Latin dance club returns to campus after pandemic hiatus

Salsa Loca returns creating a space for Latin dance


Jacob Peterson

Sac State Salsa Loca Club President Isabel Chavez in the University Union Wednesday, March 1, 2023. Before becoming the club’s president, Chavez said she served as its treasurer and helped revive the club after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jasmine Ascencio

If you ever make your way to the University Union on Wednesday nights, you’ll likely hear Latin music coming from the Redwood Room.

Peek inside, and you’ll see a diverse gathering of Sac State students and guests grooving, twirling, stepping and learning Latin dance from an instructor.

Last fall, Kueleza Vega, a fourth-year majoring in psychology, and Isabel Chavez, a third-year majoring in business finance, participated in one of Romi Sunga’s ‘Dance on the Edge’ classes.

It was this class that motivated the pair to bring back Salsa Loca, a Sac State dance club that was popular before the pandemic shut down in-person activities on campus.

Vega is Salsa Loca’s former president and current treasurer.

“I just felt this burning passion in my heart to bring it back,” Vega said. 

Story continues below photo.

Guest Instructor Javier Mata demonstrates dancing with a partner with Salsa Loca President Isabel Chavez in the Redwood Room of the University Union Wednesday, March 1, 2023. Mata said he had been a member of Salsa Roca when he was a Sac State student and was proud to come back to instruct. (Jacob Peterson)

Vega and Chavez met through a mutual friend and when Vega brought up the idea of bringing back the club, Chavez said she felt like it was meant to be.

“I already had that thought in my mind,” Chavez said. 

When Chavez began her time at Sac State in the fall of 2019, she said she was looking for a place of belonging through clubs — somewhere she could feel at home dancing. 

She said she found that feeling with Salsa Loca.

Salsa Loca was founded in 2007 by Felix Barba during his time at Sac State, said Randy Solorio, faculty advisor of Salsa Loca and Sacramento State gymnastics head coach. “(Barba) was a beginning dance student in my beginning ballroom dance class and loved to dance,” said Solorio.

Before the pandemic, Salsa Loca was one of the largest clubs at Sac State, Vega said, adding that it was a humbling experience to re-establish the club.  

“It’s so difficult to get things going, but that’s life,” Solorio said. “I mean, once we get out into the real world, this is a great learning platform.”   

Most of last semester was spent revising the constitution, mission and values of the club. Chaves said the revisions were challenging, but they found guidance from the previous club and community members. 

“Luckily with the community that has already been built with Salsa Loca, it felt like they supported us and they really wanted to see us win,” Chavez said. 

The club’s numbers have grown since it relaunched last semester. Chavez said about 35 to 40 people attend every week. 

Vega stepped down as president this semester and Chavez took his place. 

”I’m getting closer to graduating, so I’m just changing my focus a little bit,” Vega said, adding he is still very involved in Salsa Loca as treasurer. “[Chavez] just had the inclination. She had the knack, the drive, the passion — just the will to do it.”. 

Salsa Loca prioritizes being a welcoming environment and being inclusive of everyone, Chavez said. She said the dedication of the club members is inspirational.

It’s Chavez’s love of dancing and community that drives her to expand Salsa Loca, she said. She said she finds great reward in teaching students who come to the club with no dance experience.  

“We all just come together as a community and learn and do things that we like together, which is dancing,” Chavez said. 

She said she hopes to see Salsa Loca grow and host more events, but her intent is to provide a space for students and non-students to feel welcome and appreciated. 

“I support you and I want you to feel encouraged and inspired. That’s my main goal,” she said. 

When it comes to finding instructors, Chavez said it hasn’t been difficult. When the word got out that Salsa Loca was coming back, she said members of the community began reaching out to volunteer to teach. 

Dance instructor Javi Matas is one such community member who volunteers his time with Salsa Loca. Matas attended Salsa Loca when he was at Sac State in 2011 and met some of his closest friends through the club, he said. 

“You get to come back and give back to the community that kind of created your foundation for your love of dance,” Matas said. 

Chavez said the feeling of acceptance she noticed when she first joined the club is still evident. 

“My intention with the club is to be somebody that makes everybody feel like somebody,” Chavez said.

Salsa Loca meets every Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the Redwood Room in the University Union. It is open to all students and non-students. For more information, follow their Instagram.