Revelers dance through PRLACC's Noche Latina celebration

Students dance during Noche Latina, hosted by UConn's Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center in the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs, Connecticut on Saturday, April 9, 2016. (Rebecca Newman/The Daily Campus)

The University of Connecticut’s Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center hosted a night of wild dancing and celebration during its annual Noche Latina for students and revelers Saturday.

When people think of Latin culture, they think of only one thing. But it’s interesting to see so much here. It’s culturally diverse, and the students are conserving history and culture.
— Jose Lopez, a UConn alum and one of the original founders of Latin Fest/Noche Latina

Previously called Latin Fest, the venue was slightly different compared to past years because of the lack of a headlining performer for the evening. Instead, a series of dances and performances were presented by UConn’s Bringing Awareness Into Latino Ethnicities organization, and the latter half of the night was dedicated to open-floor dancing and Latino music.

The evening opened with an introduction from the director of PRLACC, and the BAILE president and vice president, Carlos Martinez and Francine Quintino, who presented a bouquet of flowers to their group advisor, Jennifer Morenus, for her work and support.

“I’m so touched, and so blessed to be working with such wonderful students,” said Morenus, who was nearly speechless with joy.

The student performances were held on the main floor of Jorgenson, and featured dances from various Latin countries and cultures, such as Puerto Rico, Colombia, Brazil, Peru and others.

The evening opened with a group performance of the salsa, a partner-based dance originating in Cuba. The dancers flipped, twirled and spun to contemporary music, and at one point the male students took off their shirts, much to the approval of a large part of the audience.

There were several “Senior Solos” throughout the night as well as group dances, with senior members of BAILE performing their swan songs before graduation. 

Among the solo performances were students Kimberly Machi and Leroandro Uriona Fernandez, who performed a partner dance to a mix of contemporary and traditional Latino songs and a father-daughter dance between BAILE vice president Francine Quintino and Neilo Quintino, along with karate-based choreography by Gabriela Sotero.

Student organizations representing various aspects of Latino culture and ethnic groups also performed together, showcasing traditional dances from around the world. Dances included the Merengue, a traditional partner dance with long dresses by the Colombian Student Association and a performance by the Peruvian Student Association.

Students dance during Noche Latina, hosted by UConn's Puerto Rican and Latin American Cultural Center in the Jorgensen Center for the Performing Arts in Storrs, Connecticut on Saturday, April 9, 2016. (Rebecca Newman/The Daily Campus)

After a total of 13 performances, that segment of the evening ended with all the members of BAILE coming together to perform one last partner dance, the Bachata, which featured spins, dips and a roaring applause from the audience at the end.

Organizing the performances wasn’t an easy feat, as BAILE president Carlos Martinez could attest.

“It was a lot of work,” said Martinez. “Long hours, late nights... It as an extreme amount of effort. [The students] were very dedicated to the dance. I’m looking at the crowd, the lights, and it’s an amazing feeling. It’s the fruits of our labor, and I’m proud of everyone.”

The audience’s reception to the student dances was, for the most part, positive.

“This was my first time going,” said student Lizzie Johnson. “I think it was very nice how they represented all the countries.”

Attendee Natalie Kalle agreed, saying, “It was wonderful to see everyone connecting to Latin culture.”

Other attendees wish for more traditional leanings in the performances.

“I liked the Columbian dresses,” said audience member Jorge Perez. “But I think the music was a little too contemporary. There should be more culture in it, with the dresses and flags.”

After the performances, the dance floor opened, with the New Haven-based Frankie Rodriguez Orchestra supplying Latino band music and vocals for revelers to dance to. For the rest of the night, attendees filled the dance floor in a celebration of cultural music and unification.

“It’s inspiring to see young people to take up cultural dance, at such an early age,” said Jose Lopez, a UConn alum and one of the original founders of Latin Fest/Noche Latina. “When people think of Latin culture, they think of only one thing. [But] it’s interesting to see so much here. It’s culturally diverse, and [the students] are conserving history and culture.”


Marlese Lessing is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at marlese.lessing@uconn.edu.