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Students enjoy salsa lessons during Multicultural Appreciation Week

By Steve Burwick

Elizabethton Star

Milligan College celebrated Multicultural Appreciation Week 2011 this month, with a variety of arts and cultural events beginning Monday, Feb. 14. One of the highlights of the week was Hispanic Culture Day on Wednesday.

Instructors offered Latin American dance lessons in the lower level of Milligan’s Seeger Memorial Chapel. The event was free, but donations were accepted to raise awareness and money for children in Mexico.

Nathan Dively of Kingsport, who is Filipino-American, and Hayley Greer of Johnson City, who is Vietnamese, provided lessons in salsa, a lively dance with roots in Cuba, and bachata, which originated in the Dominican Republic.

“We also had free tacos, which some of our Mexican students made from a homemade recipe,” said Tracey Woods, a junior business administration major from Nashville, who helped organize the Hispanic Day event.

Woods was one of about 30 students who participated in the lessons, reluctantly at first until the Latin beat started playing. People paired up, and as the ladies outnumbered the guys about two to one, several women had to take the “male” role. Participants learned a variety of steps, leads and turns, and as they gradually loosened up, the rhythm took over. Dively told the students that the handful of basic moves they were learning are used wherever people dance the salsa.

The Multicultural Appreciation Week began with a fine arts showcase called “Fusion” on Monday in Milligan’s Gregory Center for the Liberal Arts. The evening included a fusion of music, drama, poetry and art from diverse cultures, performed by Milligan students.

On Tuesday, Milligan hosted a screening of the film, “Invictus,” in Hyder Auditorium, followed by a discussion led by Dr. Ruth Cook, professor of English and humanities at Milligan.

“It highlighted South Africa and Nelson Mandela. It was a great movie,” said Woods.

Meaghan Roland, a freshman photography major from Lexington, Ky., said the dance lessons were a fun part of the week for her.

“It’s cool to take a break from study and everything, and I learned something new,” said Roland. “I’ve danced before, but it’s cool to be able to learn how to partner dance, which I’ve always wanted to do.”

Roland also enjoyed learning about black history and the changes in race relations in the United States during Monday’s Fusion event.

Abenezer Abraham, a junior biology major from Nashville, said he learned of the varied talents of some of his fellow students during that event, which he hosted.

“We saw many of our friends that we didn’t know had those talents. It was a blast, and I was really happy to host it,” said Abraham, adding that among the talents displayed were singing, playing a ukelele and clogging. “I learned a lot about the cultures of individual people, what they like to do and what their passion is about. I thought that was great but I’m excited to learn more, especially the salsa dancing.”

Sarah Bertelsen of Tucson, Ariz., a sophomore nursing major, said her favorite part of the week was the dancing.

“In Tucson, I used to go salsa dancing all the time,” she said. “There are not many opportunities in Johnson City and this area, so this is my first chance to go salsa dancing here.”

Krista Knudtsen, who grew up in the Philippines as a “missionary kid” and is currently a freshman at Milligan with an undeclared major, said it was nice to come and experience some physical activity in a social atmosphere.

“I think it’s really wonderful that they offer this kind of thing to kids so they can be a part of the world, by bringing it to them,” said Knudtsen.

Dively and Greer teach Latin American dance on Thursday nights at the Hilltop Ballroom in Johnson City and also perform in a salsa “congresito”, a music and dance festival held periodically in the Tri-cities area.

On Thursday, students hosted a festival of cultures in McCormick Dining Hall, with international food, music, games and door prizes. The meal included gyros and sushi.

MCA Week closed with a night of multicultural worship led by churches from the community and Milligan students on Friday.



MILLIGAN UNIVERSITY is a Christian liberal arts university in Northeast Tennessee whose vision is to change lives and shape culture through a commitment to servant leadership. The university offers more than 100 majors, minors, pre-professional degrees and concentrations in a variety of fields, along with graduate and adult degree completion programs.  To learn more about Milligan University, visit www.milligan.edu or call 800-262-8337.

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