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In each episode of the Mix(ed)tape Podcast, researchers Melissa Villodas and Andrés Hincapié speak to Black dancers, choreographers, musicians, and academics about the roots of various Afro-Latin rhythms, the role of dance and music in identity formation, and how racism manifests in the Afro-Latin dance scene.

Pursuing a Ph.D. is a huge undertaking, requiring hours of research, reading, writing, rewriting… and rewriting again. It can become all-consuming and even a little maddening.

“I was going crazy,” remembers Andrés Hincapié. “I needed to do something else, so I started dance.”

Hincapié, now an assistant professor in the UNC-Chapel Hill Department of Economics, was born in Colombia and learned to dance with his mom when he was a small child. It wasn’t until he began his Ph.D. when he truly began to formally train in Latin dance.

“It’s like a reset,” he says, adding that dance clears his mind allowing him to return to his research with a blank slate.

Melissa Villodas, who is graduating with a Ph.D. from the UNC School of Social Work this spring, was worried she wouldn’t have time to dance once she started writing her dissertation. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York, in a Puerto Rican family. Listening and dancing to salsa provided a connection to them and a feeling of escape she didn’t want to lose.

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