The only thing more fun than watching a bunch of drunk people try to dance is watching a bunch of stone cold sober ones try to learn salsa.
How is such a phenomenon possible? Well, thanks to Talia Castro-Pozo, you can spend every Tuesday throughout the summer in Hudson River Park watching – or better yet learning – salsa. And the best part? It’s 100% free!
I dragged my faux boyfriend Chad (you know – that one guy from college who constantly hit on you freshman year and somewhere in between all the times you said ‘no’ you somehow became lifelong best friends) along with me to try out some sultry salsa moves.
The park is located along the river in the Meatpacking District of Manhattan and has a large paved area that serves as the dance floor with a DJ booth set up along the edge spinning classic salsa music throughout the night. We were shocked by the amount of people that turned up and I became a bit worried that it would be too crowded to be any fun – I was very wrong.
Talia, along with her guest dancer Franck, had everyone line up behind them to teach us the 4 basic salsa steps. Little did we know at that exact moment but we were literally taking lessons from one of the best dancers in the world and all it cost was one swipe of a metro card for the subway ride down there. You can read Talia’s impressive resume here (I swear it’s longer than Mike Tyson’s rap sheet).
After learning ‘step step step’ and tripping over my own feet attempting to do ‘suzy q’s’, it was time to finish off the basics by spinning in circles with some ‘azucar! azucar!’ (I know – I thought it meant sugar too but I swear that’s what they were saying).
After we were supposedly ‘confident’ (I sure as hell wasn’t) in mastering the simple steps, it was time to partner up. I’m lucky I had Chad who is always down for anything and is more than happy to be my back-up during my dating dry spells. Having said that, it still would have been fun to go with a group of friends or to go solo. Strangers were not shy about partnering with other strangers and it was a purely fun environment and a great way to meet people.
We formed one giant circle around Talia and Franck to learn how to syndicate all the steps we had learned and perform them in juxtaposition with our partners. Poor Chad is a wonderful dancer and he was stuck with me who has absolutely no grace or rhythm (sorry mom for all the wasted $$$ you spent on me for 7 years of ballet, tap, and jazz lessons).
I’m sure I gained a few wrinkles and maybe some gray hairs by stressfully concentrating on counting my steps. Despite my best efforts, I still managed to step on Chad’s toes no less than 100 times and for the life of me I could not figure out how to spin properly without smacking someone with my gigantic purse (salsa 101 – think ahead and never bring a bag with your entire life’s contents to a dance class).
Once the lesson ended, the DJ and dancers continued salsaing (is that a word?) on until 9pm. The energy was charged and lively and filled with smiles and laughter. Chad and I eventually gave up on me trying to salsa correctly and did some free form spins around the dance floor before taking a break to sit on the grassy knoll and watch the other dancers…
It was a happy sight to behold as the crowd was a blend of young and old, singles and spouses, inexperienced and veteran dancers, and a melting pot of different races. If you were watching from the sidelines, chances are you would be pulled in to participate and guests would continue to switch partners throughout the night. Even the instructors were out mingling and dancing among the crowd. It was the perfect outdoor party for a summer’s eve.
UPDATE 6/28/2016: Sunset Salsa is now located at Pier 45 in the West Village and will continue every Tuesday from Jul 17th to August 16th, 2015. Please click here for more information.
Do you know how to salsa? Let me know below. I’d love to hear from you!
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