Dance the night away: Ufuerza makes a successful comeback at their first post-COVID showcase

Performers dance in the Shalala Ballroom at UFuerza's "Fuego and Lux." Photo credit: Maya Charles

Salsa enthusiasts and non-dancers alike on campus flooded Shalala Ballroom for UM’s latino dance team Ufuerza’s first showcase following the pandemic. Students did not hesitate to snag tickets for the now sold-out, cocktail-attire event anticipated to be a night of “Fuego and Lux,” a title coined by the group.

Bachata and merengue as well as other traditional dances were blended in several lively, tasteful routines performed by the team established in 2016. There was even a Hora Loca, or “crazy hour” in Spanish, where members of Ufuerza brought up audience members onto the dance floor to join in the festivities.

Partner work and rehearsals were not feasible during COVID. The club took a hiatus until Fall 2021: the semester Fatima Navarro, a public relations and Spanish minor, auditioned. This is the first showcase for Navarro.

“We wanted to be true to our mission of performing, competing and educating the campus community. So the showcase was something that embodied all of those components for us. We started making it a reality last semester when we finally got costumes, proper funding, started talking to vendors,” Navarro said.

As treasurer of the team, she organizes and itemizes the budget and sends documentation to the Student Activity Fee Allocation Committee (SAFAC) to ensure they get the necessary funding to put on big events like these each school year. This is their central event of the semester.

Mexican-descent and motion pictures major Osvaldo Espino filmed the showcase. He has attended several rehearsals throughout the semester to complete his short film about the group for an internship. The president of Ufuerza reached out to him for his talent.

“So it kind of just happened to work out so well that like we both needed each other at the same time. You know, it was kind of crazy when she came to me because I was gonna come to her at that time.”Espino said.

He has interviewed the dance captain and a number of other members on the team throughout the entire process. The extended cut will be finished sometime in May and the final version is projected to be over an hour in length.

The team holds one group-wide Friday rehearsal every week and small group rehearsals with specific familias, section groups or sections on a different day of the week. They had ramped up rehearsals nearing the showcase date.

“I’m most proud of them for just attempting to pull off something this big, you know, this is the first major performance from this group in a couple of years … they’ve never done anything this big at this magnitude,” Espino said. “The level of dancers that they’ve had spanning from people who are barely learning how to dance to people who have like ballroom background…it’s just gonna be insane, whether they pull it off or not.”

The team had a hefty task to fundraise for the annual performance. From Chipotle catering and Piña Coladas to Brazilian dancers and beautiful costumes, the showcase was the place to be. Many attendees like Amari McNair have dance experience and came to support the team.

“Just watching my friend perform and seeing her having a good time. I’m excited for that,” McNair said.

Prioritizing the philanthropic mission to promote latin culture to the community, tickets were free of charge though attendees are encouraged to donate. All proceeds went towards UM’s First Star Academy program where rising 9th grade, foster care children are provided one month of campus-lodging and academic mentorship for 4 years.

Aside from academic instruction, children participate in an array of workshops from mental health, budgeting, and time management to substance abuse, nutrition, and healthy relationships.