The heart behind Bachatafest

Photo by Bea Ferreira

Since its inception in 2008, Bachatafest has garnered a reputation for being one of the biggest dance events in the state of Utah. It is an annual fundraising event in the form of a dance party that is inclusive in more ways than one. The event is open to the public with anyone over 18 able to attend, and this year there were several dance workshops offered before the event for those who felt they lacked the dance skills to participate. 

The Bachata masterclass workshops were led by award-winning Bachata dancers “Alex & Desiree”, who came to Utah for the first time all the way from New York City to participate in this year’s Bachatafest. 

“My first dance lesson was at my university, but we didn’t have these types of events, so the fact that we can come here as Bachata artists, we hope to inspire some people this weekend,” said Alex Morel, as he prepared to give the advanced level masterclass.  

The event showcased local DJs — including DJ Azuquita, DJ Tracy, DJ Soltrix and DJ Jose Mas. The music played at the event included a wide range of dance music including reggaeton, merengue, cumbia and other music of Latin American origin. “La Hora Loca” was held at midnight to honor some of the sponsors and contributors to the event. 

Bachatafest has always been held with the intention of raising money to be awarded as scholarships for students who have limited opportunities for financial aid. Though the event showcases Latin American culture through the music and style of dance, students of all backgrounds benefit from the funds raised. At its core, the event represents the way a community can come together to leave an impact that lasts long after the party ends.  

“We have undcoumented students, refugee students, international students and most of those students cannot receive government aid,” said Glenny Riley, a founding organizer of the event. “And that’s why we feel the need to do this fundraising because there is nothing else for them. We have great students, a lot of them have 3.5 to 4.0 GPAs and they are in leadership roles, we want them to graduate.”

The students receiving the funds are often ones who are in desperate need. “A lot of them, we help them pay for their last semester so they can graduate,” Riley said. “We’ve had students that have been homeless so we have been able to help them to at least have a safe place to stay sometimes in the middle of the winter.” 

The event this year was organized by Riley and Carlos Alarco, though an event of this size calls for more than two people. “Most of my team, I don’t have a committee formed aside from Carlos Alarco and I,” Riley said. “Most of my helpers are students that have received the scholarship.” 

Bachatafest is an event that brings a community together in many ways, from the sponsors and volunteers that help the event come together, to those that benefit from the funds raised. It is about giving back to the community the Latin American way, through celebration and dance. Though the party may be over this year, there is still an opportunity to donate to the cause by contacting Riley at [email protected].

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