Latin dance helps student cope with hardships

Jessica Estrada

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Mia Jimenez, 20, said dancing helped her cope with the difficult times in her life. Her favorite dance is the Latin American bachata. Photo Credit: Jessica Estrada / Staff Reporter

Mia Jimenez’s passion for dancing began when she was six years old, however it wasn’t until recently that she found a way to connect that love for dance with her love for her culture.

The 20-year-old junior, double majoring in Chicana/o studies and psychology said she is a proud Latina and Latin dancing makes her feel more in touch with her culture.

Jimenez began taking salsa classes and became familiar with bachata, a latin american dance style which she describes as romantic and sensual.

“A lot of people always ask me what bachata is and I always tell them to YouTube it,” Jimenez said.

Although not many people are familiar with the style of dance, it is becoming more popular, she said.

Jimenez said she posts event invitations on Facebook and encourages friends to take bachata classes at Steven’s Steak and Seafood House in Commerce.

Attending bachata class twice a week is something she looks forward to, she said.

“Even if I’m having a bad day, knowing that I have dance class later makes it better,” Jimenez said. “It is a lot of fun and it’s really good exercise.”

She said she started as a beginner and has worked her way to the intermediate level as she mastered the footwork.

Jimenez said she is inspired by her bachata instructor and his partner to keep practicing and improve her skills.

“Watching them perform makes my jaw drop and takes my breath away,” she said.

After dance class the studio transforms into a night club and she gets a chance to enjoy herself with others that share her passion for bachata.

The class has also introduced Jimenez to more traditional bachata music and exposed her to new artists like Joan Soriano and Kiko Rodriguez.

One of her favorite songs is “El verde de tus ojos” which is Spanish for “the green in your eyes.” Aventura is another one of her favorite artists.

Jimenez began dancing ballet as a little girl and has also learned jazz, folklorico, tap and salsa. She said dancing has always been her escape from reality.

“Dance is a part of my life,” she said.

Although Jimenez dances bachata for pleasure she misses the thrill of performing in front of a crowd.

“I like being nervous right before and having butterflies but then when the curtain opens they go away and I just dance,” Jimenez said.

Dance has helped her get through difficult times in her life especially in high school, she said.

High school seniors typically worry about getting into college, prom and making lasting memories.

On top of all that, Jimenez had to deal with her parents’ divorce and she said dancing really helped her cope.

“Dancing ballet in high school really helped me forget about everything and clear my head, I had no worries and just had fun,” she said.

Her ballet teacher, Jeniffer Fernandez, was also a big inspiration by sharing her experiences and helping Jimenez improve her skills.

“Mrs. Fernandez had a lot of energy, which was contagious,” Jimenez said. “She always made class fun,” Jimenez said.

As the first in her family to go to college, Mia serves as a role model for her two younger sisters.

After college, Jimenez plans to go into a master’s or Ph.D. program in sociology at CSUN, Cal State Los Angeles or the University of Southern California.

Jimenez aspires to work with children and give back to the community.

Jimenez embarked on a double major because she felt it would open more doors for her in the future.

Her interest in Chicana/o studies began after attending the Chicano Youth Leadership Conference in high school where she met Sal Castro, an activist known for his role in the East Los Angeles high school walkouts.

When Mia isn’t dancing or working on homework she is usually helping her mother run a home day care center.

Jimenez’s mother has also been a big inspiration for her.

After writing a paper for a Chicana/o studies class, based on her mother’s immigrant experience, she realized just how far her mother has come.

She came to this country with nothing and has raised three daughters, bought her own house and runs her own business, Jimenez said.

Jimenez also enjoys traveling with her family. She has visited Texas, Las Vegas, Mexico, and visited St. Louis and Chicago over winter break.

She hopes to one day visit the Dominican Republic where bachata originated.