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They've Got Rhythm
There's never a last tango in Durham
By Suki Casanave '86G

Burlen Loring '04 blames his passion for salsa on his girlfriend. "She used to drag me out dancing to clubs all over the place," says Loring, a graduate student in math. "I was always kind of uncomfortable." In an attempt at self-preservation, he signed up for dance lessons--and got hooked, especially on salsa. He started practicing once a week with a small group of friends. Word spread. More people showed up each week. Loring taught his friends everything he knew. "Pretty soon, I'd exhausted my knowledge," he says. "That's when I asked Luis to come."

Luis Nagle, who teaches at the Portsmouth Ballroom, is happy to be spreading the salsa gospel at UNH. "They're great kids," he says. "Really fun to work with." Nagle credits the growing popularity of Spanish culture with the salsa dancing surge at UNH and on campuses across the country. A relatively new dance form that evolved during the '70s, salsa is an informal dance that originated on the street--like swing or hip-hop.

"One thing about salsa that makes it so attractive," says Loring, "is that it's so easy to learn. Plus, the music is so upbeat and the rhythm is great." Every Wednesday night, Loring and dozens of others can be found in the MUB's Wildcat Den practicing their moves, including the pretzel, the helicopter and a slew of dips that involve breathtakingly close encounters with the floor. Some dancers wear sneakers and jeans. Others dress in revealing blouses, clingy skirts and high heels. All of them are completely focused.

A few who have gotten hooked on salsa (now an official UNH club) are trying tango, too. "It's probably the most physically demanding dance I've ever done in terms of structure," says Derek Gannon '10, who just started salsa dancing this year and decided he wanted to add tango to his repertoire. "I like them both," he says, citing the friendships he's developed as a great side benefit.

Mostly though it's the high-energy, passionate music and the endlessly creative moves of these Latin dances that draw students back week after week. "It's fun and it's sexy," says K.C. Conti '09, pausing for a minute to rest. Before she can catch her breath, the music starts in again, another partner is asking her to dance, and she is whisked back out onto the dance floor, red heels flashing.

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