Students shake and twirl as they repeat in their minds the numbered sequence, “one two three, five six seven” of renowned choreographer Kazumi DeVries teaching salsa dancing in front of them.
All are welcome to the Wednesday night meet ups at the Kinesiology and Health Science building for beginners that the Salsa Club hosts, which has been a student organization since fall 2010.
Every Friday starting at 8:15 p.m., the Salsa Club holds a salsa academy for intermediate students of the group as well as students in the competitive group for practice.
The competitive group, however, practices on Saturdays and is only open to students.
Joshua Mendoza, 27, who is double majoring in information systems and decision sciences and marketing and finance, president and founder of the Salsa Club, said the club has a variety of opportunities for aspiring dancers or beginners.
“The salsa academy is much more concentrated, it’s faster pace. You’ll learn salsa in a short amount of time,” said Mendoza. “It’s more focused on the detail and technical aspects of salsa, whereas the Wednesday classes are more relaxed, you can ask questions.”
Mendoza is part of the competitive team who meets on Fridays and Saturdays and aspires to compete at the College Salsa Congress.
“We usually only allow students to represent us for the team,” Mendoza said. “We’re considered student athletes so we want to make sure they’re from Cal State Fullerton.”
According to Mendoza, the College Salsa Congress brings together about 18 to 20 CSU and UC schools, as well as a few community colleges from Southern California and Sacramento areas in a competition that results in a grand prize of $1,000.
“The competition is very fierce,” Mendoza said.
The College Salsa Congress is held at the end of April in Long Beach. CSUF’s competitive salsa group competed last year but did not place.
This year, with the help of Kazumi DeVries, the salsa club choreographer and advisor, Mendoza said he feels they have a really great chance to improve and really show people how hard the team has been working.
“I had an off campus event that I organized and the president came to take my lesson and he really liked it,” said DeVries. “We kind of first started during the summer as a try-out, to see if they really liked how I teach, and then in then end they really wanted me to be their coach.”
This is Kazumi’s third year of teaching.
Her goal, she said, is to help the young dancers be the best that they can be and held to the highest standard.
“I wanted to start from scratch because if I am going to be involved, my goal since these are young people that I’m handling and not adults like my off campus team, I want to make sure that the standard is really (morally) high,” DeVries said.
“I want to make sure my students are up to skill, and have a really good experience,” she added. “I want to make sure they are trained enough for next year when they are ready to compete.”
According to DeVries, the way she has the program set up is that for those who want to join the competitive group, students first have to join the Wednesday night class, which is set up to teach fundamentals.
Once students feel comfortable enough, they can move up to Friday’s class, which is more advanced.
From there, she will move them up to the competitive salsa team if they desire to compete.
“Fall semester is usually a training session,” DeVries said.
She begins with teaching basic skills, and on to higher skills, then slowly progresses to a routine.
By spring semester, the group will have the routine down and practice hard to polish it up for the College Salsa Congress.
Second semester competitive dancer Amanda Tran, 19, an international business major, has joined the club and competitive dance team for various reasons, including to make new friends and to learn a dance skill she has never had before.
“First I joined the club and went to meet ups on Wednesdays, because I had no idea how to dance salsa,” said Tran. “I realized I enjoyed dancing a lot.”
Tran was a student who started off as a beginner and worked her way up to the competitive level through her progress, which DeVries took notice of.
“I’m so excited to get a new routine, something to challenge me and to push me to be a better dancer,” Tran said.