What it was like to try salsa dancing for the first time at the Elks Club

For the past two years, volunteers have been putting together events such as the salsa night hosted at the Amsterdam Elk’s Lodge on February 28, with all proceeds going to local causes such as cerebral palsy and veterans organizations. This particular one was thought up by Michelle Egelston as a way to bring dance and top-quality music to Amsterdam, all for only a fraction of what we’ve paid in Saratoga to cut the rug for a night.

The musicians for the night, Alex Torres and his Latin Orchestra, come from Cuban, Puerto Rican and Venezuelan backgrounds all singing songs while banging, blowing and shaking their instruments proudly with plenty of salsa pieces along with meringues and cha-cha songs mixed in for a well-rounded Latin playlist. Native New Yorker and band leader Alex Torres said he was only 17 years old when he was kicked out of music class for wanting to play better songs than the teacher offered. His mother advised him to take his trumpet and start his own band. I love Latin music for its vivacity, festive spirit and unique sound. If only I knew Spanish outside of “Dora the Explorer”.

Lauren writes in blue

Jeremy writes in green

Photos by Nick Montera

Lauren was the first person to pull me off of the couch and dance. Really, I would sit in a lump on the couch and let the music buzz between my ears. I never liked dancing until Lauren told me to grab on and follow her lead until I learned rhythm, how to hold her and all that stuff. There are times when I can’t keep up and panic, but that’s when she grabs my hand like the first time and says, “follow me”. It works every time. I’ve taken her with me to swing in Saratoga, and one country line dance at a bowling alley. Unfortunately, the only Latin I know is the type used for proper scientific names. But at least there was a demo lesson before the band.

Frankly, I don’t have any more salsa experience than a day in phys-ed and a YouTube video we watched beforehand. Sure, I’ve had sporadic dance lessons before in ballet, tap, Irish, Arabian, swing, country line and colonial contredanse, but the only dances I’ve mastered were party dances from the early 1960’s-2019.

The crowd consisted of ladies in black heels stepping to the beat in their own huddles, some spinning seniors, and smooth young couples with a dance instructor here and there to lend a hand or foot. This was the largest dance event that I’ve attended since high school. Everyone was out on the floor. Wall-flowers were clearly out of season.

As much as everyone was strutting left and right across the floor, nobody was really trying to impress anyone or compete to be the flashiest, keep up the longest or crown whoever had the best moves. Each person was there because they wanted to go out on the town and express their love of salsa dancing. Actually, the only reason anyone left the room was to grab a quick bite from the taco tables or a drink from the bar. This encouraged me to get out more and try to copy what I saw and play with the swing moves I know. All and all, I would love to go again.

Me too, when I hear Latin music, I’m immune to fatigue and pain. This was the perfect event for dancers of all levels to practice their rumba and march to the conga beat with others unafraid.

The next event at the Elks Lodge, 8 Fourth Ave, Amsterdam, is March 27,2020 with music by Grand Central Station. Doors open at 5:30 pm. Band starts at 7 pm. $10 admission. Visit the Elks Lodge Facebook page for more information.

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