SALSA music like thunder roaring in dancers’ ears. Flocks of people are packed in the dance floor. A man is standing with hands on a lady’s hip. Her body turns around with a strong flick of waist from side to side. Couples on the dancing floor performing incredible lifting and swinging, intoxicating with salsa music in a gay scene.
Salsa is a tropical music originated in Cuba. Many Cubans emigrated and fled to New York because of political instability. Salsa began in New York in the 30S, influenced by Latin music styles and afro jazz. Salsa has enjoyed an incredible popularity throughout the world in the 90s.
According to a local teacher, Salsa literally means hot sauce and the music of the dance. The actual dance is Mambo, which belongs to the Latin family including Cha Cha and Ramba.
Salsa has become more popular since 1998. It continues to develop and garner a large number of Hong Kong fans. A few dining restaurants and clubs always have lessons in the evening for people to learn some basic steps.
A Mexican restaurant, La Placita in Times Square, is one of the popular venues for Salsa fanciers. On every Sunday evening, about 150 people crowd in, with people from all walks of life in stunning and well-groomed dress.
A one-and-a-half-hour lesson is priced at $100 including a drink. The dancers are a big mixture of nationalities, with Japanese, Filipinos, Chinese, British, American and African. Their ages ranges from mid-20 to 50 years old.
A middle age salsa maniac, George Lam, wears jeans and T-shirt with sweat. His legs are as nimble as a goat, while he is dexterous with his hands to spin his partner. George said he learnt Salsa from the media. “Salsa dancing night is similar to a rave party. However, Salsa is more popular among middle aged people because the steps are very elegant.”
English is the medium of teaching. Having a basic command of English is necessary. Almost all fans are executives and office girls.
Salsa is very easy to learn so that many Hong Kong people like it. “The music is very easy to listen to and the dance steps are easy to follow. You don’t have to learn lots of steps. People can dance like a professional in a short time,” said Joseph Ennin, a Salsa teacher.
Another Chinese fancier, marketing executive Melanie Mok, is enthusiastic about joining the Salsa night. She said Salsa gives her affection. “If you like Salsa, you would definitely he crazy on it. It is a mixture of romance and affection.”
Lillian Cheung, an executive secretary, said Salsa releases her stress and job pressure. “I can forget my heavy work pressure and release emotion when I am dancing,” she said.
Beginners are able to learn salsa in a dance studio in Central. A British woman, Teresa Wood is holding a 26-year-old man’s hand and showing him how to spin his body properly in front of a mirror. The other four couples are in all ears to listen to her instructions.
Teresa Wood said she was the first one to start a Salsa class in the Police Officers’ Club in Causeway Bay in 1995. Some people thereafter embarked on some classes in clubs and restaurants like Al Corso, La Placita, Zentra, and Club Ing.
“People like social interaction. They like the contacts with other people. They like the music, it gives everyone a chance to meet friends. Four couples have met here and married,” she said.
People want to learn some basic steps in a quick pace. Salsa has six basic steps. “The rhythm is quick slow, quick quick slow.” Salsa dancers have to feel the music and vary the steps and patterns while understanding the techniques of the dance.
Male dancers are always in a shortage in Salsa classes. To attract gentlemen to join in, Teresa offers a half price concession to them. “It is a shame. There are always more ladies than men. The guys feel a bit inhibited. Hong Kong men really work very hard.”
Edited by Amy Wong