Salsa 101: Making Sage Sizzle

Salsa 101: Making Sage Sizzle

“One, two, three… five, six, seven,” Susy Oropesa calls out the eight beats (with two pauses) of salsa to a group of 30 students — mostly F&ES, though other graduate students and undergrads as well — in Bowers Hall.

Susy and her fraternal twin sister Cristy, seniors at Yale College, teach salsa dancing class every week in Bowers (the day varies – email americalatina@yale.edu for more information). Beginners learn the basic steps starting at 7:30 p.m. and intermediate level dancers come in an hour later. Anyone can stay the whole two hours, but you must pay attention because the Oropesa sisters move swiftly. They are pros intent on teaching their craft.

Cristy and Susy were born in Cuba, where they first learned to salsa as toddlers, before emigrating to Canada in 2002, and then Florida the following year. They began teaching salsa in Miami at age 15 and today, at 21, continue to instruct and perform the dance. The two most recently performed at the Metropolitan Pavilion in New York City as part of the Hearts of Gold Gala 17, a fundraiser supporting homeless families.

Members of F&ES’s Latin American Student Interest Group convinced Cristy and Susy to share their talents with graduate students in Bowers. The sisters, who are both pre-med, also teach salsa classes in the Payne Whitney Gym (PWG) every Tuesday and Thursday from 7:30 to 9:30. Anyone can drop in on the weekly Bowers classes for a modest $5. And students can sign up for the PWG classes at the beginning of next semester ($95 for members; $155 for non-members).

After two one-hour salsa classes, I certainly notice a difference. I no longer have two left feet and I remember the basic steps — the crucial muscle memory and bits of rhythm that have transformed me from a complete novice into a clumsy beginner. I’m well on my way, if not to salsa stardom, then at least to impressing my fellow classmates with my newfound moves.