CSU’s VSSP brings students together one step at a time

By Chau Tang

When couples think of love and all that it entails, they may think of dance as a love language that can bring their hearts together. Dancing, especially a sensual one, like Latin dance, can ignite a new fire within their relationship, or rekindle an old flame which is fitting for days like Valentine’s Day.
The Veteran Student Success Program (VSSP) is helping to spread some of that fire and the love of dance to students at Cleveland State University with their free Latin dance classes, which are in their fourth semester of being offered.
There are 10 classes being offered this semester on Feb. 1, 8, 15, March 1, 8, 22, 29 and April 5, 12, 26. The classes are intended to be taught by Brittany Carbaugh, a graduate assistant at the VSSP.

The program was originally started for students who are military affiliated and veteran students, to provide them resources that they may need but don’t have access to in other places on campus. They have access to a space with computer printing and a room to socialize as well as a peer mentorship program, which Carbaugh oversees and coordinates in addition to other educational benefits that are offered.

Bringing dancing to veterans has been in the works in many places for a while now, according to Carbaugh who wants to use Latin dance to help VSSP students.

“There has been a number of initiatives across the nation that have tried to use dance to work with veterans, but a partnership didn’t work out at that time,” Carbaugh said. “I want to work with student veterans. [The initiatives] use salsa specifically, but I want to look at all the genres of the Latin dance.”

Carbaugh believes that dance can help relieve stress and build a sense of community.

“I would like to get students active and interact with peers,” Carbaugh said.

She has danced for most of her life and, just in the last eight years, she began practicing partner dancing. Through her love for the social Latin dance genre, which includes salsa, bachata, merengue and cha cha, her knowledge of partner dances and her love for the activity continues to grow.

Any student at Cleveland State is welcome to join the dance classes even if they are not apart of the VSSP themselves. Even though Carbaugh has seen this program grow since its beginning, there are areas that can be improved, and she noted that integrating the program into the main campus is one of those areas.

On Friday, Feb. 8, students gathered and started learning the bachata, one of the many dances that are taught there. Participants can expect to learn the merengue, bachata, salsa and cha cha in the coming weeks.

The skills that are learned in each dance build onto each other as the dances become more complex and challenging. Students are first taught the basics and then work their way up to the complicated dances as the weeks go by, which according to Carbaugh, is a good way to build their confidence on the dance floor.

“If people want to go out to a club in Cleveland, they would be able to dance on the floor comfortably as beginners but with a solid foundation and basics for those dances,” Carbaugh said.

She loves teaching dance to people and encourages them to use the information and apply it to social environments. She travels the United States teaching and performing dance, along with coaching a salsa team in Cleveland.

To make sure that students have ample time for their studies and breaks, there are no lessons scheduled during break or the first or last couple week of classes.

According to Carbaugh, no reservations are required, but they are recommended. Students can email the program at VSSP@csuohio.edu to let the instructor know they will be coming or if they have any questions or concerns about the class.