Latin Fest Brings Storrs South of the Tropics

UConn was ready to salsa, merengue and bachata Saturday night at the annual Latin Fest. Smells of empanadas, pernil and fried plantains filled Jorgensen auditorium as the audience ate, sang and danced away the evening in a celebration of Latin culture.

Puerto Rican Latino American Cultural Center Director Fany Hannon introduced the show with a spirited welcome that called upon the filled auditorium to “make UConn roar.” And that they did with enough gusto to keep the momentum going late into the night.

The show started off with a showcase by student dance group BAILE. The group performed a merengue routine, choreographed by Kenyi Silva and Maria-Jose Fernandez to kick off the festivities. Merengue, which originates in the Dominican Republic, is one of the most popular genres of music and dance in Latin America and is danced by two partners in a close position who move their hips while keeping their upper body moves majestic.

After the opening group routine, BAILE seniors took turns performing individual solos that encompassed a variety of cultures and styles of dance. After several senior solos BAILE regrouped and performed a Salsa routine notable for energetic movements and thrilling pace. Salsa, while a product of New York City, is heavily influenced by Cuban and Puerto Rican tradition, as well as mambo and cha-cha styles.

Following a final bachata number from BAILE, the highly anticipated performer Ismael Miranda took the stage with his six piece band alongside him playing a hot set of tunes that got the audience crowding the dance floor. Miranda, who hails from Aguada, Puerto Rico, has been recording music since the 60’s and his songs have been top hits for decades. Miranda’s set of merengue and salsa motivated the audience who cheered relentlessly at the close of each song.

The next act that kept Latin Fest going strong was Jose Pena Suazo and La Banda Gorda of Cotui, Dominican Republic. Hailing from the DR it was fitting that Suazo and La Banda Gorda are merengue musicians and their frenetic music kept the tempo at Jorgensen elevated and the energy flowing. Despite their label as a “merengue” group, Suazo and La Banda Gorda were hardly pigeonholed—the group had an incredible variety of songs that kept dancers on their toes.

For any UConn student looking for a night to escape the dreary spring chill of Storrs, Latin Fest is a must attend event that showcases UConn student talent and the diversity of Hispanic culture.

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