In a dance studio at PCC, two groups of students stand separated at each end of a room. The leaders are on one side and the followers are on the other, and each leader walks across the divide to ask a follower to a dance. The newly formed couples say hello and take each other by the hand. They are instructed to dance together in a sequence of steps and spins taught by the instructors, Salma Alvarez and Edwin Colmenares. As the partners rotate, dancers who are less comfortable with bachata get to work with partners who are more comfortable, and there are many laughs and smiles as students make mistakes and rush to keep up with the instructors.

PCCs Candela Salsa Club is an opportunity for any PCC student to learn salsa, a Cuban dance, and bachata, a similar dance from the Dominican Republic. The club meets every Tuesday from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. for a dance lesson, and there is a social dance after class on the balcony of the W-building. The club is a great opportunity for students wanting to dance, meet new people and foster physical and mental health.

“Anyone can come,” Alvarez said. ”It’s open to all levels, beginners or intermediate, and we would love advanced dancers. They could even help us out, you know, teach. But, there is no experience necessary.”

The salsa club also has a new dance team which performs on and off campus. Their next performance will be on Nov. 2 at the Renaissance Hotel in Long Beach, at the CCCOLEGAS Conference for Latin American advocacy.

“During club rush we had a lot of staff come up to us and ask if we were interested in performing in future events on and off campus,” Alvarez said. “We thought it was going to be a lot of extra work, but because we had so many staff come up to us and offer these opportunities we decided to offer and let our club members know. And, surprisingly, ten to fifteen people involved were actually excited to do it and now we have nine actual team members, ten including myself.”

Dancing is very healthy and in particular group dancing such as salsa and bachata are good for physical, cognitive and emotional health, according to a medically reviewed article on healthline. 

Dancing is also one of the best things you can do for your brain. Thirty minutes of physical activity a day can increase brain health, according to the CDC, but dancing is more than just cardio. Group dancing has been shown to decrease anxiety and improve mood, according to a medically reviewed article on VeryWellMind, and dance in particular is effective at increasing white matter—the part of the brain that is used to transmit information—around the hippocampus—a brain area important for autobiographical and spatial memory. 

Casual physical touch, something which is lacking in the U.S.A., is also an important part of human health. Touching friends, family or significant others, when the touch is appropriate, can relieve stress and improve mood by releasing the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Touch can also increase positive thinking and compassion by releasing the hormone oxytocin, according to pushcare.

The club has a board of student leaders, but Alvarez and Colmenares are the two student leaders who initiated the club’s revival after the club had been dissolved.

“When we came back from the pandemic, we realized that there was no club running,” Colmenares said. “Me and her [Alvarez] had a small conversation: ‘there is nobody running the club, do you think we can do it?’ and after searching and posting we found other people that were also interested in helping out.”

To keep up to date on the Candela Salsa Club, follow their instagram, join their discord or drop into class.

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