YouTube is one fine teacher and Trevor Salloum, the man behind one of Kelowna’s first free salsa drop-in evenings, would know.
After taking 20 dance lessons, or so, YouTube acted as tutor to get him to the fast-paced athletic ballet of feet, grace, wit and synchronicity a talented salsa dancer showcases.
Yet, salsa is a social concept. Artistic, communicative and somewhat pointless to practise alone in one’s living room.
This is a little of why the Rotary Arts Centre throws open its doors to the salsa community for one night every week, whether there’s theatrical performances in the Mary Irwin, arts functions in the boardroom and classrooms or the building is empty.
“It’s sort of become like a social club for people to meet,” said Salloum.
The dance happens Thursday evenings. Sometimes there are six people; sometimes the dance floor is packed.
It may take two to tango, but the people who come out to practise and learn the mambo or the cucaracha are often singles.
“We get a lot of ESL students…who want to meet people,” he said, and they’re rarely of Latin descent.
Usually women in relationships come out first. They’ve taken ballet growing up, yoga or maybe even jazz dance and are a little less reticent to start crafting their moves in front of others. Invariably, if they’re having a good time, their spouse follows.
Salsa is a rock step. The lead dancer moves on beats one, two and three, leaves out four, then again on five, six and seven, leaving out eight. Their partner, typically the woman, takes the opposite.
Following in the machismo Latin style, the male is typically the lead, taking the more aggressive role and it can get tough to keep step.
“In the beginning we play slow music,” said Salloum. “We tend to leave the dancing fast to later in the evening.”
Salloum is a drummer and came to the dance style through his own musical roots. A naturopath doctor by trade, he’s always been a musician and his love for the drums eventually superseded his original career. He now writes books on drums for a living.
“Drumming and dancing kind of go hand in hand,” he explained. “I play salsa music, so it made sense for me to learn.”
Initially, Salloum would travel to Vancouver to dance, learning in different clubs in the city’s lively dance scene. When he ran the idea of a weekly dance session by administrators at the Rotary Centre for the Arts, they were very receptive and, six years later, the evenings are still going strong.
Lessons begin at 8 p.m. every Thursday and cost $5. At 9 p.m., the dance begins, working from the more simple moves everyone might follow, to the more complicated. A drop-in for the dance costs $2 and there are cheaper rates for those planning to attend multiple times.
“It’s a pretty great deal, good exercise, a safe environment and lots of fun,” said Salloum.
The Rotary Arts Centre salsa evenings have now been around the longest of any salsa event in the city—and there are others. Habitat, on Leon, offers a salsa night and there is a group that meets at UBCO. Several of the local dance studios offer lessons, but the nearly free evening in the downtown core has stood the test of time.
As for Salloum, he’s a little more behind the scenes, these days. Occasionally he plays the drums alongside or comes to the dances, but he tends to organize, handle the public relations and keep to his music and his books.