ARC student hosts seminar for Hispanic dance styles


Berenis Leonard demonstrated different Hispanic dance styles to ARC students. Berenis Leonard encouraged ARC to Join in during the demonstration. (Photo by Nicole Kesler)

Nicole Kesler

American River College held a seminar showcasing Hispanic dance styles and their role in storytelling last Thursday, hosted by ARC student Berenis Leonard.

Leonard performed a lively presentation of Latin dance forms in front of an audience.

“I have been dancing since I was seven. I started salsa dancing at the age of 17, when I joined a team with my mom, she’s the one that really inspired me to do this,” said Leonard.

Leonard grew up around salsa and ended up falling in love with the techniques of the dance.

A few years ago Leonard moved to Sacramento “where (she) found the dance program here at ARC and really got back into dancing,” she said.

“I didn’t know anyone and I loved to dance so I thought this would be a great way to meet people,” she added.

In the summer of 2015, Leonard took a trip to the Dominican Republic and was there for two months teaching English and dance to children.

“It was such a big life changing experience, it was beautiful and really spiritual for me,” she said of the experience. “It made me realize that I love teaching and reaching out to people through dance.”

Abigail Durkee, an ARC student who is graduating this spring with an Associate degree in dance, said that she had been inspired by Leonard.  

Durkee attended the seminar to support Leonard and to “thank her for all the help she’s given (her) in the classes (they’ve) had together.”

“I’m transferring to San Jose State where I’ll get a (Bachelor of the Arts degree) in dance, then I hope to perform for many years after that then start my own dance studio,” said Durkee.

Leonard has a dance studio located in downtown Sacramento.

Different forms of dance are offered at her studio including Azteca, Folklorico, Spanish Donnas and folk dance with pop influences from Italy, Spain, Cuba and Mexico.

Leonard mentioned that “dance therapy is very popular dance on the east coast and is slowly making its way west.”

Kodak Castro, a computer science major at ARC, said that “(He wants) to try to learn the cultural values of the performance to show how they differ from the United States, and try to learn a different point of view.”

Castro attended the event to gain a better perspective on different cultures and be able to “relate it to (his life).”

Leonard’s “Hispanic dance styles” showcases run from May 13-15.