A Week in London
It can't be denied that the best Salsa dancers in the UK are in London. What's
more, the standard of dancing is higher overall than anywhere else. I guess
it's to be expected given the size of the population and the number of Salsa
clubs. Ian Brown, the Salsaweb
recently calculated that there are more Salsa clubs in London than in New York
and Los Angeles combined. So, my advice to anyone wishing to improve their
dancing is to take a trip to London. Below is a brief description of a few
days I spent in London, which may give you some ideas.
A Salsa Cruise on the Thames
I started my visit to London with a boat trip on the Thames on the Friday
(27t August). This was organised by Salsa
London and promised an evening of Cuban and Colombian Salsa on the Thames.
I met up with Anna (the
correspondent for Salsaweb) and we made our way to the pier to board the boat.
Like any other Salsa event, it started a bit later than advertised, then we had
to sail to another pier to pick up some more people, but it wasn't long before
the evening kicked off properly.
There was a mix of people on the boat, some dancers and some groups of people
containing complete beginners. As such, dance lessons were given early on,
beginning with merengue. This meant that the music early on was all merengue.
After that, there was an introduction to Salsa and some Salsa music was played.
The music through the remainder of the evening was a mix of merengue, Salsa and
some Latin line dances. Not really what I look for at a salsa club, but there
was a good atmosphere and I got to see the Millenium Dome and that Ferris Wheel
thing (still being constructed and laid out flat).
When the boat docked and we disembarked, Anna made her way to Docklands for
the opening evening of the Docklands International Salsa Festival. I made my
way back to my parents' house to see my sister who was also visiting for a
couple of days.
The Docklands International Salsa Festival
After a family lunch the next day, I made my way to Docklands in search of the
Salsa Festival. This was organised by Louie St. Clair, who I met at
the First Salsaweb Convention. Louie is an excellent
DJ and also runs the Salseros web site.
During the afternoons, the Salsa was to take place outdoors at a boat club in
Docklands, moving indoors to the Britannia Hotel for the evening. I arrived
at the boat club quite late, but managed to catch the last band of the
afternoon. They were excellent but, unfortunately, I can't remember their
name offhand. I met up with Anna again, but I couldn't see anyone else I
knew there. I listened to the band, got some dances in and enjoyed the sunny
When that all finished, I made my way to the hotel, where there was a brief
lull in the proceedings before the evening do started. So, I ended up sitting
with a group of salseros in the hotel foyer, chatting. A group of Sheffield
dancers wandered along (who I seem to meet everywhere I go) and we chatted
briefly before they went off to get some food. They told me that the dance the
previous evening had got really hot and that the dancefloor was incredibly
slippy. Then, some friends from Manchester turned up and we got chatting,
trying to coordinate the arrival of other people from Manchester.
Soon after, the doors opened and we made our way into the club. I was
surprised by the number of people I knew. Apart from the Manchester and
Sheffield groups, there were people I'd seen at the
Pontins weekend in Southport and people I'd seen
in Birmingham. Jean and Robert who I'd met at the Salsaweb Convention were
also there (in fact, Robert was the DJ for parts of the evening).
For the Salsa Festival, Louie had brought across dancers from New York, LA,
Washington DC and Holland. These dancers put on displays during the evening
and you could see the difference in styles between them. Sammy and Duplesy from
the Eddie Torres school in New York had a very precise style of dancing, but
still fun. Edie and Raul from LA, on the other hand, had a very showy style
of dancing, with flips and other spectacular moves. Ricardo and Elba from
DC had a way of dancing which managed to include a lot of humour. The dancers
from Holland, Leo and Monique, were also excellent, but they were overshadowed
by their eight-year old son, Josh, who stole everyone's heart over the weekend.
In ten years time, he'll be the most phenomenal dancer!
As well as the Saturday night dance, I went to the Sunday night one, which was
very similar. Great, driving Salsa and excellent dancers. Sunday also saw
the awards ceremony. Over the past few months, Louie has been collecting votes
on Salsa personalities and events. Awards were given to the winners. I don't
have a list, but I can remember some of them. The best male teacher was Robert
Charlemagne (could there have been anyone else). Best female teacher went
to Susanna Montero. I'd never seen her before the Salsa Festival, but just
from seeing her there, I have to say she is a really great dancer. I got to
dance with her later in the week and she's great fun to dance with. Nelson
Batista got an achievement award, Edie got an award for her
Salsaweb site and Mario (whose second name
I don't know) got the best new teacher award, closely followed by Leon Rose.
Most of the other awards, I can't remember. To be honest, they seemed very
focussed on London, so many of them didn't mean much to me.
The other high point of the night was when Ricardo from DC took over as DJ.
Not only was his music great, his personality came across in a way that I
don't see with most DJ's from the UK. Rather than just playing the music and
keeping quiet, he'd add comments and get impromptu competitions going. One
nice thing he did was, when he found out it was someone's birthday, was to get
her into the middle of the floor and then, in one record, get loads of men to
dance with her in turn.
Overall I had a great time at the Docklands Festival. It was a pity that I
couldn't make any workshops, but the dancing was great. I also have to say
that the music was excellent. The DJ's were really giving the dancers what
they wanted. For an alternative view of the event, you can read
Edie's comments or
On the bank holiday Monday, I made my way over to Notting Hill for Carnival.
I headed for the Latin sound system, but there was plenty of time to take in
the other sound systems to catch some Soca, Reggae and to see some of the
When I found the Latin sound stage, I quickly found some friends from
Manchester. Despite what I'd heard from other people about there being loads
of non-Salsa stuff being played, the DJ's played almost all Salsa while I was
there. There were gaps where they played some merengue or some of the
Latin-influence chart stuff, but that was a good time to find some drinks and
There were plenty of dancers there and an incredible party atmosphere. A load
of people I recognised from Docklands were also there and I got some really
good dances. At one point, I noticed a massive, dense crowd had formed in one
part of the street. When I finally got to where I could see, I found Edie and
Raul dancing in the centre with everyone watching them! They then started an
impromptu dance class!!
I spent the next couple of days not dancing at all, but by Thursday my feet
were itching to dance again. When I saw Jean and Robert at the Carnival,
they'd told me about their new club in Wembley, called
Mambo City, so that was where I went
on Thursday. Fortunately, Mambo City is in a pub just across the road from
North Wembley station, so it was easy to find (the pub is called Bootsy
I arrived at the end of the lesson, which looked like it had been great fun,
and so I got to dance almost immediately. It's a friendly, low-key event,
with Robert doing the DJ-ing. Robert and Jean were the perfect hosts during
the evening, going around dancing with everyone and offering little tips to
the beginners. I have to say that they are two of the nicest, most genuine
people I've met. Jean told me that they're trying to get a club going with
the same sort of atmosphere that Salsa clubs used to have a few years ago,
where everyone's having fun and there's no attitude. They've certainly
succeeded, judging from the night I was there and I wish them luck with what I
hope will turn into a popular club.
Salsa Fusion and Salsa Palladium
I decided to round off my visit to London with a trip to a couple of clubs
I'd heard loads about; Salsa Fusion and Salsa Palladium. Salsa Fusion happens
every other Saturday at Notre Dame Hall, just off Leicester Square. Salsa
Palladium is every Saturday, just around the corner, in a club next door to
I went to Salsa Fusion first and, to be honest, I was a little disappointed.
There were plenty of good dancers, but the music wasn't really what I was
after, with loads of slower stuff. To be fair, it was a good club, just not as
good as I'd been led to believe. The club itself is actually a ballroom
(dating from the 40's, I understand). They only have a drinks licence to
11:00, but they stay open until 2:00 and you can still buy soft drinks until
Susanna Montero got up on stage at one point and said that one of her friends
was about to leave London. They got her into the middle of the dance floor and
got a load of men to dance with her. When Ricardo did this at Docklands, he
said that he hoped he was going to start a new custom in the UK. Judging by
this, it looks as if he has.
At about 1:00, I left Salsa Fusion and went over to Salsa Palladium. It was
a completely different experience. Whereas Salsa Fusion was a really large
ballroom, the Palladium was a small room. Salsa Fusion was decorated in a
vintage way, the Palladium was really modern. To me, the biggest difference
though, was the music. It was much more hard-edged and just what I wanted.
I really enjoyed myself at the Palladium and, after 2:00 when Salsa Fusion
closed, a load of the dancers that I'd seen there also came in. In fact, I
thought I saw the DJ's and the doorman from Salsa Fusion there too. Eventually,
as it started to empty out, I made my way to my night bus home
To finish, I'll just say that you have to visit the Salsa clubs in
London. The standard of dancing down there is better than anywhere else I
have visited in the UK. What's more, people on the Salsa scene in London seem
really friendly. Whenever I asked a really good dancer to dance, I never got
turned down. People I met at one event would say hello to me at the next event
I turned up at. So, if you get the chance, go dancing in London. You will
come back a better dancer.