LATIN WAVE: Santos, an urban studies major, says she watched YouTube videos of Onda Latina when she was in high school, and the group was part of the reason she chose to enroll at Penn. “I was really impressed by them, so I really wanted to get involved,” she says. “I tried out like a week into classes.”
BAILAR MEANS “TO DANCE”: Onda Latina performs a litany of Latin dance styles, from salsa, to bachata, to cha-cha. “We’ve also explored samba, paso-doble, and tango,” Santos says. “Choreographers become more creative every semester.” Some Onda Latina dancers are also members of the West Philly Swingers, so they have incorporated swing dance into their performances, as well.
SHOW RUNNER: As artistic director, Santos is responsible for creating the theme for the show, working with the Onda Latina board to decide the show order, and producing the videos and music. “I have to meet with choreographers and make sure their pieces fit with the theme,” she says. “I make sure everything flows.”
CROSS COLORS: Not all Onda Latina dancers are Latino or Latina; Santos says that every semester, the group becomes more diverse. “We have people from Belgium. We have people from Asia. It’s really mixed,” she says.
TWO TO TANGO: Onda Latina collaborates with a different performing arts group each fall. This semester, they are collaborating with Yalla, Penn’s only Middle Eastern drum and dance group.
DANCE LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW: Onda Latina holds two-day auditions in the fall and spring. Fall auditions were held Sept. 6 and 7. Santos says the Onda Latina judges look for charisma and enthusiasm in potential dancers, and also dancers who portray confidence and don’t look at the floor. “Even if you’re not that good, as long as you’re performing [the routine] with enthusiasm, that’s good,” she says.
COMPETING INTERESTS: After graduating in May, Santos is considering going to grad school for city planning or getting her MBA. “I have a lot of different interests so I want to find a way to combine all of them and do something cool that will actually have an impact,” she says.
SAVE THE LAST FRIDAY: Onda Latina puts on performances throughout the semester, along with its main presentation weekend, Oct. 25-26. The troupe will perform three shows in two days: a Friday evening show on Oct. 25, a Saturday matinee show on Oct. 26, and a Saturday evening program. For show times, visit the Onda Latina website.
Originally published on September 12, 2013