Salsa enchants a dance floor as couples pivot and hips sway. A voice in the low-lit room commands order to an eight-count rhythm.
The voice belongs to 21-year dance veteran Karim Armazanduk.
She looks around the hall at all the non-dancing spectators and says, “Come on in, the dance floor is fine.”
The couples in Armazanduk’s class are preparing for the upcoming Latin Love Fest on Valentine’s Day. She said it’s an event that is not so much about romantic love as it is about love of dance.
“Dancing is about people and connection, and that is why it’s so connected to a holiday like Valentine’s (Day),” she said.
Jackie Zamora, a graduate student in Portuguese dance, Spanish dance and world dance programs, said she feels the Love Fest is a great outlet for self-expression. Zamora, whose band Calle 66 will be performing at the Love Fest, said she was surprised to find such a large community of Latin dancers in Albuquerque.
Zamora, who is from Peru, said these dances were a part of many of her childhood memories. For her, the festival is about having a good time and not worrying about being judged.
“Just free your ass and your mind will follow,” she said.
Another performer at this year’s festival is Latin music legend and UNM alumna Ivon Ulibarri. Ulibarri said she fell in love with salsa when she heard the music of Carlos Santana as a girl. The love for Latin music thrived as Ulibarri grew; she has been a professional salsa musician for more than 25 years.
“This style of music validates our identities as New Mexicans,” Ulibarri said.
James Foley and his local dance organization, Guanabana Productions, organized the Latin Love Fest. He said he wanted to create a special event for dancers on Valentine’s Day because it isn’t like other holidays.
“The idea came from the fact that this was a holiday that nobody had. We wanted this event to be student friendly, singles safe, and couples welcome,” Foley said. “It has a rave-like atmosphere with brick walls and great lighting.”
Latin Love Fest
1512 First St. N.W.
Friday at 8 p.m.
$20 general/$15 students
For more information visit abqlatinfest.com