Students and families packed into Langford Auditorium on Saturday for the Cafe con Leche cultural showcase, the largest annual event hosted by the Vanderbilt Association of Hispanic Students (VAHS). After being held at Student Life Center last year, the show moved back to Langford this year to host a larger audience.
“Traditionally the show had been in Langford Auditorium, but the co-chair last year Justin Colon wanted to give the show more intimate feel last year (and) have the show happen at the same time as the dinner,” this year’s event co-chair Rebecca Trabanino said. “But we sold out of tickets, and it was really crammed. So this year we decided to go back to the traditional format of dinner and then the show at Langford.”
This year the show’s skits followed a family of Argentinian immigrants as they watch VUnivision, a twist on the Spanish language television network Univision. About 140 dancers and 50 guest performers participated in the 11 different cultural numbers in the show, which featured guest performances by Cabaret Nashville Dance Company, students Oksana Litardo & Robbie Colon, Vanderbilt Capoeira Club, Jugal Vandy and VIDA.
The dances themselves opened up with a classic salsa number, featuring female performers continuously twirling in their red dresses. The off-campus Cabaret Nashville Dance Company came out next, shimmying in their black and red outfits. The professional dancers incorporated lifts and tricks in their Latin fusion dance moves.
The color theme continued with the Merengue group, which featured female dancers twisting and turning in their red skirts as they held male dancers’ hands. The vibe then turned flirtatious and sexy with Bachata, and the highlight of the dance came when dancers swayed their hips slowly to a remix of “Crazy in Love.”
Junior Mary Ann Enriquez, one of the Bachata dancers, said she enjoyed learning the dance for several reasons: “I like how it’s slower because it enables people to focus on the moves. . .I really liked how my choreographers, Alice and Luis, in the beginning of the practices for the first month, would teach us actual Bachata moves. They even brought in a professional Bachata dancer. We learned its origins and everything.”
The show continued with a musical performance by Oksana Litardo and Robbie Colon, and Litardo’s deep voice gave the audience chills as they listened to her sing in Spanish. A highlight of the first half of the show, Vanderbilt Capoeira Club featured individual fight scenes set in a pretend video game played by two of the skit’s characters. Dancers utilized tumbling and kicks as they fought in duels.
All-girls group Reggaeton closed the first half of the show. The number showcased current music such as “Work” by Rihanna and hip hop moves as the girls cheerfully grooved in their neon-colored shirts.
After intermission ended, guest performer Jugal Vandy opened the second half of the show with a band of a bassist, a drummer, two guitarists, an electronic keyboard player and a female lead singer. They were followed by the Kizomba group, whose slow dancing gave off romantic and intimate feeling as they danced to a remix of “All of Me.”
Senior Gustavo Aroxa, who choreographed Kizomba, said that he enjoys watching his dancers grow in confidence as they practice. “My favorite part is just see how people transform through the learning process. Because Kizomba is a very personal dance, very close, very sexual. People were very shy at first. But if you look at them now, you can barely recognize them. One of our girls asked ‘how can I look sexier now?’. . .It’s interesting to see how people transform and adapt to the music.”
Mexican Folkdance followed next, the female dancers in beautiful white lace folklorico dresses and the male dancers in white Guayabera shirts. The dance involved percussive footwork called “zapateado,” akin to tap dance. In the finale, one pair of dancers used the male dancer’s sash to tie a bow with their feet while they were still dancing.
The traditional flair then transitioned into contemporary movements with Street Zouk, a combination of a Brazilian dance Zouk and hip hop. The audience cheered when the dancers hopped down from the stage and danced among the crowd.
Junior Rebecca Riley, who choreographed Street Zouk, explained the inclusion of this new dance. “Street zouk is something that we’ve come up with, pretty much all new for Cafe con Leche. . .I saw this video on YouTube first semester, and it was some people that fused street jazz with Zouk. . .The two are very different dance styles, but it was an incredible video. I was really inspired to bring that here to Cafe con Leche. What we’ve done this year is a combination of hip hop and Zouk.”
Next, Cha Cha dancers swayed their hips to an energetic and steady beat of “Let’s Get Loud,” with the female dancers in pink fringe dresses. The night concluded with a dance from VIDA, the campus Latin dance group. Dressed in classy black and red, dancers were very synchronized as they incorporated tango-style music and dance into a sensual performance.
Just after showcase ended, event co-chairs Daniela Alejaldre and Rebecca Trabanino took a moment to thank choreographers, dancers, emcees, co-sponsors and the VAHS family before attendees congregated in the lobby to congratulate performers.
As Aroxa reflected on the value of the showcase, “I like how we have an opportunity to show the dances. Even though we don’t have a really large Latino community on campus, we have a lot of second-generation and third-generation Latinos. . .This is how we get together to show a piece of our culture, and I think that’s the best part about Cafe.”