Omar Choque wasn’t expecting to win this year’s College Idol competition, especially since he finished the choreography for his dance routine just one hour before he took the stage. The annual U of G talent show pits students, staff and faculty from each college against each other to raise money for the United Way. The audience “votes” with donations, and the contestant who raises the most is declared the winner.

Votes for Choque’s Latin dance performance raised almost $690.

Choque began dancing about four years ago. “I was at an anniversary party, and there was some salsa music playing in the background,” he says. “Everyone assumed that because I’m Latino, I knew how to dance, but that wasn’t the case and it was pretty embarrassing.”

One week later, he decided to take dance lessons at Social Dance Spot in Toronto but quit after two weeks. “I didn’t think it was for me,” he says, but his instructor encouraged him to continue taking lessons. After Choque completed his first set of Cuban salsa lessons, he was hooked.

He later auditioned for the studio’s performance group and has since danced at charity events, weddings and the 2014 Miss Canada pageant.

Omar Choque

He initially didn’t want to become a dance instructor but was “tricked into it” by his instructor who called him to say that he was unable to teach a class that night. Choque obliged and taught the class, unaware that his instructor was hiding in an office next to the dance studio, listening to him teach.

“When the class was done, he came out clapping,” says Choque, adding that his instructor wanted to give him the opportunity to teach a class to boost his confidence.

Having studied kinesiology at the University of Gueph-Humber, and fitness and health promotion at Humber College, Choque applies his knowledge of the human body and movement to dance.

“Understanding the science behind that helps you comprehend it more and not only look at it as an art but look at it as a science as well,” he says. He recently completed his master’s degree in the Department of Human Health and Nutritional Sciences with Prof. David Ma.

Deciding to perform at College Idol was a “last-minute thing,” he says. His department encouraged him to try out for the competition, but he only had two weeks to pick a song, develop a dance routine and rehearse. “I literally finished the choreography an hour before I went on stage. It was pretty crazy.”

Although he was excited about winning, helping the United Way was an even bigger reward. In total, College Idol raised more than $2,500 for the United Way. Choque also offered salsa lessons on campus and raised an additional $260 for the charity.

U of G’s 2015 United Way campaign hit its fundraising goal of $607,500 and additional pledges, donations and proceeds will continue to be tallied for the rest of December.