By Rose Luna
Killeen Daily Herald
Reality television shows such as ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" and the Latin music craze of this decade have turned traditional dances like salsa and merengue into pop culture icons like the '90s dance songs, the "Butterfly" or "Macarena."
In bigger cities like Dallas and Austin, there's a slew of dance studios that offer everything from rumba to mambo, and of course, the cha-cha.
But dance teacher Jeannette Amdayag is one of the best-kept secrets of Central Texas College's continuing education program.
Amdayag offers three Latin classes: merengue, cumbia and salsa.
The product of professional dancers, Amdayag has been dancing all her life and has been a professional dancer for 25 years.
"It's a part of who I am, and it's a part of my culture," said Amdayag, who is of Argentinian descent.
Emphasizing the music, Amdayag does not teach choreography in her class, but basic steps of each dance that will allow her students to express themselves.
"I don't teach – I have fun," Amdayag said. "I want the students to have fun and loosen up."
Tarleton student Rita Arie, 21, is not Latin or Hispanic – although she commonly is mistaken for being of Latin descent. She loves to try the steps when she goes out to dance clubs.
Her dance partner, Sergio Cadavid, grew up with Latin music but never truly mastered Latin dance.
"Salsa and merengue are coming back," said Cadavid, 22. "There's so much tradition and emotion in (the dances)."
Matias Garza enrolled in the cumbia dance class just to get the fundamentals.
With a Mexican heritage, he was familiar with the dance.
"I go to weddings and Quinceaeras, and I see different variations of the dance," Garza said. "I wanted to learn something different.
I definitely feel more confident now when I go out on the dance floor."
Amdayag's students have noticed other benefits to the dance classes than just learning how to shake their hips.
"I've lost two inches on my waist," said Maria Del Rio, who has taken all three dance classes at CTC. "You also learn balance and beat."
Del Rio and her dance partner, Gerardo Correa, hardly need classes as experienced dancers, but love the excuse to grace the dance floor.
"Dance in the middle of the floor or dance on the street," Del Rio said. "Just have fun. That's what the Latin dance is all about."
Amdayag's salsa class begins June 19, and her merengue and cumbia classes begin in July.
Each class is $31, and can be paid up to the day before the class starts. Children under 18 will need parental permission, and Amdayag does not recommend the classes for children under 12.
CTC also offers cha-cha and rumba, taught by Geneva Barker, and the classes will start July 9-18,
meeting Mondays and Wenesdays from 7 to 9 p.m.
For more information, call the CTC continuing education department at (254) 526-1586.
Contact Rose Luna at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 501-7469