Salsa Dance New York: Salsa Dancing Review of New York

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A Trip Review of New York Salsa Dancing. Salsa Dance in New York, One Year Later, and  heavily changed.

It’s been a long while since I’ve been back to New York to review the salsa dance scene here. Fortunately Bay Area friends like Dakin and Kayono, and Hong and Kaori (coming in tonight from Boston), and Washington DC beauty, Connie, and others all out and about here and there, not to mention a good number of other random friends I have been running into, the City is starting to feel like my second home and I am now actively contemplating ways to spend more time here. (that is a huge run-on sentence)

As many of you know, New York is the home of salsa dance on the East Coast, birthplace of On2 style “New York” salsa, and the home to numerous major salsa bands and musicians. Year after year, I came here to learn and experience a seriously high level of salsa dance and an explosive mix of the best live music on the planet. It had become a yearly adventure to the classes of Eddie Torres, Santo Rico, Delille Thomas, and Frankie Martinez – each year completely revitalizing me and showing me the amazing levels to which the art of this dance has progressed.

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But for me, as most of you know, it’s always been about the music and the social dancing. That’s what I live for, that's what inspires me, and that’s what kept bringing me back. We are very lucky in the Bay Area to have so many high quality bands and musicians, and there are few places on the planet to match us in that area. New York was one of those places. I say was because, for the entire two weeks of dancing this trip, I could barely find more than a 4 piece live band playing anywhere. They were great, yes, but where were the big names?  Maybe I just hit a slow couple weeks here, but….

With the loss of the Copa (having closed this year), there seems to be a black hole in the dance scene here that has yet to be filled. Unfortunately, like most black holes, it’s gravitational pull seems to have completely eaten not only itself, but most major salsa venues in the area. For sure, standouts and long time clubs still exist, LQ, where I was last night, is one. However, looking at the music schedule, and even the club schedule for Manhattan was a dismal experience, and made me yearn (yes, literally yearn) for years past where I would see major musical acts on every night of the week, and dance at crowded live music clubs. This my friends, seems to have disappeared.

Perhaps it’s simply moved out of Manhattan, and now resides solely in the Bronx, Whiteplains, and yes, Jersey, where I did see a smattering of live music including New Swing Sextet, and Eddie Santiago, however, for salsa in Manhattan, I could barely find live music to save my life, except at LQ, and of course, the next best thing to live, DJ Henry Knowles Monday nights at the Taj, which were a lot of fun. The Plumm (a re-opening of the old Nells ) was closed during my review, so I can’t comment on that specific venue.

For those visiting, we have a list of resources at the end of the article. Sadly, no single resource lists everything! It seems that there are competing promoters, or competing interests, so we have no single place to go as a resource for salsa. Major omissions from every calendar means you really have to visit at least a few of the sites we list to piece together most of what is happening on a given night. But to do that, ya’ have to read to the bottom!

Anyway, let’s get to the heart of it. The first event, as usual for a “dancer” in New York, was stopping at a thriving new social. I chose Choco’s event (Choco, of MamboFateegz, is the man behind the NYC Salsa Congress, after the heartfelt loss of promoter David Melendez to Cancer last year). The event was well attended, and really, really, fun. As with most socials in New York, almost everyone could dance, but unlike most socials I’ve been to, the level was far more forgiving and a significant number of the people were at more of an intermediate level. I even, thankfully, saw some beginners on the dance floor this time. Beginner’s, being the lifeblood of a thriving salsa scene, are all too often left “out in the cold”, especially in New York, where arguably, you have to seriously train for a few years before being able to dance in the clubs successfully.

I really enjoyed this event. Amazingly enough, Choco actually knew who I was, and recognized me (wow, fame at last), even in a five day beard growth, and raggedy piece-meal clothing. At least I’m looking the part of the modern day salsa dancer (but we can save that discussion of a different article). This was a great social, well attended, good dance floor, fun music, and recommended for all levels. There was a Yamulee social on the same night, and I imagine that was quite a bit more intense but was too much of a train ride to make this nught, so we decided to hit that next time.

At about 12, we were delighted to be joined by the Bay Area's Gabriel Romero, his partner Vika (yay, great dancer), Alex (the Energizer), Ricardo, and a few others whom were in town training with Eddie (I heard they were in class until 1:30am the night before – who stays in a salsa class until 1:30am? That’s dedication!).

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The next night, we went to see “Celia”, a musical (off Broadway), about the life of Celia Cruz, told through the eyes of her husband. Done as a love story, there was plenty of dancing, and this show should not be missed by anyone visiting New York. We recognized Sekou McMiller, salsa superstart of Chicago, and his partner Grizel “Chachi” Del Valle who principle dancer/singers in the show. A very fun, vibrant show, with some knockout numbers (like the two which took place during the African memories). I learned quite a bit as well, about her life in Cuba, her “exile”, and her subsequent stardom, on a consistent rise until her demise. Well acted, well danced, and in a good theater, this was a fun production.

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That night was the DanceSport social. I was expecting this to the be the largest event we attended, short of the Jimmy Anton social (the longest running social in New York). However, the room this was held in was actually about the size of Cache.  I didn't get a chance to find out if this was their usual spot, but it was definitely a dancer's event, with (formerly of the Bay Area) Luis Antionio performing, fresh from his prior weeks major success at the World Salsa Championships!

Monday nights at Taj was a complete shocker. It was fantastic. Henry Knowles new club was beautiful, and we almost missed it. On the agenda for review, there are actually two clubs on Monday night, one upper west side, Mojitos, and one lower West, Taj. When we arrived, we heard club style music, rather than salsa, emanating from the club. We were assured by the door person that there was a salsa band (a welcome surprise), and that salsa was played. When we entered, it was a nice multi level club, all great wood floor, with a balcony overlooking the floor, band and DJ. There were booths lining the walls, and there was a good crowd, and lots of dancers, with some standouts as well. There was a live music, five piece band (that sound exceptional).

Tuesday night, a night which in past years would have been reserved for excellent live music at the Copa, was very quiet

Wednesday night brought us to LQ, and live music! We arrive at 10pm and it was packed. This club is happening early (and we mean early), when they open for the afterwork crowd at 6pm, with a buffet. Lessons with Amyrillis, and live music follow. When we arrive, we were waved right in. Not sure why really. But the door women was busy, he took a look at us, and just waved us in. That was a nice way to start! Live music playing, the club was completely packed. It was a Charanga band — Orchestra America, and they were awesome. Fun to listen to, and fun to dance to, the crowd was partying up a storm. Very jovial atmosphere, the dancing was quite vibrant. The crowd was made up of mostly beginners and intermediates, with only a smattering of die hard dancers. We ran into a couple of girls from Tokyo whom were quite good, and a couple of ladies from New Jersey whom were also fun. Overall, a really great club night,that ended at an astounding 12:30. This is New York right? 12:30?

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Tonight, the final night in New York, at Cache.  Cache started slowly, at about 10pm. There is a "lesson" that gets about 10 or so people, sometimes a few more, but the music plays on the main floor as the lesson is taught in the back. The club is nice and quiet until about 11pm, believe it or not, when it fills quite quickly to a packed crowd by 12. It was quite crowded the week before New Years, and about double the crowd size of the previous week.
The DJ was good, and started the night out slowly, and by the end was playing quite a few fast songs. Every once and a while he'd break into a 2 song, back to back, Cha Cha break, and then it was back to the salsa. Great crowd, and very advanced after 12, with a small mix of beginners and intermediates. The floor appeared quite "intense" at times, and crowded. As a beginner, you would definitely have a tougher time here, as this is a pretty serious "dancer's" venue, much more than, for example, LQ, which felt more like a club.

Still, other than the socials, this seems like one of the best place to check out New York’s top dancers.  In the house tonight:  Sekou McMiller, Thomas Guerrero, Amaryllis Cintron, Magna Gopal, and too many more to list here. Wow.  I can't wait to come back here.

If you've never been to NYC before and are interested in a guided salsa tour, you might also check in with San Francisco's Gabriel Romero ( who has been running a week-long summer tour there for the last four years.  I can promise it will be a trip you never forget (and yes, I’ve gone on it).

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 Discuss this Post in our Brand New Message BoardsAnyway, I need a little beauty-rest before then (ok, ok, a LOT of beauty-rest) but have amassed the following summary of the most current information I could find about the salsa scene here.  NEW YORK ROCKS!!

- Taj Lounge 48 W 21st St b/w 5th and 6th
- Salsa Con Mambo, Session 73 1359 First Ave at 73rd 212-517-4445

-Columbus 72, 246A Columbus Avenue between 71st and 72nd; (212) 239-2672;

-The Plumm 246 w 14th off 8th
-LQ (Latin Quarter), 511 Lexington Avenue (between 47th and 48th); (212) 593-7575;

-Cache, 221 W. 46th St.
-La Fonda Boricua, 169 East 106th Street; (212) 410-7292;

FRIDAY 237 W 54th st.3rd fl b/w Broadway and 8th choco 347-680-7616 (1st and 3rd Fridays)
-Columbus 72, 246A Columbus Avenue between 71st and 72nd; (212) 239-2672;
-S.O.B.'s, 204 Varick Street (at West Houston); (212) 243-4940;

- (some salsa) LQ ( Latin Quarter), 511 Lexington Avenue (between 47th and 48th); (212) 593-7575;

- See calendars for socials
- 22 W 34th st 4th Fl

Of course, for live music, always make sure to check out Birdland, 315 West 44th Street; (212) 581-3080;

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When are ya' coming to Salsa Dance in New York? 

Also, the Hawaii Salsa Festival is just one month away, and you HAVE to go. This is a great, great, event. Don't miss it. It's going to be amazing, fun, and one helluva vacation. Don't miss it!


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