Salsa – the spice of life
By Virginia Betz
Salsa offers a combination of advantages when compared with other styles of social dance. You can get out on the dance floor with a minimum of technique and, if you’re a bit out of sync, it won’t attract attention. Salsa has a basic inventory of prescribed movements that leaves a lot of room for personal embellishment and self-expression. With salsa dancing varying levels of intimacy can be established with different partners, from the merely respectful to the mainly steamy. And, in the Phoenix metro area, there are lots of places to show off your moves. Best of all is the music; once you give yourself over to el ritmo salsero, you won’t be able to suppress the irresistible urge to dance!
Basic salsa steps are easy to learn and there are a number of ways to go about it: just try to imitate what others are doing out on the dance floor; study on-line tutorials; get to the dance club early for the “intro” lesson that’s often offered at venues featuring salsa nights; or pay for some formal training at a dance studio. While the last-named option clearly involves the most expense and time commitment, it is also probably the most efficient way to learn and gain genuine self-confidence.
LPM’s insider informant, Henry “the dance guy” Carrejo (firstname.lastname@example.org) who has been an instructor in several Valley studios and a competition judge, answered some FAQs about what to expect in a salsa class. A common fear is that mostly women attend dance classes, so that a woman signing up alone might be hard pressed to ever dance with a male partner. Henry reports that the days of one man for every four women is long gone, in fact, it is not unusual for males to outnumber females in group classes. Television shows like Dancing with the Stars and all those movies in which the guy that can dance wins the day have had a profound and positive effect on the image of social dance. In any event, whether you enroll as a single or a couple, you won’t be allowed to dance with the same person all the time. Instructors typically insist that students rotate their partners in order to avoid the limitations of relating to only one other person’s style. Reading cues from different people and learning the idiosyncrasies of a variety of individual styles is part of the fun of couple dancing.
Salsa is an highly energetic dance genre and students can expect to work up a sweat. Gym clothes are okay for the studio, but if a club dance follows, something approximating “business casual” might be more appropriate. Dressed up or down, you should avoid rubber-soled shoes. Leather-bottomed shoes with a heel are an aid to smooth turns and quick steps. Women should avoid too-high heels, which are unstable, and opt for two or two-and-a-half inch heels for sure-footedness. There aren’t any fashion police at salsa salons, so the bottom line is your personal comfort zone.
According to Henry, private lessons for singles or couples usually run in the neighborhood of $80 to $120 per lesson, a price that the competitive dancer would find more sustainable than the average recreational dancer. Group instruction is much more economical (and less pressure) and is widely available in formal studio or club settings. Below is a partial list of Valley locations with frequent, scheduled classes and quality instructors and/or dedicated salsa nights.
(times given for salsa classes only)
16597 N. 92nd St., Scottsdale 85260, 480-422-6840
When: Tuesdays, 8 p.m. group class
Cost: $10 per class, drop-in; discounted packages arranged
Cannedy Dance Center
6222 N. 7th St., Phoenix 85014, 602-279-4875
When: Mondays, 8:30-9:30 p.m. (two classes: beginner and intermediate)
Cost: $12 per class; $20 for two classes in same month; $35 for four classes in a row; private lessons can also be arranged
Mesa Stars Ballroom
2848 S. Carriage Lane, Mesa 85202, 602-690-6631
When: Tuesdays, 8:15-9:15 p.m.; Thursdays, 6-8 p.m. and 8:45-10:30 p.m.; private instruction available for singles or couples
Cost: varies by number of classes taken; call or check on-line for special packages
Sun Devil Fit Center at ASU-Tempe campus
550 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe 85287, 480-965-9011
When: Mondays, 9-10:30 p.m. (upcoming session: March 18 through April 22)
Cost: $90 for six-week session ($80 for students; $85 for SDFC members)
Dave and Buster’s
2000 E. Rio Salado Parkway (Tempe Marketplace), Tempe 85281 480-281-8456
When: Wednesdays, class from 7-8 p.m. (for beginners) followed by open dancing till midnight
Cost: no cover (21+ only); class is free
Fat Cat Ballroom
3131 E. Thunderbird Rd. #33, Phoenix 85032, 602-324-7119
When: Sundays, 7-8 p.m. lesson, followed by open dancing till 10 p.m.
Cost: $5 per person (all ages)
Paragon Dance Center
931 E. Elliot Rd., Suite 101, Tempe 85284, 480-777-8877
When: Sundays, lessons from 6:30-7:30 p.m. (three levels: beginner, intermediate and advanced), followed by open dancing till 10:30 p.m.
Cost: $8 per person; $6 students with ID; ages 12 and under, free (includes lesson)
Pepin’s Spanish Restaurant
7363 Scottsdale Mall (Old Town), Scottsdale 85281, 480-990-9026
When: Saturdays, 10-2 p.m., “oldest Latin night in Scottsdale”
Cost: $10 (21+ only)
For a more complete listing, check out azsalsa.net/venues