Students Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with an Orisha Dance Workshop
By Miranda Cazares
Reporting Texas TV
AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Texas at Austin hosted an Afro-Cuban Orisha dance workshop at the Recreational Sports Center, on Sept. 29.
The event was one of several activities associated with Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration from Sept. 15 through Oct. 15 that recognizes the significant contributions of Hispanic/Latinx Americans. The Orisha workshop represented Hispanic culture in the form of dancing.
Orisha dances are a part of the Afro-Cuban Folklore (Yoruba). For many Cubans, Orisha is a spiritual-religious practice and culture.
Nadia Issa, an Orisha dance instructor, welcomed the opportunity to teach students the Afro-Cuban dance. She said it is important to bring awareness to the culture.
“This is the first time that I’m teaching,” Issa said. “They had one other African Folklore [workshop] in the area, but there are no people in the Austin area really teaching this, so I would hope it’s annual, and that it’s more common.”
Issa said she hoped many students would participate, and more than two dozen students filled the dance studio.
“Because it’s a big group, it’s better, and you felt that high energy in the drums,” Issa said.
“That’s why I had them go across the floor,” she said, “because I want them to be able to come in close contact. I don’t think we have that enough in dance, in community spaces, just to do little tactics like that helps us really feel our energy together. The fact that [there] were so many [of us] was magical.”
The workshop allowed students to gain a strong understanding and technical skill and rhythms of the dances as they moved barefoot to the accompaniment of drummers.
Katelyn Doyle, a UT freshman, said she appreciated the live music in the studio.
“Having the drummers here is such a treat because we were barefoot, so you can feel the reverberations off the floor and it just makes it that much more, powerful and impactful, dancing with the drums and their leading,” Doyle said.
For students, celebrating Hispanic culture through dance meant a lot
“I feel like UT has so many different people, so I feel like with Hispanic Heritage Month, it’s so important to lift all those people up,” Doyle said. “I think that this was a part of that, showing that representation and Cuban, … and those different aspects in the dancing community.”
Aniya Porter, a freshman dance major, usually practices ballet in the studio. This was her first time to try Orisha.
She said celebrations of Hispanic culture help her feels like she belongs at UT.
“UT is very diverse., I feel like I was nervous stepping foot on this campus because I am a person of color,” Porter said.
“I feel like it’s predominantly not people of color, but just having classes like this and having ways where you can feel you’re welcome is so important.”
For information about other Hispanic Heritage Month events at UT, visit the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement’s website.