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Student Spotlight:

Elizabeth Mac

Salsa Student

Elizabeth’s love for salsa dancing began in her childhood, inspired by her Vietnamese parents who enjoyed dancing salsa, cha-cha, and rumba. Feeling left out at a salsa club in Colombia, she decided to learn how to dance salsa.  Salsa has transformed her life by providing a space for creative expression and introducing her to diverse people. It has also been her way to honor her late father, who she used to dance with.  

Elizabeth shares her dance journey through the following interview questions.

Elizabeth Mac

1. How did your interest in salsa dancing begin? 

My interest in salsa began when I was a kid. My parents (who are Vietnamese refugees) would dance salsa, cha-cha, and rumba casually, and surprisingly, it's very big in the Vietnamese community! I remember asking my late dad to teach me and being confused and thinking it was "too hard."  


Then I went to Colombia to a salsa club and felt so left out of not knowing the basic step, even when many people tried to teach me. It stuck with me. After my father passed during the peak of COVID, a local salsa studio offered a "safe" way to learn and I thought it would be a wonderful way to not only honor him but also to learn something new, get more in tune with my body, and to finally overcome that mental challenge of "this is too hard." 


2. What’s a time you found yourself unexpectedly dancing salsa in a unique or unusual place? Where were you, and how did it go down? 

I try to dance salsa any chance I get! I take drop-in classes in other cities just to see what their style of dancing is like and to see how different it is. I once went from the airport in Las Vegas at my friend's bachelorette straight to a studio just to try one of their salsa classes. It was so fun to bring my roller board suitcase and my neck pillow to the class and to experience a fresh approach to styling which is unique to every instructor. 


3. In what ways has dancing salsa improved your life in general? 


Salsa has changed my life in that it proved to me I can do and learn anything with patience, consistency, and being open to making mistakes. My upbringing as the first-gen child of refugees never left a lot of room to make mistakes or for creative or self-expression. Salsa gives me a safe space to explore that. 


I also love that salsa allows me to meet so many different kinds of people I may not have otherwise met. I didn't realize how much my life was a bubble of people who either worked in a similar industry to me or who went to the same university as me. It's been great to expand my horizons and meet people of all ages from everywhere who all are unified behind one beautiful tradition – dancing! 


4. How do you deal with mistakes while learning to dance salsa? 


I deal with mistakes in salsa classes usually with a little bit of sheepish embarrassment and sometimes frustration – but then I bounce back because I know that this is an opportunity to make me better. If my mistakes were not ever called out, I would never know and I would remain stagnant in my learning and that's a win for no one! I remind myself that there is always room to grow, no matter what level of salsa I'm in, and that applies to all of life in general. That's what makes us human and what makes this practice so exciting.  


5. What advice would you offer to someone considering taking salsa lessons? 

My advice to anyone considering taking salsa is to just do it! It may be uncomfortable to try something new or to be "bad" at something, but everyone who is in this program has been in your position before and we are all learning together.  


If you remember that each time you step into the studio, you're going to be BETTER, that helps! And that we can make up 100 excuses for just about anything. But you just need only one good reason to dance. Say, you try and you don't know what you're doing? Who cares! You're well on your way. Dance taps into such a different part of your brain that is rejuvenating to your soul. I can't recommend enough to give it a try and to not write the script for yourself on how it's going to go. Be open to challenges and new things! It's way more fun in the sun. 

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