by Saul Eli Rosa
Cross body lead, neck trap, cupid, hair combs. These are all moves taught in Kinesiology 1126, also known as Dance I.
Dance I is offered at South Plains College as a basic dance class giving students the opportunity to learn partner dancing, leading, and following skills with all different types of dance. The Latin dances taught include Rumba, Cha-Cha, and Samba. The ballroom dances are Waltz, Tango, Fox Trot, and Swing. While the social dances involve learning Country 2-Step, Merengue, Bachata, and Salsa.
“The beginning dance class is fun!” exclaims Associate Professor of Kinesiology and course instructor, Vanessa Moffett Reales. “It’s a very social activity where you meet and dance with a variety of people.”
“You get to apply body mechanics to music, in all sorts of different ways, to lots of styles of music,” adds Reales. “You learn to appreciate the different styles of music even though it’s not your favorite type of music to sit around and listen to.”
For recent dance student, Daley Moore, dancing is something she always wanted to learn to do but was always preoccupied with other activities. When she discovered that SPC offered the course, she immediately enrolled and dove right in. Every dance she has ever wanted to learn, she has learned this semester.
Moore also enjoys the subtle physicality of it all.
“It’s like working out without thinking that I am working out.” Moore said. “Even though I am learning in this class, it is a mental break. It’s less mentally exhausting because it’s fun.”
Moore encourages curious students to “enroll because it’s worth it. It doesn’t matter if you have dance experience or not because she starts from square one.”
When asked what her best memory of the class is, Moore responded, “having that feeling of accomplishment because I am able to come into class and start applying what I learned from the previous class.”
Dance is the universal art of self-expression. Learning how to follow someone when they are communicating to you through dance is a skill Reales attempts to teach every student that attends her class.
“The thing about this is I’ve danced with people that don’t even speak English and you can communicate through dance without communicating verbally.” explains Reales. “That’s a really cool thing because if you can lead and follow and they can too, then you don’t really have to speak the same language.”
Each semester, many interested students enroll in Dance I. Most of those students continue, eager to learn and grow more and register for Kinesiology 2126, or Dance II.
Before COVID, this second level dance course was a dance team that learned more of what was taught in the beginning class, along with choreography and how to perform with one another. The team would routinely perform at the mall, in and around surrounding communities, and at different outreaches. They even put on productions similar to Dancing with the Stars called ”Dancing with the Texans.”
Adam Orosco, SPC dance team alumnus and current Texas Tech student remembers, “We would find a staff member at South Plains College and teach them a whole dance routine from scratch.” explained Orosco. “We did the music, choreography, and set up the entire production for all of SPC to attend.”
Since COVID began, some students have been skeptical of being so close to other students. When they heard they had to dance in a mask, they were not fond of that idea either.
Reales attributes COVID as being the biggest challenge of her entire teaching career.
“It’s challenging trying to make sure people are safe while we still get do the activities as closely as we use to do them.” said Reales. “Also, maintaining the integrity of the course without sacrificing safety or making someone feel that they are not safe in the class.”
The numbers in the classes have been ok this year but not where they were before COVID. And since Dance I feeds into Dance II, getting the numbers back up where they were, is Reales and SPC’s biggest goal.
“With the no mask policy that we’re hopefully going to have in the fall, I’m hoping people won’t be afraid to get that close to another person, and it brings more students in that can learn to dance from scratch or learn to dance better.” stated Reales.
Getting out of one’s comfort zone can be a challenge for most students trying something new for the first time. For Orosco, he had no dance experience prior to taking the class and he did not feel good with rhythm and timing. He was apprehensive about not being able to learn the material well enough or quick enough. Yet, he stepped out of his comfort zone and registered for the class anyway.
“Mrs. Reales is just fantastic!” exclaims Orosco. “She is very encouraging and understands that you won’t be perfect right away. She will guide you and help you get better.”
Reales has been in the Kinesiology department for nearly ten years and teaches a variety of other physically active courses. She understands how students do not want to look silly or look weird in front of anyone else.
“In reality, if you join a class like this or any type of physically active class, other people are not looking at you as much as you think they are.” states Reales. “They are concentrating on learning it themselves and not about someone else looking silly.”
And for that reason, adding more leaders to the group is always a challenge in West Texas. A lot of males do not want to take dance because they do not know how to or think they must come in already knowing how to dance, and that is not true. Dance I is a class that starts from scratch and can be attended by male, female, young, or old.
Orosco gives this friendly advice, “Come in with an open mind. If you have the curiosity, just give it a chance and pursue it. There’s no downside to taking dance. Everyone starts somewhere and if you work on that foundation, the apprehension disappears and your confidence skyrockets. Just the feeling of accomplishment is something everyone wants to feel.”