BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Located on Swan Street in Buffalo, the Pucho Olivencia Center has always been a hub of Hispanic Culture. On Wednesday nights, it’s an opportunity to share that culture through salsa dancing.
“I think all the components because there are so many, it’s easy to identify with something in the music and the dancing,” Fanny Olaya, a salsa dance instructor based in Buffalo, told News 4.
For Olaya, salsa music and dancing is a true combination of Latin American culture, evoking joy, family memories and pride. She says in a Hispanic household, dance and music makes menial, everyday tasks exciting.
“It comes from the music. Everything we do is with music. Mom cooking: with music. Putting up the Christmas tree: with music. All the songs that I dance now remind me of some episode from my childhood,” Olaya added. “I am always connected with my culture and my country through dance and music.”
Dance and music are expressions of culture that can be shared with anyone no matter their background or experience.
The basic steps are pretty simple: three steps forward, backward or to the side. Then, add in relaxed, natural arm movements and maybe a spin. The dance can be done alone or with a partner. That is the basic salsa that you could see in the streets or even in someone’s home during a family party.
While it may feel a bit awkward at first, when the lights come on and the music gets loud, the dance flows through your body and suddenly, you’re doing the salsa. That is what draws people from different walks of life to social dancing on Wednesday nights.
“I feel like there’s a sense of togetherness when you see how another culture embraces each other and embrace outsiders who come in and want to share the experience with them,” Nakema Clay, a salsa dancer, said.
“I never danced before but you don’t have to know how to dance before you come. It is a social dance. People are really friendly and it’s just a really good way to get connected to different people,” Anna Porter, a salsa dancer, added.
Olaya says she is grateful to be able to share her culture and passion with others every day. Her goal is to make people feel happy and share the art form with as many people as she can.
“If I can make other people feel what I feel when dancing, for me, its mission complete,” Olaya added.
Social dancing is held at the Olivencia Center on Wednesday nights starting at 7 p.m. Olaya also hosts other salsa events where Western New Yorkers can learn the basics all across Buffalo.
News 4 is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with a half hour special on Thursday, October 5 at 7 p.m. on the CW23. It will also air Friday, October 14 on News 4 at 7:30 p.m.
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Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.