Learning Salsa to Combat Social Isolation
What does a dance business do during a pandemic when the only “social” we hear about is social distancing? For Anaya Latin Dance, the answer was diving deeper into what it means to connect and how social dance could be a one-two step to addressing social isolation in young Alaskans.
While the value of arts in a community is plentiful, at its core, art is most impactful in its ability to humanize us. The work of the artist can help us make sense of changes or crises, and even bring comfort or healing. At the Anchorage Concert Association (ACA), while the limitations brought on by the pandemic meant large theatre gatherings were temporarily on hold, the work of connecting artists and community continued.
The Community Artist Project was developed during the winter of 2020 as a partnership with 5 selected Anchorage-based artists to co-design projects that addressed the isolation of our environment both seasonally and socially. While this was an extension of the community centered work ACA has been engaging in for years, it was a unique opportunity to focus on artists and the communities they cared about. As part of ACA’s 2021 group of Community Artists, Anaya Latin Dance saw this opportunity as a chance to connect with youth to address the need for safe, face-to-face social contact as well as physical connection, both lacking after a year of covid-related restrictions.
Anaya Latin Dance is a company that specializes in traditional Cuban dances that was formed in 2018 by Ciro and Liz Anaya. Liz has an extensive background in education and Ciro is both an arts educator and professional dancer from Cuba. Together, this couple combines their knowledge to teach Cuban salsa and other Cuban social and popular dances both in their studio business, but often, across the community in workshops, town square events, and wherever they can share their passion for dance. This Community Artist Project brings them into West High School and Stellar Secondary School for a series of after school workshops through the end of October. This act of teaching dance and sharing their culture provides opportunities to practice empathy and mutual respect, healthy boundaries, kindness, good etiquette, and of course, giving students the chance to have fun.
Social dance provides lessons for us on how to adapt, go with the flow or change our footing, how to lead or follow, and the importance of connection. The students may show up to salsa or to learn how to mambo, but they’ll be in for so much more.