By: Lydia Braswell
Bella Haraguchi’s dance skills are paying off.
The president of Hispanos Unidos taught a Latinx hip-hop dance class on Nov. 21 that represented the culture of the Purdue Fort Wayne club well.
“Dancing is what brings families together,” says the PFW sophomore, explaining that Hispanos Unidos is an inclusive campus club open to all PFW students– not limited to students of Hispanic heritage.
The environment of the fitness studio transpired that sentiment during the dance. Some who attended had a background in dance, and others– like me– had very little prior experience. All six of the dancers continually encouraged each other to keep going and focus on having fun.
Daddy Yankee’s song “Que Tire Pa Lante” played repeatedly from a loudspeaker as we practiced the routine for a total of two hours– including several much-needed breaks for water and fruit snacks. We had an ever-changing audience as students continually peeked their heads in to see what we were up to, and some even stayed to learn a section of the dance.
Libni Sedano attended the hip-hop class and loves to dance in her spare time. Rather than dancing professionally, Sedano learned from her family, as she says dancing is a key tradition for Hispanic families.
The PFW sophomore is majoring in finance and Spanish, and has been part of Hispanos Unidos for two semesters. She said she joined because she likes to be part of people sharing her cultural background.
Haraguchi says that, at parties, dancing isn’t really about getting a work out. The purpose is to feel connected with friends and family, especially in Hispanic culture – whether it’s dancing with a partner, a friend, or a group.
“You eat and then burn [the calories] right off!” Sedano says. “If you get hungry again, there’s more food!”
The Latinx teacher has a diverse background in dance. Starting for fun in elementary school, she began learning elite dance in a studio in middle school and continued through high school. She has competed in a variety of competitions, including ballet, jazz, contemporary, lyrical and hip-hop.
The 20-year-old has stopped dancing professionally but still does hip-hop dances, and her skills were evident as she taught the Latinx class with ease.
“I still love dancing a lot,” says Haraguchi. She also had a chance to teach in September– another Latinx hip-hop combo that was a fundraiser for Hispanos Unidos. The club president and chemistry major stepped up as a leader after the scheduled teacher of the class never showed up.
Teaching hip-hop is not the first time Haraguchi showed her leadership skills. When the soon-to-be-freshman was touring PFW in 2018, she found out that Hispanos Unidos would no longer be a club unless someone volunteered to be president and get students involved.
Haraguchi took on the role and has since been a leader for her club and for her campus.
Haraguchi volunteered to teach on Nov. 21, planning the event herself following the success of the last class. She hopes that those who attended learned more about dancing.
“Dancing doesn’t require much experience or technique,” says Haraguchi. “It’s about feeling the music and having fun with others.”
After fine-tuning our dance moves, we recorded the routine and it is posted on the Instagram page for Hispanos Unidos. None of us were required to be featured in the video, but after a little extra self-esteem boost for the more shy dancers in our group, all six who learned the routine agreed to be recorded. Once again, an encouraging atmosphere was fostered with the help of the Hispanos Unidos club members, and the attitude was contagious.
Carolina Baltazar has personally experienced the inclusive nature of the club.
Baltazar attended a private school for most of her education. Born in America and growing up in a family with Mexican heritage, Baltazar’s family speaks Spanish at home. She thought that going to a public school in third and fourth grade would allow her to feel more included after being in a private school with very little diversity, but even though she found a group of people to hang out with, she still did not feel fully accepted.
Baltazar says she thought people at the private school viewed her as a Hispanic girl who didn’t have high standards and acted “ghetto” with no manners. Her friends at the public school would tell her that she acted “white” and Baltazar could not find the balance between the two labels.
The PFW freshman says she was so excited to join Hispanos Unidos and finally be with a group that does not care about labels. “I’m with my people,” says Baltazar.
Baltazar hopes to be part of the club’s advertising committee to spread the word and form a stronger PFW community.
Haraguchi says future classes may be possible after the night’s turnout, with a grand total of 11 who signed the safety waiver and attendance forms. The free class was open to all PFW students and staff.
The Latinx hip-hop dance class was taught in the Hilliard Gates Fitness Studio, located inside the Hilliard Gates Sports Center, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Nov. 21 as posted on the Instagram pagefor Hispanos Unidos.
Anyone who wants to learn more about Hispanic culture and be involved in a group dedicated to inclusivity is welcome to join Hispanos Unidos.