At the age of 6, while most young children were learning the ABCs or how to tie a shoe, freshman Mariana Inciarte-Balza was learning to salsa dance. “All my family is from Venezuela, so it’s tradition that everyone in the family knows how to dance,” Inciarte-Balza said.
Salsa is a traditional dance that follows the lively and contemporary beat of salsa music. It spread rapidly throughout Latin American countries in the 1960s and became a cultural phenomenon, especially in Venezuela.
Inciarte-Balza learned to dance from her mother, an avid salsa fan. “When we go to Venezuela for Christmas, she is always the one starting the dancing,” Inciarte-Balza said. “She’s probably danced all her life.”
Spanish Club members had the opportunity to see Inciarte-Balza and her mother dance at a Feb. 5 club event in the West Gym, but performing for an audience is not the norm for this mother-daughter duo. “We do it at family reunions … It’s a fun family tradition,” Inciarte-Balza said.
While some may immediately associate salsa with the dancing lady emoji and her red dress, for Inciarte-Balza’s family, it is much more casual. “Tradition in Venezuela is a long skirt and a traditional blouse, but usually we just do it for fun in everyday, casual clothing,” Inciarte-Balza said.
Inciarte-Balza is not only proud of her heritage and family traditions, but she genuinely enjoys dancing. “The best part is having fun and not thinking about it,” Inciarte-Balza said.
Her Venezuelan heritage has not only nurtured her salsa skills, but Inciarte-Balza also dances in other traditional styles, such as merengue and bachata. The multitalented Inciarte-Balza family has passed on these dances in the same way they have passed on salsa.
Every family has traditions unique to them. For some families, it’s board games; for others, it’s baseball. For Mariana Inciarte-Balza and her family, it’s traditional Venezuelan dances, such as salsa, that bring them together.