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MUSIC & DANCE: A look at salsa in the suburbs

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STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
bbingaman@21st-centurymedia.com
@brianbingaman on Twitter

There’s a Meetup.com group where there’s “no dance snobs allowed.”
If you love salsa, bachata, merengue and/or cha-cha, and you want to meet others from Montgomery, Berks, Delaware, Lehigh, Philadelphia, Bucks and Chester counties, who share your passion, check out their various gatherings. Get started at www.meetup.com/topics/dancing/us/pa/media.

Courtesy of Salsa Body Soul

Courtesy of Salsa Body Soul

Another highlight is free salsa dance lessons during Latin Night, Thursdays from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m. at Club 360 at Parx Casino, 2999 Street Road, Bensalem.
At Proximity Cafe, 1450 E. High St., Pottstown, there’s “Salsa Lessons with Ginny” on Wednesdays and “Salsa Lessons with Stephen” on Thursdays. You don’t need a partner, and there’s both a beginner class from 7 to 8 p.m. and “Salsa Basic Level 1” (Wednesday) or “Salsa Basic Level 2/Intermediate Salsa” (Thursday) from 8 to 9 p.m. You can either pay per class, or get a discounted package of classes.
From 8 p.m. to midnight the first and third Fridays of the month, all of the furniture gets shoved out of the way at Proximity for “Salsa Social Night.” Cover is $5 to dance to the Latin rhythms of salsa, bachata, merengue and cha-cha with Salsa Body Soul. It includes a free dance lesson that’s given from 8:15 to 9, dancing from 9 to midnight and a free coffee or soft drink. BYOB if you like. A variety of food and snacks will be available for purchase.
You can park in the complex where Subway is located, and after 9 p.m. you can park in the Auto Zone lot. For more information, email salsabodysoul@gmail.com and visit www.facebook.com/salsabodysoul.
Salsa Body Soul, explained Pottstown resident Katie Pomon, is a regional community of like-minded dance enthusiasts — some that come from as far away as York to the west and New Jersey to the east. “Salsa dancers tend to travel. It’s this unspoken thing,” she said, adding that there’s a noteworthy amount of ethnic/cultural and age diversity among the regional salsa community. “There used to be a salsa community in Pottstown, but it went under.

PHOTO SUSAN KEEN FOR DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Two partners have fun dancing. Plaza Azteca in Plymouth Meeting holds Salsa dancing on Saturday night Feb. 13, 2016.

PHOTO SUSAN KEEN FOR DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA
Two partners have fun dancing. Plaza Azteca in Plymouth Meeting holds Salsa dancing on Saturday night Feb. 13, 2016.

I said (to a friend): ‘We need a place to dance.’ We’re doing really well. At the last (Salsa Social Night), we had 60 people, and we started with just a handful,” said Pomon, referring to the inaugural Salsa Body Soul events from February 2015.
A sense of belonging is the engine that drives Salsa Body Soul, said Pomon, who is writing a thesis on that topic. “You gradually get to know these people individually,” she said, noting that members of the community also look out for each other’s safety when they’re dancing in public.
“Every Thursday after class (Salsa Lessons with Stephen), a group of us head out to Parx Casino (for Latin Night). We roll up to our homes at 1 a.m. and go to work the next day.”
Saturday nights at the Plaza Azteca restaurant in Plymouth Meeting, 351 Plymouth Road, Plymouth Township, are Salsa Nights. Between 10:30 and 11, one of a rotating trio of Philly-based DJs starts spinning salsa, bachata and, if the crowd’s mood calls for it, even some American music. Last call is at 1:30.
“The people that come here (late Saturday nights), they’re serious about dancing. You see a lot of twirling; it’s kind of like they’re competing. They all get along, for some reason. I’m from California and when I see the different races entwined together, it makes me feel good,” commented server Daniel Gomez.
According to the restaurant’s assistant manager, Dave Torres, Salsa Night has been around at least five years, and gradually built a following though word of mouth. “It’s a really good crowd. It’s mainly all couples,” he said, adding that a lot of women also come out for it. Torres noted that there is a business casual dress code for Salsa Night.
Every second and fourth Friday, it’s salsa, bachata and cha-cha dance parties at La Luna Dance Studio, 4010 New Falls Road, Bristol. Bachata lessons start at 8:30 p.m., salsa lessons start at 9:15, and open dancing, with DJs in three ballrooms, commences at 10. Cover is $15. Check out a special Winter Salsa Showcase 8:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. Feb. 26 at La Luna, with both lessons and performances. For additional information, or to learn about classes, call (215) 943-7070 or take a look at www.lalunadancestudio.com.
Salsa in the Suburbs Dance Studio, 1245 N. Providence Road, Media, hosts “Underground Salsa” parties, that are open to the public, from 8 p.m. to midnight April 23 (hippie party theme) and May 28 (Salsa in the Suburbs ninth anniversary party). Cost is $12 in advance, $15 at the door.
The public is also invited to Sal-sational Saturday Student Showcase Dance Parties at 8 p.m. March 26 and June 18 at Beth El Ner Tamid, 715 Paxon Hollow Road, Broomall.
Learn to salsa in just one day with “Beginner I Salsa Bootcamp” or “Beginner II Salsa Bootcamp,” both running 1 to 5 p.m. May 14.

PHOTO SUSAN KEEN FOR DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Dancers twirl in brightly colored heels. Plaza Azteca in Plymouth Meeting holds Salsa dancing on Saturday nights Feb. 13, 2016.

PHOTO SUSAN KEEN FOR DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA
Dancers twirl in brightly colored heels. Plaza Azteca in Plymouth Meeting holds Salsa dancing on Saturday nights Feb. 13, 2016.

Monthly salsa/bachata practice sessions are held 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. on the third Thursdays of the month. Cost is $10 and you need to register in advance.
An “Intermediate Salsa Bootcamp” is on tap 1 to 4 p.m. Feb. 27 and a “Ladies Salsa Styling” workshop, with instructor Shauna Belizéando, is set for 1 to 4 April 9. For fees and a complete schedule, go to www.salsainthesuburbs.com or call (610) 800-8182.
Get a cha-cha group dance lesson during a Social Dance Party 7:30 to 11 p.m. March 11 at Main Line Ballroom Dance Studio, 49 E. Lancaster Ave, second floor, Ardmore. Cost is $15 and includes refreshments. A beginner, four-week “Salsa with Andrei” course is offered at 7 p.m. Tuesday nights starting April 5. Contact mainlineballroom@gmail.com or (610) 909-7718.
Keep your eyes peeled for the Philadelphia Bachata Fest, which features workshops, nightly shows, dancing and more. Dates for this year’s event have not yet been announced, but you can stay up to date at http://philadelphiabachatafest.com, www.facebook.com/PhiladelphiaBachataFest and @PhillyBachata on Twitter and Instagram.
What’s what
The term salsa is derived from the Spanish word for “sauce” or “mixture” and is a combination of Latin and Afro-Caribbean social dances. You saw Patrick Swayze demonstrate it in “Dirty Dancing” and Richard Gere dancing the steps in the movie “Dance With Me” — making six side-to-side steps to eight beats of music. Salsa couples stay within a localized space on the dance floor.
“Salsa” has evolved into an umbrella term that includes other Latin music/dance styles, such as mambo, cha-cha, bomba and merengue.
French people who emigrated to Cuba from Haiti brought English/French country dance with them, and it mixed with African rhumbas and Cuban són. Today’s salsa was developed in Puerto Rican and Cuban communities throughout Latin America and the U.S., as well as within the New York City Latino populations during the ‘60s and ‘70s.
Salsa’s music often involves complex rhythms, with instrumentation usually involving congas, trumpet, cowbell, timbale and/or clave.
Bachata — which can be done solo, two hands holding, open embrace or close embrace — is often described as Dominican in origin. In nightclubs dancers throw in embellishments.
Another related sensual style, kizomba, traces its origins to Angola and is characterized by slow, romantic tempos and Portuguese lyrics.

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