Paso a Paso has been able to continue engagement with the Marquette community by sharing dance related content – routines, memes, polls and music.

In English, Paso a Paso translates to “step by step.” This newly formed student organization focuses on spreading cultural awareness on various Latin American cultures through their various forms of dance. In addition to dancing, the club has also hosted presentations on the history and origin of Latin dance.

Paso a Paso seeks to serve the entire Marquette community. They welcome everyone – from beginners to professional dancers – and anyone in between regardless of their background and connection to dance.

Earlier this year, prior to social distancing, Paso held multiple workshops on various topics – dance related and not – such as “Valentine’s Day Bachata,” “Destress” and “Cumbia,” a folkloric genre and dance from Colombia.

In a unique partnership, Paso collaborated with Dr. Frances Aparicio, 2019-20 chair in humanistic studies for the Association of Marquette University Women in Humanistic Studies, to host a dance and academic workshop. Dr. Aparicio’s research specializes on Salsa music and performance.

For the three executive board members, dance is rooted to their identities and childhoods.

“My grandpa would place me on his feet and dance with me around the kitchen” says Favela, co-president of the Paso a Paso. She later joined a professional salsa group during her freshman year at Marquette.

For both Kaela and Sergio, their love for dance and Latin music came from the early mornings where music filled their households, and dance moves filled their kitchens.

During COVID-19, Paso has turned to Instagram to engage members, posting a “song of the day” and sharing music recommendations – anything from contemporary to classic Latin music.

Currently, Paso is working on a series of dance tutorials that will explain the history of popular Latin dances, such as Salsa, Merengue, among others. These workshops will focus on the social and cultural impact that modern contemporary Latin music is having on today’s global society – in which Latino artists like J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Maluma have crossed over to mainstream American pop culture.

Once students are back on campus, Paso has a few campus performances planned at events like the Unity Ball and Fiesta de Noche. Additionally, the group plans to bring in guest instructors from the growing Milwaukee Latin dance community, and help students connect with local professional dance groups and dance socials.

As for now, Paso a Paso will continue to focus on virtual content like interactive dance videos that are sure to have us out of our seats and moving our bodies.

Follow @_paso.a.paso on Instagram to learn more about the club and learn some new dance moves.

Celebrating diversity and inclusion at Marquette University