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SAN DIEGO SALSA DANCE TRIP REPORT, 2002
A Travelers Quick Guide
Check out our New Salsa Dance Site for San Diego:
San Diego Salsa
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I was lucky enough to plan a quick trip to San Diego to
check out the Salsa scene there, sample classes, and prepare this guide and
travelogue for those planning a visit. As with all my reviews, I go in
“undercover”. I don’t pre-announce my visit, and I see and write about my
travels from the viewpoint of the typical social dancer. My review encompasses the three most popular venues, spread over four
nights. I missed the Sunday night at "Belly Up", but heard it was the place to
San Diego is a great place to dance; for social dancing it
was a real treat, and I would put it up there as a fantastic place for dancers
to visit. Great weather, beaches, friendly people, great food and healthy salsa
entertainment, all add up to a pretty stellar place to spend a few days. In
comparison to other West Coast cities, such as
San Francisco, Los Angeles,
Seattle and Vancouver, it fairs quite well indeed. There is salsa on most
nights of the week, and on almost every night there are live bands. There is
more than one club to choose from on almost every night, but really just one
place that is truly “happening” for the dancers (and socialites).
I arrived on a Wednesday evening, and for salsa dancers,
the happening spot is the same for Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Café
Sevilla is located in a very nice part of town, Gastown as it’s known, in downtown San Diego.
The area is filled with brand
new restaurants (some good looking fusion-food), a great deal of construction
going on, and a ton of people wandering the streets, looking at the shops and
eating in the many outdoor eateries. It’s a nice place to wander, and there are
a ton of fine restaurants and hotels in the area.
There’s also the Forum mall, five levels high and with a
totally confusing layout. I got lost in there and almost couldn’t find my way
out. This mall is across the street from the Wyndham, US Grant. An historic
hotel, and quite a deal at a $79 mid week, internet rate. It's an easy 4 star
hotel, with a Holiday Inn price. When you are downtown, everything is
within walking distance (within 12 blocks or so).
Café Sevilla – Wednesday Night
Café Sevilla (http://www.CafeSevilla.com,
take a "Virtual
Tour" of the Nightclub) offers salsa on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays in
Downtown San Diego, and it’s a fun spot. A Spanish restaurant is on the ground
floor, and the club is underneath. It’s a fair sized club, with a good amount
of seating that surrounds the floor. There is also a very nice full length bar.
The dance floor is wood, and seemed in fair shape. For those from San Francisco,
I would liken it to Café du Nord, similar with the low ceilings and underground
feel, but a little more upscale and quite a bit larger.
Wednesday’s had a fair crowd and I arrived in time to catch
the lessons. The lessons are taught by a woman named Valerie, of SiempreSalsa (www.salsaca.com)
who does a good job teaching large classes (40+ people). The crowd is almost
entirely brand new to dance, and she teaches them how to get through the basics,
without getting bogged down by the details. This is club style salsa, and
geared towards socially getting people dancing, versus technical wizardry. The
lessons were fun, and had basic footwork, a touch of rhythm explanation, a
simple pattern, and one far more complex, and a touch of merengue to finish
things off. This is a slightly rowdy crowd, again similar to du nord, and
Valerie did a good job keeping everyone in line, having a good time.
The lessons last from 9-10pm and the band starts right away
(there was no break for a DJ). It was time to experience some dancers! The
band was just alright this night, but I spied a nice dancer on the floor, and –
wham, shot down out of the gate. Rather rudely . . . hmmm, etiquette
issues in San Diego? We shall see. Well, it was smooth sailing after that, as
dance partners were plentiful, and the scene was social, fun and friendly. The live band plays 2 sets throughout the night, and
the evening ends at around 1:15. This place is a social scene indeed, and
there are plenty of dancers and socializers to go around. While there is
occasionally someone on the dance floor, drink in hand, slopping beer, it was
the exception rather than the rule.
The die hard dancers did show up, a group of about 5-10.
These were the only people whom occasionally danced on2 through the night. Some
were quite exceptional, and very fun to watch. Especially the lead of Rumba Rica
(or whom was pointed out to me as such) was pretty amazing, as he danced with
another gentleman and did a little show. Steve Meyer and David Stein, both
top excellent dancers from San Diego whom are now working on a troupe called
Majesty in Motion? Also, Iran, the founder of "Son y Pasos", another San Diego
dance troupe. Everyone
seemed open to dancing with everyone else, and there was very little dance
"attitude" (at least comparatively to other cities). It was quite pleasant, and definitely a place I would return
Overall, Cafe Sevilla mixes a fine Spanish restaurant
(which managed to be playing the Gypsy Kings whenever I went by), with a fun and
casual dance club. A place where you can get some fine social dancing in,
and meet a variety of people. It's not the most die-hard of salsa clubs,
but that may be a positive for this venue. It's size accommodates the
dancers and "minglers" well, and while it does get crowded, it never felt
claustrophobic. I'll certainly be visiting again. As a final note - the
bar was excellent.
Café Sevilla – Thursday Night
Most of what I experienced on Wednesday, is also apparent
on Thursday. The classes are run the same way, and the night progresses with the
same schedule. The band was far better (names to follow), and the crowd
was larger, with a higher percentage of dancers.
La Jolla Mariott – Friday Night
This hotel bar seemed like a strange place for a salsa
club. It doesn’t really have the salsa club vibe (more like a sports bar), but
when the music started it picked up rather well. Generally an older, more
seasoned, salsa crowd, the lesson were smaller than Sevilla, and was also taught
by Valerie. The classes followed the same format as Sevilla. The dance floor
is well sized for the crowd, which at its height, I estimated at 150 people. There was
always plenty of room to dance.
The music is soft (low level) the entire night, which is
both good and bad. You could easily have conversations while the music was
playing, however sometimes on the dance floor, you couldn’t really make out the
subtleties of the tunes that were being played. I enjoy loud music, so I could
have really have used a volume adjustment, but it was danceable. This night is
solely DJ, and at first I was disappointed. The music was really run-of-the-mill
until later on in the evening; the DJ playing the very typical old club
hits. Later on however, he cut loose, although the club did end early, at about
The lighting was also a bit odd. It was a quite bright,
and stayed that way through the night. I thought the lights might go down after
the lesson ended, but they kept them on throughout the evening. After the
lesson, the club was still populated by mostly beginner dancers, with a
sprinkling of intermediates.
Personal experience: My first dance of the night, I
opted for a lady who was right off the dance floor, moving to the
music. I was aware that she was probably a dance-trouper,
yet I was in the mood to start off with someone slightly past the basics, and
she was the only one in sight. I approached, offered my hand, and asked her to
dance. Sometimes you can just immediately tell when you make a mistake, and
approach the wrong person, and I immediately knew I had. It would prove to be a
painful mistake as well . . .
She hesitated, gave me a long look up and down, began to
set down her drink, grimaced a few times, started to offer me her hand, but then
retracted it, all this taking what seemed to be an interminable long time of me
just standing there with my hand outstretched. I knew I had hit this girl at
some personal crisis point in her life, and I wanted to get out of there, but
then came the question along with that disdainful grimace again, “can you
dance on 2”? Her eyes challenging, her face still locked in that challenging
glare of “how dare you ask me to dance”. I had already decided I wasn’t
going to dance with her at this point, and just wanted to find someone else. I
almost burst out laughing, but the episode was just too painful. I wanted out –
so I said, “I’ll gladly dance on whatever you’d like”, and added the
friendliest, most open smile I could muster as I decided to make a quick exit.
I leaned forward, put my arm gently on her back and said “perhaps another time,
have a pleasant . . .”, I was going to add the word “night”, but she swatted my
hand from her back, and said “don’t touch me”. I can’t believe it, she "swatted
me" on my exit?! Now at this point, all I want is to get out of there with a
shred of dignity, and semblance of respect, but she wasn’t going to afford me
that – with a hand swat and a turn of the back I was left just standing there.
I just walked away, enough said. I was just in awe of how rude she was.
I mean, personal crisis or not, why so rude? I can shrug off a “no, thank
you” as well as the next guy, but its hard not to take stuff like this
personally, yes, even for me. Well, xxxxxx – I took the trouble to find out
your name, so I might get the last word and excoriate you in print.
Anyway, back to the evening – after I strengthened my
resolve with a Long Island Iced Tea, things got much better . . . quickly!
At around 10pm, the place started filling up with people beyond the class, and
there were some really fun dancers. I was asked to dance several times, as with
most places on this visit, the women outnumbered the men and they wanted
to dance. It's not completely out of whack, but it did seem that at most
places, there were quite a few women (whom showed up later - not early, for
class). As usual, the early part of the evening was heavily weighted towards
The hotel is the typical Mariott - $70 rooms if booked
through the Internet.
The music continues with a nice mix of salsa and even a
cha-cha or two. I found my salvation in a corner of the club
– about three tables filled with fantastic dancers. That was it – dancing
heaven for the rest of the night, and plenty of people whom would join me at
Catamaran – our next stop.
Catamaran Resort - Saturday Night
It just gets better and better! This is my favorite place
of the trip. A pleasant resort, gorgeous bar area, spacious floor, raised
stage, nice setting, good music (although very fast – too fast), this place gets
my vote. Lots of seating surrounds the dance floor, and the whole place comes
together as a salsa venue quite nicely.
First, an overview of the lesson. There were about 15-20
people in the lesson, all absolutely rote beginners. I danced with the teacher
a bit later in the night, her name was Anna or Annie (I believe), and she was a lot of
fun. The class was also fun and people enjoyed it. She taught a mind-dizzying
pattern which had people in stitches. All in all, a good lesson, well taught,
but a bit too much for the beginners to grasp.
In the early part of the evening, when people weren’t
crowding the floor, she asked a brand new person in her class to come out and
dance with her. A rarity for many dance teachers, especially on an empty floor,
and something that should be applauded. The entire room was dancing soon after
that, and she deserves kudos for getting the party started. She also obviously
had a good attitude about dance in general, emphasizing the fun and social
The party starts, and the place fills up quickly. I was
told often that it was a light crowd, but the place was filled. I’m not sure
how a larger crowd would have done in the location. This night was Yari More’s
CD release party, and there was cake (brought by a fantastic dancer – whom shall
remain anonymous), and the band played multiple sets, with packed floors.
Edie and Al were also there – which was a surprise to me,
and it was nice to see them, as always. They dazzled the floor with their
trademark unique style, and as usual, were dancing with everyone in sight.
The place has a very positive energy, and huge fans help to keep you rather cool
(although the place can get quite warm).
So, what about info for San Diego? I found my initial
http://www.salsasandiego.net, and it was a perfect guide to getting started.
For all those whom can't see past Los Angeles, it's worth the trip down. San
Diego has a lot to offer the salsa dancer!
Besos go out to Jin (my San Diego Guide Girl, SDDG),
Jaunita y Maria (for many fabulous dances, sore feet, and strong desire to
return), Alexa (for everything), Jessica (whom missed out this time) and . . .Frank
(because I feel like a jerk only naming a bunch of ladies). ;)
Dance-Trouper: Dance Troupes have become very prominent in Salsa, and are a
terrific means to increase your skills at dance. However, this term is used to describe those “troops” who have come to
know salsa dance as a technical exercise versus a social dance. Usually
these “dancers” have less than one year experience, and very limited social
dance skills, yet have joined the “Salsa
Mafia” and developed attitudes that are rarely justified based on their
skills (can a bad attitude, or rude behavior, every be justified?). It does not apply to
everyone who belongs to a dance troupe. Approach these "Dance-Trouper" dancers at your own
risk, for few will dance with you out of their own cliques. Read our
upcoming article on the State of Salsa Dancing, in SalsaCrazy.Com
Always look in the corners for good dancers. Not necessarily on the rims of
the floor, where people will congregate whom generally “want to be seen”. In
the same breath, it
should be noted though that all salsaholics like to dance on the edge of the
floor on crowded dance floors, so you only have to worry about flailing
bodies from one side.
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