ASU Latin Sol festival ‘really honors the salsa and Latin dance community’


Three people clap at a dance performance.

Guest artists (from left) Edwin Tolentino and Ahtoy Juliana, along with Professor David Olarte, cheer on participants in Latin Sol at Arizona State University in Tempe. Photo by Mamasarr Seck

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The School of Music, Dance and Theatre recently hosted the seventh annual Latin Sol festival, a weekend-long celebration of Latin dance styles. The event is organized by the Arizona State University Salsa Club and features guest artist workshops, lectures and performances. Created by ASU students for ASU students, it’s completely free and accessible to all current Sun Devils.

ASU student Shayla Eshelman, a junior majoring in dance in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre, served as the director for this year’s festival and helped plan and organize the three-day event. 

“It’s so important to hold events like this, events that have cultural elements that are open to all people, but that let students of color know they are welcome and they have a place to go,” Eshelman said. “We want students to know that there’s nothing wrong with Westernized dancing, but there are more options available to you. That is why Latin Sol is so important. You have a place to go that isn’t being changed. You have a place to go with authentic teachers and movement.”

“It’s such a great event,” Eshelman said. “You get to try new styles and meet new people. You get to have fun!”

David Olarte, clinical assistant professor of dance and faculty mentor for the event, said the student organizers are really what make Latin Sol special. 

“Students are the essential fabric in Latin Sol,” said Olarte. “They work a full year to curate the guest artists, the schedule and programming, and the showcase to bring a culturally immersive experience to our ASU students and local community members.”

Students dance salsa outside under the colored lights at Nelson Fine Arts Plaza

Students dance salsa outside at Nelson Fine Arts Center in Tempe. Photo by Mamasarr Seck

More than 1,100 people attended the Latin Sol classes and performances. Guest artists came from all over the country. 

Ahtoy Juliana taught classes with her partner, Edwin Tolentino, on Latin hustle. Juliana is an artist, scholar, activist and World Latin Hustle champion whose work was featured in the movie adaptation of “In the Heights.” She shared about the background and appropriation of Latin Hustle as well as the challenges of archiving it for future generations.  

“Latin Sol is one of my favorite events of the year,” Juliana said. “It really honors the salsa and Latin dance community.”

A total of 14 guest instructors led 20 classes and discussions over the three days. Latin Sol is part of the Sol Motion series at ASU, which includes Sol Power, a hip-hop dance festival held in the fall. ASU assistant professor of dance LaTasha Barnes participated in both events this year. 

“I’m so grateful to be able to experience this level of care and dedication to culture here at ASU,” said Barnes. “It’s so humbling and encouraging to be part of a cadre of educators who deeply love their communities and what they contribute to this world.”

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