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Qué Rico hosts first collegiate Latin dance competition in North Carolina

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Dancers compete at Que Rico's Latin Dance Competition in UNC's Great Hall on Sunday, April 7, 2024.

And the winner is… Sabrosura!

On Sunday, the Duke University Latin dance team took their trophy in silver and blue button-downs, tassel dresses and matching sets, making them the inaugural winners of La Competencia, the first collegiate Latin dance competition in North Carolina.

Sponsored by UNC-Chapel Hill’s Qué Rico and hosted in the Great Hall, participants also included UNC Greensboro's Ritmo Latino.

The competition was judged by two professional choreographers who work in Chapel Hill: Lulu Diaz and Peiwei Cobo.

La Competencia was structured into three rounds: the first consisted mostly of bachata, the second, salsa and the third was up to the team choreographers. In between each set, two MCs kept the crowd energized with dance battles between audience members, as well as dance history trivia.

In the past, Qué Rico has performed at elementary schools, cultural events and parades in the community. They were inspired to organize a dance competition of their own after winning one at Old Dominion University in Virginia last year.

Rosa Elias, co-manager of Qué Rico, said she wants to expand Latin dance and culture across North Carolina. 

The dance groups who attended make up three of only five college teams in the state.

Elias said she hoped the event would generate appreciation for styles like salsa or bachata from audience members who are unfamiliar with Latin dance.

Qué Rico’s other co-manager, Luisa Peñaflor wanted La Competencia to be a way for the teams to come together in friendly competition, showcase their work and bond.

Because Qué Rico’s 28 members were selected through auditions, they are all dedicated participants year round, and regularly rehearse six hours a week, Renton Varga, a UNC-CH sophomore and member, said

He said the support of the group helps him alleviate nervousness or anxiety about being on stage. Varga, who competed at Old Dominion University, said he is glad that they are hosting in Chapel Hill because it allows his family to come see him dance.

“[Competing] is a new thing for us and we're really excited to try it and see where we land,” Julian Camacho, co-president of Duke’s Sabrosura, said.

The word “Sabrosura” means flavor, spice, heat, people moving, people feeling themselves and laughing, he said. The group is all about having fun.

As a club, Sabrosura performs showcases, teaches salsa classes and tests their skills by attending social dance clubs around the Triangle. They specialize in Rueda de Casino – a form of salsa which originates from Cuba.

As a co-choreographer of a salsa piece set to “Bajo La Tormenta,” by Sergio George's Salsa Greats Camacho said that he was most excited to see the first round dances.

“Salsa is just back to basics,” he said. “It’s the roots of why I do this.”

Elias described salsa as an upbeat, two-count dance, and bachata is its more intimate four-beat counterpart. In contrast, reggaeton is a younger, hip-hop influenced style known for having strong beats and personality. 

First-year UNC-CH student and dancer Anthony Sanchez-Padilla said his favorite style is merengue because it allows him to express himself with its fast pace and hip action.

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“A key thing that joining the club has made me realize is how much I really love dancing, how much I love Latin music especially, and how in touch it's made me feel with my heritage,” Sanchez said.

Elias said that Qué Rico hopes to make La Competencia an annual tradition.

“That's all I can hope, that we can continue the legacy,” she said.

@delphine_sbl

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com