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At end of year celebration, Rutgers salsa club brings together live music, dancing, food

<p>On Monday night, the Rutgers Salsa Club brought live music, dancing and food into the College Avenue Gymnasium for their 17th annual "RU Salsa Project."</p>

On Monday night, the Rutgers Salsa Club brought live music, dancing and food into the College Avenue Gymnasium for their 17th annual "RU Salsa Project."

On Monday night, the College Avenue Gymnasium was transformed into a salsa party open to friends and family featuring live music, dancing, catered dinner and showcase performances for the Rutgers Salsa Club’s 17th annual end of year celebration, "RU Salsa Project."

“Rutgers’ Salsa (Club’s) Annual '(RU) Salsa Project' is an end-of-the-year event where our club members have the opportunity to showcase the choreography and dancing skills they have been working on all year,” said Janisha Rodriguez, the secretary of the club and a Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy junior.

Tickets were $7 at the door for Rutgers students, and doors opened at 7 p.m.

At 7:30 p.m., the "RU Salsa Project" opened with a 15-minute introductory class for guests who were new to salsa dancing.

At around 8 p.m., the floor opened for social dancing.

The event was open to students and non-Rutgers guests, especially families and friends of those performing, Rodriguez said. Anyone who wanted to enjoy a night of salsa dancing was invited to join their annual celebration.

“Club members practice this choreography all spring semester, so each and every one of us is invested in this event,” said Samantha Meza, vice president of the Rutgers Salsa Club and a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior.

Meza said that the nine students on the executive board began planning this event in the fall semester.

Rodriguez also stated the importance of the team effort in organizing and setting up "RU Salsa Project."

“The smoothness of the event relies on the little things such as making sure the food, band and DJ are taken care of, staying on task with the itinerary, making a geotag for Snapchat and of course, setting up floor plans and decorations to transform the College Avenue Gym into a salsa social environment,” she said.

This was the biggest turnout since her first "RU Salsa Project" in 2015, Rodriguez said.

In fact, Meza said the executive board believes about 400 people were in attendance.

“I would like to recognize everyone (who) made Salsa Club here what it is today,” said Sushma Kulkarni, club president at the event.

The School of Arts and Sciences senior also thanked the current executive board for their dedication throughout the year, and for putting this event together.

“All the effort they’ve put in together, it’s something that I’m going to appreciate forever,” she said.

After congratulating the five graduating seniors in the club, Kulkarni also introduced the members of next year’s executive board.

After dinner, the event showcased the talented members of the Salsa Club with performances by dancers in the beginner, intermediate and advanced groups, followed with a performance by two dance instructors, and ending with a dance from the Rutgers Salsa Team, a more selective group whose members must try out.

Part of the responsibility of being on the e-board is to instruct a full salsa routine for students in the different levels of the club, said Nonye Okafor, the fundraising chair and a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences sophomore.

Executive board members teach beginner and intermediate classes, she said. Okafor currently teaches beginner lessons with her partner, Chris White.

Okafor said that this was her first year working as an instructor. 

“I can say it’s definitely a lot of work, but also a fun experience, and I can’t wait to do it again next year,” she said.

Looking at next semester, the Salsa Club will meet every Monday night at 9 p.m. at the College Avenue Gym. Regardless of their experience level, Rodriguez said, anyone will fit in, because the club offers basic, intermediate and advanced levels.

“Our goal is to spread the love of salsa dancing through instruction to anyone in the Rutgers community who is willing to learn,” she said.

In a later interview, Kulkarni said that this year, RU Salsa Club officially became the largest sports club organization out of all the Rutgers campuses.

“Although the backbone is the same, we have continued developing to be bigger and better every year,” she said.

Through the year, Okafor worked with her fundraising co-chair, Rachel Chubin, to pitch events and ways to raise money for this end of year performance event.

Members worked to organize grocery bagging events at nearby ShopRite, where they volunteered to bag groceries and received tips for the club, Okafor said.

“This year we raised almost $1,000 in pre-sale tickets for our Salsa Project, which is why we try to give back to everyone who supported us with an unforgettable and enjoyable night,” Okafor said.  

Christina Gaudino is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in public policy. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

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