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  • Otieno Okatch

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In my family we dedicate the entire month of October to the Holy Rosary. During this month I feast: Tacos al pastor with grilled pineapple and caramelized unions, tamales verdes, and creamy coffee. The food is unparalleled, but still, my favorite part of the festivals are the choreographed dances performed in the streets by men and women in shimmering costumes.


My mom named me after this month of celebration, Rosario De Arcos, and it’s definitely a fitting name! It truly personifies who I am: A dancer!


I remember being five years old: my parents starting their day with cafe de leche and huevos rancheros, my mom dancing as she cooked. The stove was always a spin and a two side steps away, the pantry, that was a dip and three claps to the left. My mom’s food was especially delicious when she danced Cumbia songs by Selena to La Sonora Dinamita.


Dancing is big part of my life. When I dance I’m free; I express myself with gracefulness. I’m especially fluent in Regeton, Salsa, Merenge and of course, Cumbia.


Every weekend my mom and I would go to a Zumba studio to dance. I loved being in an environment surrounded by people who love dance. Many people in the class had years of experience; I would watch them attentively. When mom would let me borrow her phone, I would record them dancing and secretly try to recreate their dance moves. I also watched YouTube videos of dancers from all over the world. Watching others dance with such passion and enthusiasm inspired me to better my style and technique.


As an adult, I still attend weekly Zumba classes. This year, I decided to turn my passion for dance into a something more than just a hobby. I set a goal: I would lead a Zumba class! I didn’t know where to start, but my PALS coach, who had been taking me to my Zumba class for months, offered to support me in accomplishing my goal.


That week my job coach and I spoke to my Zumba instructor after class and asked if I could help her lead a class. Even though I practiced asking this big question with my coach, nerves almost get the better of me, but with some encouragement I was able to mumble, “Would it be possible to help lead your class next time?”


Lupe, the instructor, quickly said: Of course! You’ve been attending my classes for such a long time; I can tell that you love dancing. You can definitely help me lead my class.”


I floated off in weightless bliss.


A week later, I attended my Zumba class as usual, hoping my instructor hadn’t forgotten about our conversation, I waited for her to call me up to the stage. My knees shook, and not in a dancing Punta kind of way.


A few minutes into the Zumba lesson I heard, “ROSARRRRIO!”

It was Lupe shouting from the stage: “Rosarrrrio! Come on up!” This was it. My moment. My years of practice all lead to this moment; finally, all eyes on me. The room suddenly became empty; I danced. I was Selena; I was Celia Cruz; I was my mom.


After the class all my friends congratulated me, telling me that did an amazing job. The instructor was proud, which made me very happy. My PALS coach and I plan to lead more classes once COVID allows it. In the meantime, I make videos to inspire young people who love to dance.







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