I am being bold by naming names here in Cleveland. In many ways, most of the DJs adapt to the local taste and the crowd of the specific venues. The thing is – as a salsa dancer, I have my own preference, and I want let people know who are my favorites.
I do go out to salsa clubs and salsa venues in the area all the time. The atmosphere here in Cleveland is different at salsa congresses and salsa festivals. But I should not be traveling all over the country to different salsa festivals just because I am looking for better salsa dance music. I have already described in a previous blog what kind DJs we salsa dancers are looking for.
There are only a few DJs I will describe here. But these DJs do play the kind of music that fits my preference. You be the judge. So here we go !!!
DJ Vic Diaz
His salsa plays are pretty much a great mix of classical + romantica.
What’s so good about his choice? His salsa music choice is absolutely superb.
(1) Many familiar tunes make it fun to dance. Dancers prefer to dance to the songs they know. I am the same way.
(2) His choice of songs have great and clear rhythms. You would not believe how many times I am dancing on the floor and DJ puts up some song that is either too fast, or some vague rhythm (many Cuban salsa) and I just can’t go on. Yes, and I have seen DJs who play Aguanile every time I see them. That song may be a favorite for the crowd to get excited. But it’s a nightmare for strict tempo salsa dancers like me. I do like the song, but the challenge is to dance fast enough to catch up to Aguanile, and you try it. You may be so out of breath even before the end of the song. That’s because many of he DJs are not actual salsa dancers. We not only move back and forth during the dance, but we turn, and try to do turn patterns. We can deal with some fast songs, but cannot deal with fast fast songs one after the other. In this sense, I remember dancing to DJ Vic’s play and at the end of the night, I said to myself, Oh boy, I just did not want to sit down at all all night because his selections are so superb.
Normally he will be playing a good mix of bachata, merengue as well. So I vote him as No 1 Salsa Club DJ in Cleveland !!!!
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Recently I found this video where Frankie Maritnez explains the different styles of salsa dances very concisely, as well as putting their development in a historical context.
There is so much important information for salsa dancers to absorb.
If I understand correctly,
- Salsa dancing styles were refined from the influence of dancing that were popular from 50’s and 70’s.
- Dancing was refined because the musicians told the dancers about Clave rhythm, and how the movements and the accent should be in relation to the rhythm.
- Cuban salsa is a completely different music by itself. Rhythmic structure of LA/NY style salsa is different from Cuban salsa.
- In Cuban style, they add lot of Cuban footwork. You can see lot of bending of the knees, very low to the ground often.
- In LA style, they are more extravagant, physical, and acrobatic.
- Advice to a starting male dancer: listen first and speak second. Listen to the female dancer and be receptive to what is happening to her.
Well, I think the advices are so excellent. In terms of Cuban style, even though I do not dance Cuban style, elements of Afro-American influences are often exhibited in shines (when partners separate and do heir own footwork). I am indicating bending of the knees, body and hip movements to the percussion section, etc.
If you want to see more videos of different salsa styles, please go to the following link. And if you like what you see, start going to your local salsa dance classes. Yes, it may take a couple of years, but you can be that good !!!!
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“What is remembered defines your life.”
My fascination with Wong Kar-Wai’s film became more intense after watching his 1990 film ‘Days of Being Wild’. The main character, Yuddy(Leslie Chung) is not exactly a model citizen. He seduces women, doesn’t mind using forces on other guys, then doesn’t really care whatever happens to himself. Apparently his only concern is to pursue what’s on his mind.
Why was I so fascinated by this film? Let’s start with the most memorable tune from the film.
Los Indios Tabajaras – one of the best romantic guitar players in the world.
As I listen to ‘Maria Elena’, I am dressed in white suits, and I am old and grey, and I am remembering good old times.
“Yes, I had good time, no, great time !”
“My life wasn’t that easy. I had hardships. I didn’t have good job. I didn’t have my close family around me. And somehow I survived. I kept believing myself, and just kept going forward. ”
I think Yuddy exemplifies a person with a heart set on something important to him. Yuddy wasn’t perfect. But he is the one who went for what he really wanted.
“I’ve heard that there’s a kind of bird without legs that can only fly and fly, and sleep in the wind when it is tired. The bird only lands once in its life…that’s when it dies.” (Yuddy in ‘Days of being Wild’)
The bird keeps flying, and does not want to stop flying or land. Because that’s when the bird expires.
” Somehow everything comes with an expiry date. Swordfish expires. Meat sauce expires. Even cling-film expires. Is there anything in the world which doesn’t?” (Cop 223 in ‘ChungKing Express’)
The more I think about my life, the more precious it becomes. Because it will be gone. I don’t want to waste a minute of it.
“Shall I stay, would it be a sin. If I can‘t help falling in love with you.” (Elvis Presley)
“Those were good times that we spent together…and I will remember” (A woman whom I briefly loved long ago; one who married into money; yes I remember her name. )
So what does this film or the theme has to do with salsa?
Not really. No particular relation. But there’s a nice cha cha dancing by Leslie Chung at 6 min (below).
Cha cha dance (and music) was such a gloriously popular genre in the early 60’s. Cha cha dancing that we do in salsa clubs just does not bring out the glorious days of cha cha music and dancing.
So here we go! Make life memorable…..
Live, Love Salsa !
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Tags: cha cha, Days of Being Wild, Leslie Chung, Maria Elena, Salsa, salsa lifestyle, Wong kar-wai
It has been a while since I wrote blog on Cleveland salsa scene. I think I will update this blog more often. I have been involved in starting one of the most successful salsa venue in Cleveland are – and I still love salsa dancing.
As long as I can remember, the salsa dance venues in Cleveland has come and gone. As a passionate salsa dance lover, I could not get enough of it for years since the only salsa night was on Friday when the majority of dancers come out. But with the opening of Nazca Restaurant & Bar, now I can count on having a venue where the place is crowded with salsa dancers as well as other party lovers who crash into salsa scene and enjoy a night of dancing to hot Latin music.
I have been fortunate to be involved in one of the most popular and successful salsa dance venues in Cleveland right now. The salsa venue I go to is Nazca Restaurant & Bar located in Warrensville Heights, OH.
Nazca Restaurant & Bar is owned by Chef Cesar Mugaburu who was born in Peru, and grew up in Cleveland area, then studied in Europe, and returned to Cleveland and started his own Peruvian restaurant to deliver a great fusion of traditional and modern taste of Peruvian cuisine.
New Year’s Eve Gala at Nazca Restaurant & Bar
I am also teaching salsa at Cleveland Salsa Passion dance studio located next to Nazca Restaurant & Bar. Love of salsa dancing is what drives me to share the joy of salsa dancing.
If you are interested in learning to dance salsa, Cleveland Salsa Passion offers a 5-week LA style Novice Salsa classes. The joy of dancing to the hot Latin rhythm does transform life i believe. I get to meet many people with the same interest. When I go to other cities, it’s so easy to meet and get to know other dancers. In many ways salsa dancing is such a catalyst in life.
Live and Love salsa !!!!!
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Tags: Salsa, Salsa Dance Cleveland, Salsa Dance Clubs Cleveland, salsa lifestyle
Recently I am noticing that many good things are happening in Cleveland Salsa dancing. More and more people are getting involved in salsa scene. A few new salsa venues have opened up. I get to be invited to nice salsa venues and parties and get to meet many other dancers, enjoy dancing, and make new friends. I have been involved in Cleveland salsa dance scene for at least a year and half very actively. This may not be a long time. But I have been exposed to salsa dancing for the last 10 years and at the same time have been taking lessons and dancing in Ballroom and Latin dancing. Lately I am getting more involved with Salsa Dance scene in Cleveland, and I feel that I should speak my mind about Salsa Dance music in Cleveland.
I think we may be still lacking the best of Salsa dance music at the salsa venues in Cleveland area. I believe that the reason is that we, salsa dancers as a group in Cleveland area, are not too demanding, or at least we have been too easy on many DJs and organizers in Cleveland area. So I mean to present a constructive criticism of salsa dance music here in Cleveland area.
Importance of Salsa Dance Music
First of all, the most important part of the dance venue is the right kind of salsa music (given that enough number of salsa dancers are present at the venue) along with a nice dance floor. I want to make this very clear to many night club owners, dance studio owners, salsa music DJs, and salsa event promoters. They may think “their marketing”, “the crowd following”, or “the show” that they are putting together brings in salsa dancers. But that is a very wrong assumption. Salsa dancers go to those venues or events mostly to dance salsa. Not to just enjoy listening to the music, or just to watch other people perform, or just to mix with other crowd —– those are just bells and whistles. So even if a venue has everything else, but if it lacks good salsa dance music throughout the whole evening, how could salsa dancers have fun?
Salsa dance, in its full extent of dancing, is actually a very complicated dance that has evolved through many decades and incorporates many elements of other previously popular dances — among them Lindy, Mambo, Hustle, Shag, and West Coast Swing not to mention many other dances of Latin American origin. Many elements of these styles have been incorporated into two major style of salsa now popular in U.S. and the world (except South America). These two are New York Style salsa, and LA style salsa. Eddie Torres has developed a sophisticated style (New York Style) of “slot dancing” that fits night club (small dance floor) environment. In LA style, they adopted most of New York style moves, and added dips and tricks that are borrowed from other partner dances, but dance with a break on 1. These two popular styles are danced on 1-2-3 and 5-6-7 timing, and therefore is different from other (Particularly Caribbean style) salsas where it can be danced on 2-3-4 and 6-7-8 timing. Mambo dance which was popular in the 60’s was adopted into American style ballroom dancing, and is danced in 2-3-4 and 5-6-7 with a more staccato action. Therefore if a band plays mambo music (with staccato on 2-3-4 and 5-6-7), one can’t be moving their feet on 1-2-3 as in New York or LA style salsa. A Latin band or Latin music DJ that plays for listeners need not distinguish these different rhythms. But this becomes extremely important matter to salsa dancers. Music becomes a matter of “to dance, —– or not to dance”. No salsa dancer wants to sit out most of the dance evening. Therefore, if the music is not right, the venue becomes a bore.
What One Should Learn from A Hugely Successful “Salsa Social”
A few years ago a group of salsa dancers in Cleveland started a monthly salsa social event called “Baila Duro“. I have been going to this event for the last year and half, and I am very grateful to this group for promoting pure salsa social. So what was the background for the start of this salsa social? I believe it was the music.
At most of the salsa night clubs, I have seen DJs mixing in a lot of Merengue, Bachata, Reggaeton, and even so called top 40s (mostly hip hop these days) to my horror. How does top 40 belong to salsa night? When night club owners advertise as “salsa night”, and if the DJs do not play enough good salsa music, and focus on playing the other kind of music – which I have seen many times in the past, the DJ is insulting Salsa dancers’ intelligence. The club owner or the promoter of the venue may have no idea of what constitutes good salsa dance music, and may leave it to the DJ. But the DJ may have no knowledge of Salsa Dancer’s preference of music. Salsa dancers want to go to salsa dance venues where, most of the time, they can dance salsa. Period. I know Merengue and Bachata are frequently played in many venues along with salsa. But those are not the main reason why salsa dancers go out to salsa clubs or venues.
This Baila Duro event draws typically 150 – 250 or more – the largest crowd in the area. This is not a result of huge promotion, or greatest dance floor. So what does this mean?
- Salsa dancers want to hear salsa music played 90% of the time so that they can dance salsa. Baila Duro offered a venue that was totally dancer-friendly. No bar crowd. No socializers. No junk party music. No drinks spilt on the dance floor. At Baila Duro monthly social, they do not play Merengue or Bachata let alone other junk stuff. They play mostly Salsa (95% of the time), with just a few Cha Chas throughout the whole event. Clearly salsa dancers can do Merengue and Bachata, but these two dances are rather simple and not as much fun as Salsa. Although I do not mind dancing Merengue or Bachata, often I find that at salsa clubs, they play too many other dances. So I do fully support Baila Duro for the fact that they want to play mostly Salsa music.
- Salsa dancers prefer salsa music with a controlled volume. The clubs usually have loud music blasting to ear. Therefore one cannot have normal conversations at the night club. I was at a salsa club in Cleveland area, and the music was obviously too loud at a small space. I told the DJ that the music is too loud. He brushed me off and actually he made the music even louder. I could not bear the loudness of the music, and I left soon. I never went back to that club again. Later I heard that that DJ lost his job. Also I heard that this particular salsa venue no longer exists anymore. I also know of a salsa night club that has salsa music with not-so-loud volume. I have no problem having conversations, and people actually love it, and this night club is doing very well.
The Essence of Good Salsa Dance Music
Good salsa music has classical salsa characteristics. — Classical does not mean old, but means that it follows the tradition of the Clave based salsa rhythm, and fluid progression of music with abundance of percussion, horn section, piano, and vocal. To be a great salsa dance music, the music has to have a correct tempo (not too slow or not too fast for dancing), proper beat (so that dancers know where they are in the music), and good melody (so that dancers enjoy the melody), and correct length. These four elements are not an option. Each salsa song must meet this requirement to please salsa dancers.
In my opinion most of Latin jazz, Latin pop, or Latin hip hop does not fit this requirement. Please read the following link if the reader wants to learn more about the good salsa music (in this website the author says mambo — but what he means is New York Style salsa)
www.salsanewyork.com/guide/song_list.htm Particularly read subsection under “Give Us Classic Salsa Sound, Strong Dancer’s Rhythm, And A Nice Melody Line“.
Also DJ or band need to know the difference between mambo and salsa. One cannot in general dance both salsa and mambo to a song. Mambo is rather staccato, and salsa in more fluid. Salsa and Mambo are two different dances, and it feels just not right to try to dance Salsa to a Mambo song, and vice versa. Here is a great article that explains the difference.
The Problem with Many Latin Music DJs
Many Latin music DJs think they know salsa music because they have knowledge of Latin music. However, as was pointed out clearly in the above link, salsa dance music has different requirements than just “Latin” or “Salsa” as a music class. So I have a huge problem with DJs who play Latin music that is not a good fit for salsa dancers. Under scrutiny, many salsa-like Latin songs fail to provide a correct medium for salsa dancers if they lack four of the elements that I mentioned earlier. Therefore I believe that a good salsa DJ is someone who truly loves salsa dancing on top of love of salsa music. Another important qualification of a good salsa DJ is that DJ is willing to play what the salsa dancers like, and not be pre-occupied with the fact he or she knows what the best salsa music is, and is willing to play requests. There is an excellent article in this matter. So if you are a salsa dance music DJ, please read here (Guidelines for DJs).
Live Band Events
I have expressed in the past in my blog about how I feel about live bands. I have been disappointed with live bands so many times, for the reasons that may not be clear to non-salsa dancers. Basically many Latin bands do not make living by playing at dances, but rather by performing in front of audiences [listeners]. Therefore their songs are geared for Latin music listeners, and not for salsa dancers. Naturally their repertoire consists of many mambo and even samba. It does not feel right to do salsa to a mambo song. (Read this f or the difference between salsa and mambo.) But that is not the main problem. The real problem is that their repertoire is limited severely —- one band cannot master many great salsa songs. They have their own style, and they have their repertoire, and they stick to it whether they are good for salsa dancers or not. Another reason is that many salsa bands have tremendously long rhythm only sections – with no melody. This truly bothers me as a salsa dancer. Dancing salsa to rhythm only or Latin jazz (which means in general they lack salsa rhythm, so dancers get lost during the dance and wonder where the dancers are in terms of the beats) is a painstakingly boring task. Good salsa music requires proper beats.
My experience in Cleveland has been that I have been very much disappointed with live bands for the kind of salsa they play. Often they sound like mambo or samba. This is not my unique experience. This is a consensus of a lot of hard core salsa dancers. In the future, live bands can change their repertoire so that the songs they play are more salsa dancer-friendly, of course. But I will have to wait and see if there will be such a band emerging from Cleveland area.
Suggestions for Salsa Venue Organizers
No one invites people to provide them bad food. Likewise, I believe all the salsa venue organizers wish to have great salsa parties and make the dancers happy, so the dancers keep coming back. Basically this is a sound business model. Happy customers bring in more business. I understand many operators of Salsa dance venues are business owners. Many salsa night clubs have come and gone, and many more will be here. For dance studio owners, having great salsa parties mean more people will find out about the dance studio and hopefully more dance students will take classes at the studio.
I have been to many salsa clubs, salsa events, and salsa parties in Cleveland area. Typically salsa music at the night clubs is usually mixed with a lot of non-salsa music. I do understand why night clubs mix in the other kind of music. They need to cater to the other crowd — bar crowd. But what the club owners do not realize is that the bar crowd comes into the club because of salsa dancers. If the club owner or venue operator fails to make salsa dancers happy, salsa dancers will stop going to that club or venue, and there will be no more businesses for the club owner or the venue organizers.
So here are my suggestions for Salsa Dance Venue Organizers.
- Give Us High Quality Salsa Music: Many salsa dancers want to dance salsa rather than either Merengue or Bachata. I am not suggesting that night clubs should be playing salsa 90% of the time. Personally I prefer a mix of about 80% Salsa and 10% Bachata ad 10% Merengue. This means DJ can play 4 -5 salsas, then play one Bachata, then play another 4-5 Salsas and play a Merengue. Depending on the crowd, a little more Bachata or Merengue is OK, but anything less than 60% of Salsa is an insult to salsa dancers. This is my opinion as a hard core salsa dancer, but I heard from a rather new salsa dancer a comment that Merengue is just too boring. So why give the salsa dancers “fast food” if one can provide high quality menu? Please kill those Reggaeton, and Top-40 if you want to make salsa dancers happy.
- Use Qualified DJs Who have a Good Understanding of Salsa Music Requirements: My contention is that the most important ingredient of a successful Salsa venue is salsa dance music, and therefore letting someone who is ignorant of these facts and plays wrong kind of salsa music will eventually cost the venue provider some money — as there will be many more venues competing for the attention of salsa dancers. Please strive to provide the best kind of salsa music for your events. So please make sure you hire a good salsa DJ for your venue. In choosing a good salsa DJ, please do not ask people who do not dance salsa. Ask salsa dancers. They will gladly give you names of DJs they are happy with
- Maintain the Volume of the Music to An Acceptable Level: So we can have conversations. This may be against the ongoing night club practice. But again, I have seen a salsa night club where music is not overwhelming, and people love it.
- Give Us Plenty of Hardwood Dance Floor: I have seen upscale hardwood dance floor where it was crowded with Salsa Dancers all night long. But regrettably this was in another city. I have not seen spacious hardwood floor for a salsa night club in Cleveland. I am happy with many area dance studios providing spacious hardwood dance floors. But people do like to go out to night clubs. So if you can provide beautiful hardwood floor for dancers, they will find you.
Although Cleveland is a pretty large city, I have seen that word of mouth travels real fast among salsa dancers. The word will be out. And if you play good salsa music, and make sure the venue is dancer friendly atmosphere, I will be the first one spreading the good words about the particular venue.
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Baila Duro Lounge Review (Held at Philippine Hall, Parma, Ohio)
Last Visit: June 2010
When: First Sunday of The Month, 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
This is a one and only, and one of a kind monthly salsa dance social in Cleveland. This salsa venue has been going on since 2006. The good thing about this venue is that you can find most of the hard-core salsa dancers as well as not-so-regulars here. This venue attracts also many out-of-town regular visitors, or perhaps many people are attracted to this venue due to out-of-town regular visitors. Plenty of dance space. But even the large dance floor can get crowded. So one can see how popular this venue is among the salsa dancers in the area.
The dance is held in Philippine American Hall in Parma (a suburb of Cleveland, OH), the dance is held on a spacious floor.
I got there around 6:45 pm. The floor was already filled with lots of dancers. According to my past experience, most of the time, there is just a lot of dancers of all the different levels. One thing I love about this venue is that, unlike at salsa night clubs, everyone is there to dance, not to just hang out and watch. So, when I ask for a dance, I don’t have to worry if the lady can dance or not. And I can see that everyone loves to dance with everybody.
The other good thing about this venue is that you cannot find women focusing on text messaging, unlike at the salsa night clubs, for some reason. I say day and night club difference !
- Ambiance: 7 out of 10
- Music: 8 out of 10
- Dancer-Friendliness: 10 out of 10
EXPLANATION OF RATINGS
Ambiance: Strictly salsa – no bars and no drinking here. But the space has large dance floor. It is fun to see so many dancers all dancing. The ambiance is like, so to speak, a dance hall. Perhaps not as exciting as a night club. So ambiance is 7 out of 10
Music: DJ plays salsa 97% of the time. (Yeah !) A few cha-chas are mixed in and one or two bachatas. No merengue. This is totally fine for me, being a salsa dancer. I had written in my other reviews that I do not care for other club dances. So if you are into total salsa dancing, like me, you will love this venue. Salsa music is decent. In my opinion, perhaps occasionally, I hear salsa that is too jazzy. My personal taste is that they(salsa and jazz) are not compatible. Other than that this is pretty much dancer-friendly salsa music in Cleveland. One thing about the sound system. When I danced right next to the speakers, I noticed that music kind of blasts very loud. But I guess this cannot be helped as long as they have this venue at this location.
8 out of 10
I judge dancer-friendliness by how pleasant it is for salsa dancers to try to dance salsa at the venue. The plus: The dance floor is hardwood – beautiful ! (but on a sticky side. I would request them to put a little more wax for the dancers.)
- Hardwood floor
- Good DJ
- No junk music
- Nice suburban location
- Crazy Party crowd does not show here
- Salsa dance savvy crowd
- TGIS —- Thank God It’s Sunday!
- No worry parking
- Ends at 9:15 pm. I would like to keep on dancing. But I know most of the people have to be waking up early Monday morning. How about if you had this venue on Saturday night so we can dance till like 12 midnight?
Dancer Friendliness = 10 out 10
For salsa dancers who want to be out and dancing in Cleveland or around Ohio, this is the best venue. Don’t miss it ever.
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Tags: Baila Duro, Salsa, Salsa Dance Cleveland
Here we go! Cleveland was determined to be the America’s worst winter weather city in the whole U.S. according to forbes.com. “Cleveland gets hit by lake-effect snow, averaging almost 60 inches every winter and its frigid winters help produce an average annual temperature of only 50 degrees, 10 degrees below the 50-city average.”
Really? O God. As a Clevelander, therefore, I welcome global warming that is someday going to turn this city into a tropical paradise. But I know it’s going to be a longtime before it happens if it happens at all. Guess what? I really did not know Cleveland had such a bad winter weather until forbes.com did their research. Partly because people get used to where they live, and, almost certainly because I know how to use Jedi mindtricks. I do keep hearing people complain about snow and all. Then I hear people saying they like cold weather and that they cannot stand Florida type weather.
What’s the point? Yes, for those that are miserable in Cleveland, I am about to reveal my great Jedi mindtrick. Please pay attention. OK. Now Jedi mind trick time. Watch the following video clip, and read the following if you are miserable because of bad winter weather in wherever U.S.A.
The answer is simple. Find some ways to have fun indoors. Then you don’t care what happens outside. Ah we have to drive, yes. There’s always TV for those who does not want to drive. All the better, I believe there will be a virtual dance club device(in 3-D) in the near future. You can stay home and pick out a dance partner(or multiple partners if you prefer) from the device, and you can dance off the night (yes you have to wear 3-D glasses). How cool would it be for those who do not want to deal with harsh winter weather?
But the rest of us – those who does not mind driving through snow, or storm, there is always fun waiting for us in the America’s worst winter city, Cleveland, Ohio.
Filed under: Salsa Moments, Salsa Video | Leave a Comment