Gerardo Rodriguez kicks off his camel-colored sandals, grabs his assistant Ana Luisa Gillies by the waist and waits for the music to start. Once they feel the beat, the two sway in unison to the Latin music blaring from their navy blue and gray boom-box.
They are doing the merengue.
And while the two dance, more people join in and start imitating the hip swaying, booty-shaking merengue moves.
“We started with the merengue because merengue is easy to learn because you only move your knees, legs, then shoulders,” said Rodriguez, the dance instructor. “It is my first time teaching a formal dance class.”
Both Rodriguez and Gillies are from the National University in Costa Rica and are in Nevada with the University Studies Abroad Consortium. He came to Reno to improve his English and learn more about the Reno and USAC community.
He said he used to dance at parties and decided to do the class because he thought it would be fun. And his assistant, Ana Luisa, joined because her supervisor knew that she enjoyed dancing and thought it would be a good idea for her to help Rodriguez with the class.
But in the midst of all that learning, Rodriguez needed to have fun too and the Latin American dance class was born and has become a hit with students and employees on campus.
“I got an e-mail from USAC because I studied abroad last summer,” said Stephanie Contreras, a 22-year-old nursing major.
Contreras’ dance partner is Mircelo Del Valle, another dance class regular.
“I like it,” said the 31-year-old mechanical engineer graduate. “I need a place for dance, I like to dance.”
Since the two were regulars, they were up dancing just like Rodriguez and Gillies, but there were also plenty of walk-ins.
As soon as a new person walked into the room in the Joe Crowley Student Union, Ana Luisa would run over, advise them to kick off their shoes and give them the basic merengue moves.
Diana Cazares, a 19-year-old psychology major was one of those walk-in individuals.
“We saw the sign downstairs and she [one of her friends] was like, we gotta do this,” Cazares said. Cazares also works in the ASUN bookstore with co-worker and friend Gina Rodriguez.
The two quickly put their tennis shoes aside and stood side-by-side with Gillies. It took less than 5 minutes for these two women to get the moves down; they were dancing and twirling within no time.
A mom and her daughter even walked in to join the small crowd of dancers. And at first, the little girl was apprehensive, but she started getting comfortable and started to shake her little toosh to the Latin song medley.
Gina Rodriguez was watching the girl and her mom intently; “I’m watching how she teaches so I can go home and teach my daughter,” she said about the dancing duo.
Other dances that Rodriguez and Gillies are planning to teach are the salsa and the Bolero.
The remaining free dance classes are on July 7 in room 422 and July 9 in room 323. All the rooms are located in the Joe Crowley Student Union and the classes are from 12-1 p.m.
For more information about the Latin American dance class, visit the USAC office on campus.