Benoit dances through the day


photo by Provided by Vanessa Benoit

Custodian Vanessa Benoit poses with her family at one of their family events. At these gatherings, they typically dance bachata.

“Let me teach you how to dance.”

That is what custodian Vanessa Benoit’s sister said to her two years ago at a family member’s birthday party. And those words have changed her life.

“I feel good when I’m dancing,” Benoit said. “I get happy when I hear the rhythm of the songs.”

She primarily dances bachata- a dance originated in the Dominican Republic- like her mom, sister, and cousin. Their new normal at family events like birthday parties or Christmas, is to play bachata music and dance.

It took her about three months to grasp the movements and steps.

It did take some time to feel comfortable dancing, I had to practice some more with my sister for a little, [at first] some of the steps were hard, but now I am better at it.”

— Vanessa Benoit

So far, bachata is the only dance that she knows, but she would be open to learning other styles like salsa. However, she would have to teach herself the steps and the technique of the dance because no one in her family knows much about salsa.

They only dance together at home and she has never really considered pursuing it in a studio. If she did, it would have to be with her family.

Two years ago, around the same time that she began dancing, she got a job as a custodian. She was working at Macy’s for a while until it closed. Once she stopped working there, she looked for a job at her alma mater, Hagerty.

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All of the custodians have parts of the school that is theirs to clean. Her assigned area is upstairs building six. There she cleans the bathrooms and dusts and disinfects all of the classrooms. While some people on her staff have the day shift, Benoit works from 2:30 to 11 p.m., but if she finishes early, she can get off around 9.

She likes to keep everything clean, but sometimes, the largest of messes cannot be avoided.

“Working here, I have seen a lot of messes; but the craziest one I have had to clean up was pee on the bathroom floor,” Benoit said.

Aside from making things clean, her favorite part of the job is meeting people from other cultures. Having lived in the Dominican Republic for 12 years, she enjoys discovering more and more about not only the American culture but also those of her co-workers. She has met people from Colombia and Cuba like custodian Miguel Castro.

Benoit and her family incorporate their culture in their everyday lives not only through dance, but also through food. Her favorite meal that they cook together is mangu which is mashed green plantains.

Working as a custodian, she has time to do some of her most cherished things:  enjoy being with her family, celebrate her culture, and meet new people.

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