Although we host different events at clubs, studios and other venues the one event I personally host is the 1st Thursday Salsa Meetup event at Cafe Sevilla each month. I wanted to share this video created by Lolly Aita that does a great job of capturing some of the key things you’ll see at the Meetup I host:
If you’ve ever gone out salsa dancing here in San Diego in the last 20 years, chances are you know Valerie. Cafe Sevilla’s own salsa evangelist, she’s continuously introduced new dancers to salsa dancing in a way that focuses on the social aspects of the dance. Believe it or not, she was my first salsa instructor and helped to instill the love for the music and dance that I still enjoy today. Recently I sat down with Valerie to talk about her long history here in San Diego and to discuss the future of the dance in our community. I hope you enjoy this short interview as much as I did.
Ritmo Bello: Valerie, thanks for taking the time to address the Ritmo Bello dance community. Let’s begin. What are some of the reasons you began to dance and later teach salsa dancing here in San Diego?
Valerie: I’ve been dancing since I was a child, my mom being Puerto Rican influenced my interest in Salsa but I have explored other dance areas such as swing, ballroom, and country western as well. The music just kept bringing me back to Salsa. I was a dance major at Indiana University and when I was approached to teach salsa at Pachangas (a night club in the Gaslamp) in the late 80′s I decided to try it. I found that I really enjoyed the social aspects of dancing and sharing that with people.
Ritmo Bello: San Diego has seen many transitions in the salsa dance scene over the last 20 years. What are some of the main changes you’ve experienced since you began to dance here in San Diego?
Valerie: When I first started dancing Salsa in San Diego the clubs were totally Latin. The dancers were a small and pretty exclusive group. It was unusual to see non Latinos in the clubs. As Salsa has gained an international music and dance audience; the clubs have changed to show that diversity. It’s really great that you can go anywhere in the world these days and have a place to dance. It crosses language barriers!
Valerie: I have always thought of Cafe Sevilla as my home, even though I have worked at more clubs than I want to mention, lol. I think my favorite memories include Sevilla’s support of my designing a unique (at the time) salsa club format for their Club Salsa. Exposing San Diego to LA and big name bands in an intimate setting, starting a variety of dance contest (the first club contests) and designing a smooth format which (for the first time in San Diego) included the combination of dance instruction, DJ and live music. I know it sounds crazy but the San Diego Salsa club scene was quite different when we started at Sevilla.
Ritmo Bello: Although the old Café Sevilla location is currently closed, we are all excited for the re-opening in early 2011. What types of things specific to Latin dancing can we expect to see at the new Café Sevilla once it re-opens on Fifth Avenue?
Valerie: Oh boy, get ready! The dance floor is going to be bigger and won’t have ruts. There is going to be a real beautiful stage. The bar will run the length of the club and is going to be stunning, A sound system to die for, all placed within the ceiling. Brand new inside and out, Sevilla is going to raise the bar for salsa clubs in San Diego.
Ritmo Bello: Why do you think Downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is so popular for dancing salsa?
Valerie: Probably, because Salsa has been there longer than in any other area of San Diego and people are used to going down to the Gaslamp.
Ritmo Bello: While Café Sevilla is closed are there any salsa venues that you’d like to share and recommend to the San Diego dance community?
Valerie: Thank you John. Here are some:
*Sundays you can find us at Tio Leo’s 5302 Nappa Street for our $5.00 Salsa Sundays. Its a great central location with ample free parking and a great Sunday Hang out. We start at 7:30PM with and Salsa class followed by 2 DJs “New Yo Rican” and DJ Andre.
*We have taken Sevilla’s Tropical Tuesdays (Bachata and Merengue) to Club U31 in North Park with dance class at 9:00 followed by DJ Israel and Alex el Heavy. Cover only $5.00.
*No Cover Thursday Salsa at La Fiesta 628 5th Ave in the Gaslamp is the best! Dance class at 8:30PM and DJ New Yo Rican at 9:30PM. Entrance and class is free and La Fiesta offers drink specials and appetizers.
Upcoming SalsaCa.com events include:
Our Annual Holiday Party Saturday Dec 4 at Tio Leo’s featuring Charlie Chavez y su Afro Truko!
APotluck and Dance for David’s Birthday at Dancing Unlimited 4569 30th St on Sat Dec 25th
Our Signature New Year’s Eve con Salsa which will be held this year at Tio Leo’s. Our New Years Party is the San Diego’s longest running Salsa NY Party. Dance class/mixer, DJ, JD Salsa All Star Orchestra, NY celebration w/ champagne toast and followed by lite buffet with coffee! For more information check SalsaCA.com
Finally in March we are hosting a group trip to Puerto Rico. We go every year to take in the sights and the Dia Nacional de la Salsa. More information stay tuned to SalsaCA.com.
Ritmo Bello: What direction do you see salsa dancing going in San Diego’s dance scene? Do you think interest in bachata and other Latin dances will ever eclipse salsa dancing here in San Diego?
Valerie: I really enjoy bachata and hope it is here to stay. I have watched other “flashes” come and go but this is different. It reminds me of cha cha cha in the sense that no one used to play it and no one would dance it and now it is a part of the salsa dance format. I think bachata will be incorporated into the group of dances considered salsa. Personally I think it will give more musical variety to the music and dance in salsa clubs. However there is the possibility that bachata may take off as an off shoot developing new clubs specializing in bachata and merengue. It will be interesting to see how it goes.
Ritmo Bello: With so many new dance teams, instructors and groups now in San Diego how do you explain the great continued success you’ve experienced over so many years?
Valerie: That’s a rough one, John. You know I don’t want to give away any of my secrets! I guess I attribute it to the fact that I really love people and salsa. For me, whether it be promotion, booking, consulting, managing, teaching or publishing my funky newsletter; my involvement in the salsa community is more of an obsession than a vocation.
Ritmo Bello: What advice can you give to new people that find salsa dancing and want to learn?
Valerie: Enjoy the process! Take some club classes, laugh and if you enjoy it, consider taking a group private class to fine tune your dance skills. Get some of this music and listen to it as much as you can. If you can get comfortable with the music, I think you will find the learning process will be easier.
Ritmo Bello: In your opinion, what is the best thing about dancing salsa in San Diego?
Valerie: I think after traveling around, I find that San Diego’s salsa community is made up of a really friendly group of people. No problems, they just want to dance and have a good time!
Ritmo Bello: Do you have contact information in case anyone from the Ritmo Bello audience wants to contact you?
Valerie: My website is SalsaCA.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org, phone (619) 516 4466
Ritmo Bello: Valerie, Thank you so much for your time and I look forward to seeing you at the new Cafe Sevilla!
The event is open to everyone so feel free to come alone or bring any friends. We’ll meet downstairs at 8pm in the VIP area of club that will be reserved for our group. Just look for the Meetup.com signs. Valerie will give a free salsa lesson starting at 8:30pm.