That’s the true lesson behind the salsa club Ritmo y Pasión, a blend of Fresno State students and community members who come together each week to dance the salsa.
Every Friday, while others unwind from the long week, club members put on their dancing shoes and head to the Peters Building basement for two-and-a-half hours of dancing.
Club founder Sara Essary was inspired to create the club by her own love of dance. She was a member of the club that preceded Ritmo y Pasión, Fresno State Salsa Club, a dance group where members could salsa and swing.
But when Fresno State Salsa Club began to disassemble due to lack of attendance and leadership, Sara created a club of her own devoted solely to salsa.
It started with “a desire for a completely new entity on campus that wasn’t affiliated with what wasn’t working, so that people would recognize it as fresh and new,” Essary said.
Essary founded the club three years ago, and it’s been growing ever since.
Club member Sanca Hernandez has been around practically since the start three years ago. Hernandez said she hated dancing before joining Ritmo y Pasión and only gave the club a chance as a favor to her friend.
“I was just going to watch. I really had the intention of just watching,” Hernandez said.
Then someone asked her to dance; a dancer from the community whose technique quite literally swept her off her feet.
“There was something about it, being asked to dance, that made me want to keep coming, and after that even like wanting to ask other people to dance too,” Hernandez said.
Now Hernandez dips and swings her hips with confidence because she understands that learning is the club’s primary goal.
“One way to progress is to never be afraid to ask for help,” Hernandez said.
Who better to ask than one of the club’s newest salsa instructors, Joey Bink? Since joining Ritmo y Pasión just a year ago, Bink has transitioned from the dancing tenderfoot to a footwork aficionado.
A self-proclaimed introvert, Bink attributes his personal growth and newfound dancing skills to his membership in Ritmo y Pasión.
“It’s an experience that breaks people out of their shell, you know, fairly easily, without you even realizing what’s happening. It happens to a lot of people,” Bink said.
Bink said dancing the salsa forces one out of their comfort zone, and helps members connect.
“When you’re dancing, you’re very open with people and you’re creating a connection with people that you don’t normally make just out in daily life,” Bink said.
Those connections help him become more outgoing and improve as a dancer, as he learns new skills and helps others to do the same.
“I’ll say yes to everybody for dancing. Just because if it’s somebody who’s new, I can teach them something. If it’s somebody who’s really good, who’s a pro, I can learn something,” Bink said.
And for prospective members who are more reserved, Bink explains that the club’s inviting atmosphere will have them side-stepping outside of their comfort zones and into the world of salsa in no time.
“Not only do we try to connect with everybody who comes into the club, we also try to do it in a respectful way so people don’t get uncomfortable and leave. We try to keep that comfortable atmosphere going to help people stay, keep returning, keep dancing and enjoy it.”
Ultimately, the club is about helping members find their rhythm and discover their passion. Whether it be a devotion to dance like Essary’s, a love of learning like Hernandez’s, or a newfound sense of self like Bink’s.
“I think the biggest thing is just trying to make people comfortable with doing something that makes them uncomfortable,” Bink said.