Flash News! Extra! Extra! The Scarlet Mambo team and yours truly were quoted/mentioned in an article, So You Think You Can’t Salsa? in the New York Times.
“Salsa has its own networks. At clubs and socials, dancers promote their events. Camila Danielle Sanchez, 25, who was at the Chelsea social, teaches in Highland Park, N.J., near New Brunswick, where she and her partner, Dany Joshua, also host a salsa night called “Scarlet Mambo.” “If you look at the fliers,” Mr. Joshua said, “the dancers are organized. It’s a lot of ‘I’ll come support you,’ and a lot of ‘you come support me.’ Everything revolves around certain Web sites, and a MySpace and a Facebook effect has also taken place. It used to be rude to hand out fliers; now when it ends you’ll see everyone hand them out.”
(Read Complete Article):
So You Think You Can’t Salsa?
By JULIE BLOOM
Published: August 29, 2008
In a crowded, dimly lighted fifth-floor studio in Chelsea, bodies twisted and turned as a pulsing bongo beat blared in the background. Feeling something like a scene from “Dirty Dancing” without all the bump and grind, the room shook with couples moving across the floor on a Sunday evening in late August. Summer may be almost over, but the dance party has just begun.
On Wednesday, the eighth annual New York Salsa Congress began its five-day series of events devoted to dance. The congress offers live music, workshops, performances, parties and nonstop dancing. It attracts professional salsa dancers and musicians from around the world. But here in the city there are also plenty of places where amateurs can experience Latin dance for themselves.
Salsa dancing in New York has evolved since its heyday in the late ’60s and ’70s, when clubs were packed with Dominicans, Puerto Ricans and other Latinos moving to the voice of Héctor Lavoe and the beats of Willie Colón and other salsa music all-stars. Now people of all ages and backgrounds are learning the basic steps of a partner social dance that is all about great rhythm and individual flair. With almost 200 clubs devoted to Latin music across the city, it’s possible to take a turn on the dance floor every night of the week.
At the Chelsea studio, where about 70 people had gathered for “La Vieja Guardia,” a night of dancing, Daniel Antonio Esquivel, known as DJ Toño, spun a Charanga track from his collection of more than 6,000 recordings of Latin music, much of it on vinyl.
The evening — organized by an instructor, Joel Dominguez; a promoter, Alfredo Felix; and DJ Toño — is what is known as a social. Socials are something like a high school dance for grown-ups. They are open to the public and most often held in studios (the Chelsea party is held monthly), with amateur and more experienced dancers invited for a small fee, usually $7 to $15, to dance with a variety of ready and willing partners. The dancers know how to navigate the geography of the wooden floor in relation to their skills; the experts flaunt their moves in the center, while the slower dancers tend toward the outskirts.
Most of the dancers at the social come prepared for a workout, in everything from tight dresses and hot shorts to T-shirts and sweat pants. Almost all the women wear strappy heels.
In an Allen Iverson jersey and a Sixers cap, Alfred Okomo, 29, an engineer, was one of the beginners; he’s been out dancing a few times now. “The basics, I get,” he said. “The turning is kind of tricky.” He practiced in a side studio, lined with backpacks and purses. Novices are welcome, as are single women and men.
Nicolette Barber, 25, from San Diego, in a blue halter dress, with her blond hair tied back in braids, was in town for a baseball game but heard about the social from her roommate at the hostel where she was staying. “Everyone I’ve danced with has been patient,” she said. “There are a ton of men. It is quite encouraging.”
Part of the fun of socials is watching the dancers, especially the really good ones. One woman, in a cropped tank top and skin-tight jeans, whose hair, wet from sweat, clung to her neck as she flicked her wrists and swayed her hips — as if she were filming an advertisement for Bacardi — captivated many of her fellow dancers.
Most of the socials include a performance by professional dancers. One of the most famous socials in the city, Jimmy Anton on West 19th Street, in the Flatiron district, has been taking place every other Sunday for the past 14 years and draws upward of 300 people.
There are plenty of other dance floors in the city: at clubs, at outdoor events in the back garden at Tavern on the Green and at Wagner Park, just north of Battery Park, part of the River to River Festival.
And there are classes. There used to be a select few in Midtown, like the well-known Latin Dance Studio run by Eddie Torres, who still holds classes on 54th Street featuring a range of levels from beginning to advanced in the traditional style of New York salsa, emphasizing “on two” — that is, moving on the second beat of the music. Studios in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, and Nyack, N.Y., also offer salsa classes.
If you want to get a real sense of where salsa came from and get a taste of the form’s authentic passion and flavor, consider heading uptown for a class. In Washington Heights, at J’s Big Gym on 181st Street, Ralph Rodriguez, known as Ralphie La Rumba, led a class of mostly men on a recent Tuesday night. Dressed in a newsboy cap, jeans and a black V-neck, Mr. Rodriquez, 31, who has taught salsa for seven years and also works in construction, counted out the basic steps in a mix of Spanish and English. The predominantly Dominican clients of the gym watched from Stairmasters as the students faced the mirror, mouthing the counts. The steps felt pretty straightforward until the music began and a pivot turn was added, and then the hard work started.
Mr. Rodriguez, who studied at Eddie Torres’s school, said timing was the hardest thing to teach. “It is hard for them to find the beat and the music,” he said. His classes, which are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays, begin at 9 p.m. and end at 11 p.m., but that doesn’t mean the night is over. After class Mr. Rodriguez usually heads downtown to give his moves a workout. He goes to Lava Gina on Avenue C in the East Village or Club Cache on 46th Street near Times Square, and then, since most of the clubs close at 2 a.m., he heads back uptown to Coco Bongo in the Bronx.
If you had the energy, you could follow such an itinerary almost every night of the week. Each dancer at the social, each dancer in a class, could give you his or her own list of weekly events. Mr. Rodriguez’s other haunts include Session 73 on the Upper East Side on Monday; on Tuesday it’s the club formerly known as Link on East 15th Street near Union Square, which reopened last week as SideBar; on Wednesday Latin Quarter, a classic club in Midtown that offers a more traditional night of salsa dancing, and then Plan B in the East Village; on Thursdays it’s off to Club Cache.
Friday, of course, is a big night: Abakuá in the garment district, Mambo Fateegz in Midtown and S.O.B.’s in the South Village, and El Nuevo Conquistador in the Bronx. Saturday is usually quiet, a night to rest up in preparation for Sunday, which is often devoted to socials. All these clubs are primarily committed to the “on two” style, but elsewhere, at Colombian clubs in Queens and reggaetón clubs in the Bronx, you can see and dance other styles that are less technical. The feel is more like that of a traditional nightclub, but with a concentration of Latin sounds.
Salsa has its own networks. At clubs and socials, dancers promote their events. Camila Danielle Sanchez, 25, who was at the Chelsea social, teaches in Highland Park, N.J., near New Brunswick, where she and her partner, Dany Joshua, also host a salsa night called “Scarlet Mambo.” “If you look at the fliers,” Mr. Joshua said, “the dancers are organized. It’s a lot of ‘I’ll come support you,’ and a lot of ‘you come support me.’ Everything revolves around certain Web sites, and a MySpace and a Facebook effect has also taken place. It used to be rude to hand out fliers; now when it ends you’ll see everyone hand them out.”
About 10 years ago Steve Shaw, who is 66, began salsanewyork.com, a virtual salsa community bulletin board full of listings of classes and events that is one of the most established of these sites. Mr. Shaw runs the site with Manny Siverio, and the two men say their listings are carefully vetted. They promote only the events they are comfortable with, and they still attend socials themselves. Mr. Shaw added that one of the joys of salsa is that it can be danced at almost any age. Or at just about any hour.
On Sundays, Club Iguana on 54th Street serves as an official after-party for all the socials in the city. By 11 p.m. the two dance floors are packed with couples ranging from 20- to 50-something. The dancers, many of whom have been going at it since 5 p.m., continue to move as if they can never get enough dancing.
“The cool thing about salsa is, if I go to an American club, I’ll feel like an old fuddy-dud,” said Mr. Siverio, 49, “like the guy with the three hairs on his head. In the Latin club scene it’s cool. It’s about dancing. We’re out there just to have a good time.”
SalsaNewYork.com has listings for clubs and socials as well as dance studios and instructors. Below are the studios, socials and clubs mentioned in this article:
ABAKUá SOCIAL CLUB at Club 412, 412 Eighth Avenue, at 31st Street, garment district, (212) 244-0011; abakuadancers.com.
CLUB CACHE 221 West 46th Street, Manhattan, clubcachenyc.com.
CLUB IGUANA 240 West 54th Street, Manhattan, (212) 765-5454, iguananyc.com.
COCO BONGO, 1353 Edward L. Grant Highway, at 170th Street, in the Highbridge section of the Bronx, (646) 323-5574.
DANCE MANHATTAN 39 West 19th Street, fifth floor, Flatiron district, (212) 807-0802, jimmyanton.com.
EDDIE TORRES LATIN DANCE STUDIO 244 West 54th Street, Manhattan, (718) 319-9317, eddietorres.com/salsa.html.
J’S BIG GYM 625 West 181st Street, Washington Heights, (212) 568-2444, jsbiggym.com.
JIMMY ANTON SOCIAL 39 West 19th Street, Flatiron district, on the first, third and fifth (if there is one) Sunday of the month, 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.
LATIN QUARTER 511 Lexington Avenue, between 47th and 48th Streets, (212) 593-7575.
LAVA GINA 116 Avenue C, at Seventh Street, East Village, (212) 477-9319, lavagina.com.
MAMBO FATEEGZ at Dance New York, 244 West 54th Street, Manhattan, fifth floor, (212) 246-5797, mambofateegz.com.
PLAN B 339 East 10th Street, East Village, (212) 353-2303, planbny.com.
SESSION 73 1359 First Avenue, at 73rd Street, Manhattan, (212) 517-4445, session73.com.
SIDEBAR 120 East 15th Street, at Irving Place, Manhattan, (212) 677-2900.
S.O.B.’S 204 Varick Street, at Houston, South Village, (212) 243.4940, sobs.com.
‘LA VIEJA GUARDIA SOCIAL’ Held at Chelsea Studios, 151 West 26th Street, fifth floor, Rooms 501-503, (212) 647-1100.