La Salsa

“Wherever you go in whatever city, if you dance salsa, there’s a place for you. When expats dance salsa, they meet people.”


Within a mere three days of his January 2011 arrival, Gary Sanchez’s connection to Saigon’s salsa vibe took on the same playful give-and-take rhythm that makes the dance so enticing. It began with a random street date with two mysterious local ladies — drinking juice and goofing around on motorbikes. One of the girls just happened to be an enthusiast who was eager to share videos of her performances from La Salsa.


Beforehand, Gary had spent six or seven years mastering his craft. This included performances in salsa congresses (conventions) in spots such as San Francisco and Salt Lake City, as well as receiving additional instruction from world-renowned experts at congresses in Seattle, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. He also tapped into New York City’s salsa scene via associations with Yamuleé (salsa big timers) dance team members.


During his first few months in Ho Chi Minh City, Gary gathered his arsenal of dance experience and steered his sights toward La Habana (6 Cao Ba Quat, Q1).


“I walked in with some friends and they just gave us a back room,” he recalls. “We played music with our iPods, danced salsa and machata while drinking mojitos and smoking cigarillos.”

 

Advice for Aspiring Salsitas


This fortuitous and humble start led him to discover a solid schedule for those desiring to break into the local salsa scene.


“You’ve got to make an effort,” he says. “You can’t just do it every once in awhile. As long as you’re trying, learning and you want to dance, you’re in.”


To spearhead this, Gary recommends the following plan:


Step 1 — Take classes. The two dance centres with which he’s acquainted are La Salsa in District 3 and XSalsa in District 1. Per their websites, the former offers a few weeknight evening classes and the latter offers several morning and night options throughout the week.


Step 2 — Apply your new skills. Salsa night number one is on Wednesdays at La Fenetre Soleil from 9pm to 11.30pm. Gary claims that this night is “more about trying things out and less about showing off.”


On Fridays, Regina Coffee offers a similar programme from 9pm to 11pm. “It’s higher level and a bit more intimidating. This is the place to watch and observe more skilled people.”


The practice route concludes at La Salsa on Fridays from 9pm until “whenever people leave”.


But salsa’s done more for Gary than just take up his weeknights. “It changed the way I see women,” he says. “When a woman wants you to lead her, it goes against the grain. You help her show off her style, skill and femininity. I don’t know any other outlet that does this, except for maybe art or poetry.”

 

Salsa classes are offered at La Salsa, 212 Nguyen Dinh Chieu, Q3 and XSalsa at 76 Mai Thi Luu, Q1. Salsa nights are at La Fenetre Soleil, 44 Ly Tu Trong, Q1, Regina Coffee at 84 Nguyen Du, Q1 and La Salsa. For more Saigon salsa information, contact Gary Sanchez via his Facebook page or go to salsachocolate.com

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