More than 60 performers coloured the stage throughout the evening on Feb. 4. (Photo: Jim Neale)

Latin vibes flavour Dal's La Velada fiesta

Dalhousie Spanish Society presents annual event filled with flamenco and salsa


Lisa Godde "fell in love" with South America when she worked in an orphanage in Ecuador for six months.

"I mostly like the happiness of the Latino culture and that they are always dancing to their amazing music," said the first-year international development student at Dalhousie University.

Godde and more than 400 others shared their interest for Spanish and South American culture at La Velada, which took place on Feb. 4 in the McInnes Room in the Student Union Building of Dalhousie University.

The music, food and dance event was presented by the Dalhousie Spanish Society, which aims to attract people interested in Hispanic culture. The group provides a place for native speakers, offers tutoring services to students taking Spanish classes, brings cultural and academic lecturers to campus and organizes Spanish educational programs at elementary schools.

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The authentic South American cuisine, which included empanadas, quinoa and minestra, was a hit. (Photo: Dorine Schreiner)

With more than 60 performers and Latin American cuisine, La Velada 2012 promised to be a spectacular event.

Tickets at $25 were sold out on Jan. 31, five days prior to the fiesta, which included the performances, food and dancing.

According to the home page of Dalhousie's department of Spanish & Latin American studies, the Dalhousie Student Union voted La Velada the best society event of the year in 2009.

A night of dancing

Arielle Goldschläger, president of the Dalhousie Spanish Society, who is in her final year of a combined international development and Spanish studies, enjoyed the flamenco, Colombian cumbia and "sexy" salsa numbers from Halifax Salseros.

"My favourite moments [of La Velada over the years] have been dancing for hours with the faculty, who really know how to get down to reggaeton," she said.

Goldschläger has been on exchange for one semester in Campeche, Mexico, and another semester in Havana, Cuba. She has also traveled to Costa Rica, Argentina and Chile.

"I was really looking forward to the food at the event," said Goldschläger. "It was more authentically Latin American than years in the past," she said.

Sodexo collaborated with Café Aroma Latino to cater to the event. Dishes included quinoa salad, minestra, empanadas and guava pastries.

While attendees sipped on their Tequila Sunrise cocktails or Coronas, which the Dalhousie Student Union bar served uniquely for the occasion, the evening kicked off with the beats of La Movida, followed by a parody of a "telenovela," also referred to as a Spanish soap opera, put together by members of the society.

Besides Halifax Salseros, performances were put on by Sunset Fiesta and the Maria Osende Flamenco Company and Maria Osende Flamenco Dance School. A Colombian cumbia dance was performed by Comunidad Latina, comprised of students from Dalhousie and the University of King's College.

"This year, we added a new flair of belly dancers from Serpentine Studios," said Goldschläger.

"I mostly enjoyed the flamenco by the three women who only used their hands and feet to make music. They were amazing. I love music without instruments," said Vittorio Iormetti, a visiting graduate student from Italy, working on a master in mechanical engineering at Dalhousie.

Cindy Davis, a performer and salsa teacher at Halifax Salseros, said the society "does a great job of decorating the venue and making it a special night."

Halifax Salseros has been performing at La Velada for five years. As in past years, she and her partner Danny Godfrey delivered a dance lesson to finish off the performances, which transitions into the open dance floor, led by DJ Luke Von Disco.

"It's always fun to relax at the end and have a dance," said Davis. "It's great bringing Latin culture to Halifax and particularly to Dalhousie University ... There was great energy."

An ongoing tradition 

This was "about the 28th edition" of La Velada, said John Kirk, professor of Latin American studies at Dal, who attended the first of the La Veladas. Initially, the event took place at The Church (corner of North Street and Fuller Terrace), but moved to the Dal campus about 10 years ago. Kirk directs the university's study abroad program in Mexico and helped to develop the sister-city relationship between Halifax and Campeche, Mexico.

Kirk said when students return from their term abroad, "they are keen to share their knowledge of that culture with their peers. The result is a terrific show, with great imagination — and hard work.”


On Feb. 7, professor John Kirk was added to the story.


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