The Ole Miss theater department is kicking off the weekend with a Cuban salsa dance party and silent auction this Thursday night.
The event will be held at the Oxford University Club, and admission is $25 per person or $40 per couple. From 6 to 7 p.m., Cuban choreographer Ari Mukherjee will teach a salsa dance class, which will be followed by a dance party and silent auction.
The funds raised that night will support eight students as they travel to Cuba Dec. 10-23 to study with the Malpaso Dance Company and learn a new work by Cuban choreographer Osnel Delgado, which will then be performed at the Ford Center in January.
In mid-October of last year, Jennifer Mizenko, director of the Ole Miss dance program, said she was hanging out with Oxford photographer Millie West when the idea for a cultural exchange with Cuba began to form.
Mizenko said West has been traveling to Cuba since the ’90s and used to frequently invite Cuban artists to her gallery.
“I just started brainstorming and had no company in mind, just the idea,” she said.
Mizenko spent the next few months researching until she discovered Malpaso. From there, she decided to create a genuine exchange in which Ole Miss students go to Cuba and the Malpaso dancers come to Ole Miss.
Eight departments on campus have contributed financially to the five-day Cuban residency at Ole Miss in November. During this residency, the Malpaso dancers will live with Oxford locals and attend classes on subjects such as political science, sociology and modern languages.
“My thought was you come to our house and learn about us and then we’ll go to your house and learn a bit more about you and start a relationship between Ole Miss and Cuba,” Mizenko said. “No study abroad class has gone to Cuba yet.”
The organization “International Study Abroad” planned the Ole Miss students’ activities in Cuba – including salsa and rhythm classes.
“Since we have never gone to Cuba before, the Study Abroad office contacted this company, and they’re organizing all the logistics for us,” Mizenko said.
The culmination of the cultural and artistic exchange will be displayed at the Ford Center on Jan. 27, 2018, when the Malpaso Dance Company will return to perform the completed work with the Ole Miss dance students.
At least eight students need to participate in order for the exchange to occur, but Mizenko said that although many students are intrigued by the idea, they don’t have the financial means to travel to Cuba – thus, creating the need for the salsa dance fundraiser.
Junior exercise science major Madeleine Bradley said she will definitely be going to Cuba if everything works out.
“I’m excited for the dancing aspect,” Bradley said. “I can’t wait to see what comes of two cultures.”