Latin fiesta offers a lifeline to youth

Lucie Desaulniers and Michel Morris love to dance, and not just with each other. The couple - both youth counsellors and salsa teachers - are organizing a Latin fiesta tomorrow evening at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre.

Lucie Desaulniers and Michel Morris love to dance, and not just with each other.

The couple – both youth counsellors and salsa teachers – are organizing a Latin fiesta tomorrow evening at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre to raise money for their fledgling association Yukon Youth in Need.

Officially launched in January, Yukon Youth in Need grew out of Desaulniers’s and Morris’s work with Whitehorse youth, and the frustration of feeling that their nine-to-five work wasn’t enough. They wanted to do more.

“There are a lot of youth on their own in town,” Desaulniers said, “and they have no family or resources to move forward in their lives. It’s frustrating for us to work with them because we can’t help more.”

So they came up with the idea of an emergency slush fund, something that youth in need could apply to for emergency grants to help get them through rough patches.

“It’s like say, when a teen mom has a flat tire but no money to fix it. She can’t get to her job, can’t get her kid to daycare … that’s the kind of thing we could help with. Or, a young teenager who needs serious dental work but has no health coverage, that kind of thing.”

Each youth can access the funding one time per year, and must have an adult vouch for them on the application.

The association isn’t planning to operate alone. When a kid comes forward with a need, Desaulniers explained that her association’s first move would be to help connect that youth with other possible funding or support and advocacy groups like Bringing Youth Towards Equality.

If all else fails, the emergency fund becomes a fall back to solve the problem.

But for any of this to work, the association needs money.

“I was plotting and scheming ways of making money. Michel came up with this idea of doing a big Latin fiesta, of me starting a Latin band for the event, which has been a lot of work, and then getting our Latin dance students ready to dance,” Desaulniers said.

They’re hoping to raise $20,000 at this event, and to repeat that every year.

“We need lots of people to come to this dance,” said Desaulniers.

The idea didn’t come totally out of thin air, though. Desaulniers and Morris have been teaching Latin dance in Whitehorse for three years. They’ve taught more than 300 students, and they host monthly mini-fiestas at Antoinette’s restaurant.

“We’ve been doing the Latin nights at Antoinette’s for a while, but we wanted to do something bigger, something to give back to the community,” Morris said.

Desaulniers is a long-time Yukoner, having lived in Whitehorse since the late ‘80s. She is also a singer and songwriter. When she went back to university a few years ago to study Spanish, she fell in love with the culture, the music and the dance. She dragged Morris to dancing classes, and eventually they both started performing in a dance troupe.

When they moved back to the Yukon in 2010, there was no Latin dance scene to speak of, so they created their own. They formed Salsa Yukon and have been teaching for the past three years.

Many of their students will be at the fiesta, either as performers or volunteers.

The evening will feature Spanish classical guitar, a Zumba class, a one-hour merengue Salsa class taught by Desaulniers and Morris, plus a show featuring Desaulniers’s nine-piece Latin band El Fuego del Norte and Morris pulling DJ duty with a selection of authentic Spanish music.

Doors open at 8 p.m. at the Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre. Tickets are available at the Rah Rah Gallery and Sportslife.

Contact Jesse Winter at

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