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Monday, May 27, 2024
NEWS  |  CAMPUS

Hispanic Gators Dazzlers credit heritage for love of dance

3 UF dancers discuss the importance of their Hispanic cultures

<p>Amanda Gonzalez, a Florida Dazzler, performs a routine with the rest of the team.</p>

Amanda Gonzalez, a Florida Dazzler, performs a routine with the rest of the team.

Hispanic Gators Dazzlers Transcript

Gators Dazzler Alexandra Gambin credits her Hispanic heritage as being the driving force behind her longtime dance career. Reflecting on her childhood experiences at family parties, she recognized that her cultural background is what kept her dancing constantly.

“I don't think I would have been as into dancing if it's not what I grew up knowing,” said Gambin, a 20-year-old UF health education and behavior junior. 

During Hispanic Heritage Month, Gators Dazzlers Alexandra Gambin, Madison Alvelo and Amanda Gonzalez recognized the influence of their own cultures on their lives as three of the six Hispanic student athletes on the Dazzlers team. Serving as a motivator within their collegiate careers, their Hispanic heritage has fueled their passions for dance. 

Gambin’s interest in dance goes back to her Cuban and Spanish roots, she said. 

Alexandra.jpg

Alexandra Gambin performs a routine with the Florida Dazzlers.

“It's a lot bigger than me,” she said. “It's about all my ancestors, my friends — people back home.”

As the official dance team of the Florida Gators, the Dazzlers are most notably recognized for their peppy performances at UF athletic events. 

This month, the team has spotlighted the Hispanic dancers who complete their team.

Alvelo, a 19-year-old UF event management sophomore, said she considers Hispanic Heritage Month to be instrumental, using it as a time to reflect on how her Hispanic ancestors have paved the way for her family. 

“My great grandmother came over from Puerto Rico as an immigrant to the U.S.,” she said. “It just means a time for me to reflect on what my family members who are Hispanic have given for me to be where I am today.” 

Her Puerto Rican background has taught her vital lessons about her identity as a dancer, she said. 

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“It’s shown that you don’t have to look a certain way or act a certain way in order to be somewhere,” Alvelo said. “Dance has allowed me to show other people that it doesn’t matter.” 

Becoming a collegiate dancer represents a point of success within the professional careers of many. For Gonzalez, a 20-year-old UF applied physiology and kinesiology junior, earning a spot on the team has been the result of years of training. 

“I started dancing at 3 years old,” she said. “I started competing at the age of 6, which is crazy to me now.”

She credited her decision to continue dancing to the support of her Cuban grandparents, whose close proximity to her home allowed them to take her to practices consistently, she said. 

Madison.jpg

Madison Alvelo waves to the crowd while performing with the Florida Dazzlers.

“I was lucky enough to grow up with all four of my grandparents right around,” she said,“ which is very common in Hispanic culture.”

Perseverance, a value that she defined as being learned through her cultural upbringing, led Gonzalez to try out for the Dazzlers for a second time — after an unsuccessful attempt at joining the team during her freshman year. 

“My grandparents didn’t go to college,” she said. “So for me to do so now and also dance — that’s so important.”

Many UF students have been raised in areas that are significant distances away from campus. But for certain members of the UF community, this regional upbringing has been influenced by a particular Hispanic culture. 

Gonzalez, who is Cuban and Peruvian, said she was constantly surrounded by Cuban culture from a young age. Moving to Gainesville was a culture shock, she said.

“It’s such a world of difference,” Gonzalez said. “You know, I actually listened to country music for the first time and didn't hate it.”  

As Hispanic Heritage month comes to a close, members of the Dazzlers team celebrate positive progress within their own organization, as it relates to both visibility and representation for Hispanic dancers. 

“To have six dancers that all have some sort of Hispanic background, I don't think you would have seen that 10, 20, 30 years ago on any sporting team,” Gonzalez said. 

Several Dazzlers also noted the growing diversity within their own team, recognizing the connection between this and their newfound friendships. 

“The fact that we have the same heritage — it's like we've known each other forever,” Gonzalez said. 

Still, people should feel urged to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month, regardless of their cultural background, Gonzalez said. 

“Even if that's not your culture, you may have learned something from it,” she said. “You may be able to celebrate those around you — and I think everyone can benefit from that.” 

Contact Halima Attah at hattah@alligator.org or follow her on Twitter at @halimaattah

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Halima Attah

Halima Attah is a first-year journalism student and university reporter for The Alligator. When she’s not writing, you can probably find her thrifting on Depop or listening to her carefully curated Spotify playlists.


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