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Boston Salsa Nights

Well, just got back from my trip to Boston.  What did I do there?  Well, apart from lounging around, enjoying the beautiful weather, and doing the family thing, I danced every night (and got room service every morning)!  I'm not really going to review the clubs for you, but hopefully this little brief insight into my time there will help you figure out where to go to enjoy yourself if you ever find yourself in Boston.

Let me start off by saying, I had fun!  Boston was a great place, and the people there were very nice.  There were some interesting differences between dancing there versus dancing here, and Iíll point a few of them out as I go.  All in all, I didnít have terribly high expectations going in, but was pleasantly surprised by the strength of the entire scene there, and the friendliness of the dancers.  Wherever I go, this never ceases to amaze me!  Anyway, on to the clubs . . .

My plane got in on a Wednesday night, and I headed over to a club in Cambridge (Harvard Square) called the Hong Kong Restaurant.  Well, it's actually is a Chinese restaurant on the bottom floor (surprise, surprise), and on the top floor, in a rather small room, there is a little "Salsa Club".  I use the term club loosely, as this really is just a room with speakers, and a small bar.  However, it's a wood floor, and a good group of dancers too!  I took the lesson, which was taught on the "2" (New York style), and was pretty good.  A lot of beginners in the lesson (say 10) and an equal number of intermediates taking a separate lesson taught at the same time.  I opted for the beginner lesson (ok, so maybe Iím not a beginner) and had a pretty good time doing the typical ďOn 2Ē footwork warm-up (which no matter how many times I learn, I never seem to improve at).  Iím not a ď2Ē dancer, as I seem to keep getting drawn back to a different beat in the music, and I worried a bit that everyone there was going to dance on 2.  Well, my worries were unfounded!  As I've found all over the world, you can find dancers that just feel the music wherever you go, and chances are, if you feel the music too, you're not going to have that difficult a time dancing with them. After the class, the lights dim and the speakers kick in a very cool blend of salsa, merengue, and, hold on here . . . bachata?  Yes, the step-step-step-tap songs of Bachata found their way into every club I visited (like in some European cities). 

In fact, to digress for a moment, I would say all the Boston clubs I visited played excellent salsa music. That is, WHEN they were playing salsa music.  Even the ďdie-hardĒ Boston salsa clubs mix in nearly EQUAL amounts of Merengue and Bachata.  For those of you quickly doing the math, that means that nearly 2/3 of all music played in salsa clubs is actually not salsa. Now, Merengueís great, and I had no trouble with that, but the slow and steady rhythm of Bachata could get pretty excruciating for me after awhile.  I wanted to DANCE, and here comes a round of the slow songs?  In the beginning I thought that itís very similar to our West Coast clubs except that they substituted Bachata for Cha-Cha (I never heard a cha-cha while I was there), however, this isnít really the case, as you may hear one or two cha-chaís a night on the West Coast, but youíll hear a dozen bachatas over the course of an evening everywhere in Boston.  Did I dance them? Well, yes.  By the last night I was actually out dancing bachata.  Did I enjoy it?  Surprisingly, yes.  If you have a very rhythmic partner it can be a pretty fun dance.  Itís danced very close, and very slow, and itís very repetitive (there are no patterns, itís always step-step-step-tap). After awhile, you kind of go into this bachata-trance state and it can be pretty cool.  Well, needless to say, there wonít be any bachata dance competitions coming up in the near future . . . (at least for me) . . .

Back to the club, I would recommend it as a place to go, both for the lessons (to meet a few people), and for the dancing afterwards (which gets started around 10). While it really lacks any atmosphere, or a large dance floor, it does have the two ingredients necessary for a fun night: good music and fun-friendly dancers!  As a side not, this place seemed to pull in a lot Harvard students (as it's right across the street from the school).

Thursday night I checked out Club Ryles, which was again in Cambridge.  This is a nice little place with two levels.  The first level is dedicated to Jazz acts, and the second level is all salsa dancing.  When I arrived the lesson was in progress, and at first, I was dismayed to see the teacher was teaching side to side dancing (i.e. where the basic step is side to side rather than forward/back).  Now before I hear people rant about me choosing one style of dance over another, let me point out, I am a proponent of ALL types of dance as long as itís to good music. ;)  However, the side to side dancing can be very limiting on leaders.  Generally speaking, the followers are accustomed to ďwinding themselves upĒ and turning to their inside (with no outside turns), and no cross body leads (another typical west coast style salsa dance move).  This means leaders from the West Coast have to think a little bit about not dancing in a way that will throw their partner off balance.  Followers from the West Coast should have no problems . . .

Well, anyway, the long and short of it was, I had to choose very carefully in the early parts of the evening, for dance partners who were actually following, versus going through the motions.  However, I DID find them!  This was the most difficult of the clubs to find dance partners who were dancers (get it? Iím not going to spell it out for you). That being said, I had a great time there just hanging out and meeting people.  Very nice young-ish crowd and very cool place.  More dancers arrive at around 11!  It gets VERY crowded here. It was a pretty relaxed place, casual dress, and people seemed to be having a good time.

Friday night I checked out a club called Vincents at Club Lombardis.  This is a tough one because itís located 25-30 minutes OUTSIDE of Boston.  Itís difficult to get to, and unless you got a big bucket of cash to spend on taxis, you MUST have someone drive you there.  Luckily, I got a ride, but for those interested, I was told the cab would cost about $60 (and I believe it).  Iím glad I made the time to go to this club, because it was BIG! This is the club that had the best dancers, the biggest bar (3 of them), the largest floor, the biggest sound system, etc . . .  you get the idea.  Itís a very fun, and very popular place!  They also follow the 1/3 salsa rule here (which drives you crazy), but they add latin-pop to their merengue/bachata mix. Anyway, tons of dance partners, lots of drinks, and meeting some very cool people all added up to a very fun evening with the most dancing I had at any of the clubs I visited.  This was the only really dressy place I visited.  To quote typical club advertising - people were dressed to impress . . .

Saturday night I checked out Club Miami (at Joy) in downtown Boston.  Let me point out that by now, Iím dragging my feet.  Iíd been staying up late every night partying and my days were filled with family stuff, so I was nearing the end of my nightlife energy.  However, I did drag myself to this one last club, and I have to say, it was another good time.  A THREE LEVEL club, the first level is salsa, the second level is international (pop/samba/hip-hop), and the third level is a balcony that overlooks the second.  Very nice place located in the center of downtown Boston.  I got there at 9:00 and cozied up to the bar.  No lessons here, but the salsa music was going and the DJ was very good.  By 10, people were filtering in (and Iíd been sitting at the bar all this time, drinking and talking to the bartender . . . uh-oh).  Arrive at 10:00 Ė 10:30 to start dancing.   With all the variety, this club was really fun.  They even had dance cages (always a plus). ;)

By the end of my trip, I had noticed several familiar faces who had been following me from club to club (obviously going out every night of the week, just like me).  Itís amazing how quickly people recognize you when you start going out every night.  By my last night in Boston I felt like I knew a good portion of the Boston dancing scene, if not by name, then at least by the casual ďhelloĒ nod. 

I would sum it up with one last perception of the Boston salsa scene that was present in every club I went to.  Everywhere else Iíve visited in the world, Iíve found that this ďthingĒ existed, but in Boston, it appeared, to some extent, to be noticeably absent.  There was no-one showing off! Itís strange to go to a club and not see one single couple whooping it up on the dance floor for the appreciation of their onlookers, but in Boston, I didnít see one!  Iíve been dancing for years, and Iíve never been out so many times without seeing at least one couple showing off, or to be P.C., ďgiving a showĒ.  It was really quite strange!  Iím not sure if itís just the old generalization (which I am not confirming) that Bostoners are more reserved, but the clubs definitely had a different feel. This was actually a very cool thing!   There were no crazy dancers anywhere I went (thatís not to say good or bad dancers, there were plenty of those), but no crazy dips-tricks-drops-spins dancers. Regardless, I had a great time and I think for those of you that are going to go visit the Boston Salsa scene, you are going to find out that it has a lot to offer! 

Questions? Comments? Rants? Raves?  Email and let him have it!


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