Put on your dancing shoes and come join Salsa Society, a place for anyone who loves Latin music, dancing and meeting new people. Casual and fun, the society is £10 for the whole year, with classes costing members £2 a time. After going to one of these wildly popular classes, I was intrigued to find out more, so interviewed committee members Jo Nkonge (President), Hannah Wilks (Secretary) and Rebecca Miller (Public Relations) to hear about their experience as part of Salsa Society.
When and why did you join Salsa Society?
Jo: I joined Salsa Society last year. When I was younger, my brother taught me the basic salsa steps and I really enjoyed learning them. Dancing salsa became one of my future goals, so when I came to Leeds I already knew it was a society I wanted to get involved in.
What makes Salsa Society different from all other dance societies?
Jo: Salsa is really easy to pick up, which is great because it means you don’t have to spend ages learning the moves. It’s also not competitive, which means that we tend to have a very relaxed and sociable vibe at our classes.
Do you have any upcoming special events planned for the society?
Jo: Yes, we do! Our next social is on the 4th of November at 6pm, and there will be a (discounted) meal at Spanish tapas restaurant La Tasca. It will be a great chance for members to get to know each other in a slightly less active environment! We’re also planning to introduce more advanced workshops and different Latin styles. We will also be coordinating events with some of the union dance societies like DanceSport. We also have great deals for members of our society, like discounted entry to salsa nights across town.
What has been your most memorable experience in Salsa Society so far?
Hannah: I think for me, it has to be our GIAG this year. A crazy amount of people showed up, and everyone seemed to be having a really great time. It was exciting to see so many people eager to try something new (and actually enjoying it!).
Jo: I think my best moment was probably at the end of last year, when we danced the Rueda. It’s a group dance where everyone dances in a square, and one person calls out what moves need to be done next. During the dance you swap partners, moving around the circle so you get a chance to dance with everyone. It was just a really special experience, and just showed how far we’d come from the beginning of the year!
Rebecca: It’s not one experience, but I really love seeing the regulars who show up at the events. It’s so nice to see people improve and make friends within the group, and it’s great when you show up to a class and recognize everyone. Another great experience with Salsa Society was winning the Riley Smith Award for Best New Society – as our first year of being a society, this was really special!
If you were given unlimited funds to take the society somewhere, where would you go?
Rebecca: I think we’d probably go back to the roots of salsa, somewhere like Cuba or Colombia. A lot of the time when people see us at the Fresher’s Fair, they tell us that their interest in salsa began when travelling to these places, so it would be good to see what all the hype is about!
What has been the most challenging aspect of being on committee?
Jo: I think it’s often easy to forget that you’re actually here for a degree – I’ve really had to work on my planning and time management skills. Another thing I find really hard is letting people lead me: when I’m dancing, I always have to remind myself to relax and trust that the lead knows what they’re doing.
Hannah: I think something that’s difficult to do is thinking about the society in the long term. It’s easy to plan for the week ahead and talk about the various smaller socials we’ll be having, but it’s definitely more of a challenge to think about the bigger picture, and what we want the society to be in the future.
What has been the best thing about being on committee?
Rebecca: Being on committee really improves your social skills as you try harder to talk to and get to know the people who are attending the events. It’s also a good role to put on your CV, as it shows you’ve been in a position of responsibility.
Hannah: It’s also a great position to be in to encourage people – a lot of the people who show up to the society at first are nervous and don’t have a lot of self-confidence, but you can help them start to believe in themselves.
Who would you recommend Salsa Society to?
Jo: Literally everyone can join Salsa Society. It’s funny because people usually assume that as committee, we’ll be studying something to do with Spanish, but none of us do and hardly any of us are on the same course either. The society accepts anyone from any age, background or dancing ability – we’ve even had some disabled and visually impaired people join in. We start with the basic steps every week, so you can join in whenever and catch up really easily. Our society is also not just limited to Leeds University: people from Leeds Beckett, Leeds College of Music or even interested locals are welcome to join.
Image source: Huffington Post