Latin dance is more than movement— it’s emotion and language

Video by Brooke Haesemeyer
Words by Mia Simone Rush

Salsa, bachata, cha-cha are social styles of Latin dancing where a connection is formed through movement and the relationship between the heart and the sound creates raw energy. No matter what language one may speak, when on the dance floor, words mean nothing. Dancing speaks volumes.

Allison Peterson, Latin dance instructor for Salsa Des Moines and the Descarga Latin Dance student group at Iowa State University, began her formal training at the age of 3 in jazz, tap, ballet and modern dancing. It was her love of dance and movement that prompted her to explore the Latin style not only in Des Moines, which has a relatively new and growing scene, but in places with more developed scenes, like Boston and the Dominican Republic.  

The ability to channel emotion in movement has enhanced not only her understanding of herself, but of others. Dancing speaks organically, and there is a heightened sense of awareness among those involved.

“It’s the universal language of (Latin dancing),” Allison said. “I speak English, but do I really just speak English?”

Portraits of the Plains is a video series that compiles the stories of Midwestern artists to paint with broader strokes a story about the art community in the Midwest.