Wish you knew how to Salsa dance? Maybe you’re on your group chat planning your next dance night.
It’s Hispanic Heritage Month in Cleveland. We’re taking the lead so that you can follow us to amazing Latin music where bachata bounces, salsa sizzles and merengue moves along the shores of Lake Erie.
A Proud Heritage Carries On
Northeast Ohio is home to 45,000 Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans, Mexicans, Dominicans and Brazilians. Each community brings its own unique blaze of color, flavor and dance styles to Cleveland’s cultural melting pot.
The fire that is Salsa dance was sparked decades ago by beloved Latin jazz musicians like Sammy Deleon y Su Orquesta, Rafael Guzman, Jackie Warren, the late Robert Ocasio, and Mazi – music producer, DJ and a founder of Touch Supper Club in the 1990’s. DJs like DJ Fabrizio and DJ Bachatero Dex bring together technology and musical artistry to set up Latin ambiance and pacing for steamy Salsa nights in The Land, even in winter.
Roots Live On in Rhythm
Conga drum patterns in Latin jazz are centuries older than their emotional melodies. The roots of these rhythms are from Africa traveling during the diaspora of the Atlantic slave trade. Dances and rhythms were born in hardship, but these beautiful rhythms lived on, adapting through cultural meet ups in Cuba, New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. Regional instruments – shakers, horns, timbales, and cowbell were layered in. And clave or “the key” – a 2-3 or 3-2 rhythm pattern – keeps the musicians together as soloists do their own thing.
Latin jazz is widely respected by Cleveland residents, professional musicians like Moises Borges and graduates of Cleveland Institute of Music, now ensemble leaders themselves, like Dylan Moffit of Samba Da Cidade, his Brazilian drum group.
Just Keep Moving
Salsa dancers like us only have to remember eight steps or beats. It’s okay if you miss a step because the cycle repeats. “Just keep moving,” as the saying goes.
High energy Latin bands, like Grupo Fuego and Son Gitano, get their juice from Cleveland’s vibrant dance crowds. Dancers step out on the dance floor because they know the secret of Latin music – it reverses aging, of course.
But it’s ok to stand against the wall, watch and practice steps - you’ll look amazing against the red and purple lights. If you’re asked to dance, why not give it a try since the Lead will guide you? No worries if you make a mistake, “it’s the Lead’s fault,” as the other saying goes.
A Community of Dance Partners
When Julia de Burgos Arts Cultural Center presents “Celebrando” each year, Executive Director Leticia Lopez and her staff organize an exploration of Cleveland’s rich Hispanic-Latin cultures through art displays, food and dance demonstrations, such as Spanish Flamenco and Cuban Rueda dances, Youth Salsa and a fashion show of traditional costuming.
Cleveland Rueda is the newest dance community, based on the circular “Casino” style of Cuban salsa from 1950’s Havana. In a large circle or “rueda” (which means wheel), couples dance and change partners often. A caller shouts out fun, extra moves to make – all in time to the music. They offer lessons every Sunday afternoon and “Rueda de Casino” sets up Group Salsa at Edgewater Park and events around town.
La Salsa, Viva Dance Studio and La Danse Cleveland studios offer weekly lessons in ballroom-style Latin dance. These dance studios have built loyal communities through their special events and online calendars that answer the call, “Where’s Salsa tonight?” Just Dance Cleveland is a group of young dancers who promote and organize Afro-Latin dance events throughout Cleveland. They are the next generation of music promoters, dancers and DJs. Popular over two decades, Tropical Cleveland has been offering exciting, themed events like their 2023 “Pretty in Pink” on Sept 30th to kickstart Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
At Restaurant Europa, there are DJ-led Salsa nights downstairs on Friday nights, while below the legendary Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights,Salsa comes to life at B-Side Liquor Lounge one or two Sundays a month with Sammy & his Latin quartet. Attire is “come as you are,” from white tennis shoes and jeans, to colorful “night out” shirts and dresses, to sequins and high heels for festive party nights.
With 33 countries worldwide, Latin culture is already diverse and naturally inclusive. So, step away from the wall and onto the floor this month. Let’s DANCE!