LASA aiming to be ‘fire’ as it prepares for upcoming International Fiesta


Jefry Taveras said other clubs should be scared because the Latin American Student Association “will be fire” at the upcoming International Fiesta competition.

The LASA club member’s comments show the confidence the reigning Fiesta champions have as it holds auditions and begins to prepare for the competition, which will take place on March 5.

Last week, LASA held open auditions on campus for its dance team, Alma Nanichi. More than 80 people came out to audition and only 40 were selected. Kanishka Wanninayaka, LASA’s dance liaison and a sophomore environmental science major, said the final casting calls were no small accomplishment.

“The ratio is about 2:1. There are always more girls than guys,” Wanninayaka said.

This made finding dance partners exceedingly difficult and required Wanninayaka to be more critical when matching people up.

LASA’s budget for International Fiesta is $1,500 to use for costumes, props and anything else it may need. But Monica Duque, LASA treasurer and a junior health and human services major, said she would be willing to increase the budget if necessary because she wants Fiesta to be the best one yet.

“By the end of this week we should have a pretty good idea and we will see if the budget given to them is enough,” Duque said. “We do have big events in the works for the future so we are trying to make sure we have enough for all that we have planned.”

The group takes dancing seriously as it is part of the culture they celebrate as an organization.

“To my knowledge, LASA is the only club that designates a dance liaison on their [executive] board,” Wanninayaka said. “The reason being that dance in Latin culture is an essential aspect of what it means to be Latin.”

Even though LASA was originally Latin-based, the diversity amongst members ranges considerably. LASA’s devotion to representing Latin culture led them to create the dance e-board position.

“Fiesta is a showcase of each international clubs culture and is our first and biggest performance of the year,” Wanninayaka said.

Win or lose, once Fiesta is over, LASA will be taking their performance on the road to different school that hosts some of the best university dance teams across the nation.

Wanninayaka finds pride in saying that the family dynamic Alma Nanichi nurtures has resulted in dance partners turning into couples and on occasion getting married. Wanninayaka said that he believes LASA does such a good job in partnering up dancers with good chemistry, both on and off stage, that serious relationships are bound to sprout up.

When the judges critique Alma Nanichi on its overall performance, they will most likely be looking at qualities of the piece such as the storyline and theme, choreography, sets and props, costumes and finally the essence of culture in their performance.

But Wanninayaka used a different philosophy in deciding whom to call back.

“It’s more about expressing emotion in their dancing as opposed to needed to be the best dancer,” Wanninayaka said. “Then we look at who they dance best with and finally what their best dance actually is.”

Performers vary in levels of experience in both dance and within the group. Some have been performing their whole lives, while others are just starting out.

John Villalta, LASA vice president and a junior exercise science major, has two years of Fiesta experience to offer the dance committee.

“Last year I was in three of the five dances and this year I was casted for two dances,” Villalta said.

Villalta stressed the importance of time management in balancing his academic course load, his responsibility as vice president and his involvement with the dance committee.

“We usually hold practices at night to be able to fit it into everyone’s schedule and we designate certain days for certain practices,” Villalta said.

The dance committee learned that this was the most effective method to practice. Last year, they held practice one day a week and would run all the routines.

Taveras, a junior psychology major, said that the selection process was long and stressful.

“In total we probably spent about 20 hours making cuts,” Taveras said. “We always try to give seniority to people who have shown love to LASA but can’t always promise people the spots they want.”

He said that people were disappointed but that in the end, the committee feels that they did the best they could with the resources at hand.

“Kanishka’s little helpers,” as Taveras amicably called the other members of the committee and himself who are focused on drilling the choreography and then polishing the routine later.

This year’s “Legacy” theme has Taveras thinking creatively – he said that they “took a different approach to the theme,” and that it’s going to be something the group hasn’t done before.

International Fiesta will be held in the Center for the Arts on March 5 at 7 p.m.

Toms Olivier is a features desk editor and can be reached at