Experience Latinx culture through dance with Qué Rico
Qué Rico, UNC's premier Latin dance team, at their first practice of the spring semester on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019 in Woollen Gym. For many of the team members, Qué Rico has become a family and place where they can freely express themselves.
For the members of Qué Rico, UNC’s only Latin dance team, it’s about much more than dance. It’s about being part of a community where they can share and experience Latinx culture, express themselves and relieve stress.
Thomas Thielen, co-director of Qué Rico, said he and his fellow executive board members strive to make the team a place where people can make connections and form bonds. He said he wants the team to provide a safe space for Latinx students, especially incoming first-years.
Thielen, a transfer student from Miami, has previous dancing experience. He said he initially joined Qué Rico because he just wanted to dance, but as he got more involved, he realized the team was also about having exposure to the Latinx community and to people who share a passion for dance.
“The reasons why I (joined) Qué Rico are very different than the reasons why I stayed,” Thielen said. “It was just interesting to see the progression. It’s not what I imagined, it was a lot better than what I thought it was.”
Qué Rico practices styles of dance from many different Latinx cultures such as salsa, bachata, kizomba and merengue.
“I think that it’s important to understand — when people talk about the Latinx culture it’s like it’s just one whole homogeneous figure, but it’s not,” Thielen said. “It’s different countries with different styles and different music and different histories and different cultures.”
While Qué Rico is a Latin dance team, it is open to all students of any skill level.
First-year Daniel Bonomo joined Qué Rico with no dancing experience. Bonomo said he had always wanted to learn to dance and found out about the team through Fall Fest.
“I was really just like, ‘Okay, why not?,’” Bonomo said.
Seeing his improvement is one of Bonomo’s favorite parts about being on the team. The first-year liked that he didn’t get lost anymore when Qué Rico goes out to dance events.
Jacqueline Salazar, co-manager of Qué Rico, said she had experience dancing at parties and with her family but had no experience doing choreography-based dancing until she joined the team.
“It’s important because the Latinx population, it’s not very represented on UNC’s campus and we are the only Latinx dance team,” Salazar said, “So I feel like it’s very important not only just for Latinx students, but for other students to find a different way to express themselves or to just bring awareness to our Latinx community.”
Not all of the team’s members are Latinx. Caroline Le, a student of non-Latin descent, said being a part of Qué Rico has been a different experience coming from an outside perspective.
“What’s more important for me is to get to know a different culture and a different heritage and the people that share that culture and heritage, and to be able to see through my eyes diversity on campus,” Le said.
Le, who practiced ballet for most of her life, said she learned about Qué Rico when she saw them dancing and advertising tryouts in the pit. Qué Rico holds tryouts every semester, over three days.
Manny Garcia, co-treasurer of Qué Rico, said his tryout was one of his most memorable experiences with the team. He said it was seeing the closeness of the members on the executive board that made him sure he wanted to be a part of the team.
“In a way, for me, it’s almost like the Tar Heel experience,” Garcia said. “Whenever I got accepted here, I knew immediately I wanted to be here because I felt at home, I felt like this is where I was supposed to be and I felt the same way with Qué Rico.”
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