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Salsa: not the dip you’re thinking

You can already hear the pulsing Latin music as you ascend the stairs to the dance floor. Dozens of couples are stepping and spinning to the beat. Even if you can’t understand the lyrics, dancing is a language that everyone can understand.

Every Tuesday evening, students and community members come together to salsa dance in the Agave Room above the Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant in Old Town Fort Collins.

Biology sophomore Amanda Moran-Mounts first came to the event a year ago.

Couples salsa dance at the Rio Tuesday night. (Photo by Jenna Fischer)
Couples salsa dance at the Rio Tuesday night. (Photo by Jenna Fischer.)

“My friend suggested we do salsa dancing at the Rio and I was like, ‘Okay. Why not?’ so we came and kind of just fell in love with it,” Moran-Mounts said.

For $5, anyone can attend the dance lesson at 7:30 p.m. to learn beginner salsa, followed directly by an open dance from 8 – 10 p.m.

Diane Lavaux is one of the dancing instructors, along with her husband Joe. Lavaux said she and her husband learned how to salsa when they were traveling in Mexico and Central America.

“My husband is an eye doctor, and for almost 40 years, he led free health clinics primarily in Mexico and Central America,” Lavaux said. “We worked with very poor people, but they wanted to give back and so we said, ‘Teach us to dance,’ and so that’s how we got started with the Latin dancing.”

The Lavauxs teach lessons at the Rio once a month among several other rotating instructors.

“The most fun thing for me, teaching, is seeing somebody else really discover the joy of physical movement and just letting go, having fun, dancing and being free,” Lavaux said.

On the first Tuesday of each month, a live band comes to perform for the dancers.

“I love the atmosphere because it’s just so freeing and so much fun,” Moran-Mounts said. “The music is beautiful and it just makes you feel more alive.”

Salsa dancing could be a unique and inexpensive date for couples who are looking for something new to try together.

“It’s great for dates,” Moran-Mounts said. “Salsa dancing is kind of like the language of love.”

It’s not required to bring a dancing partner, however. Learning how to salsa dance could also be a fun night out with friends.

“It’s very common for people to switch partners every dance,” Lavaux said.

For biology freshman Gabriella Hehn, salsa dancing is a way to connect with other people in the community. She has been a regular at the dances for the last several months.

Gabriella Hehn is dipped by her dancing parter. Every Tuesday night the Rio hosts a salsa dance. (Photo by Jenna Fischer)
Gabriella Hehn is dipped by her dancing parter. Every Tuesday night, the Rio hosts a salsa dance. (Photo by Jenna Fischer.)

“It gets a lot of people out of their comfort zone,” Hehn said. “You get to meet so many new people and you get to learn something new.”

The tradition of Tuesday salsa dancing began in the 1990s, and continues to be a tradition enjoyed by dancers of all skill levels.

Moran-Mounts offers some advice to novice dancers.

“Be patient,” Moran-Mounts said. “Don’t get frustrated at yourself if you don’t get the moves right away, and don’t feel discouraged if you see people who are super good. Just relax, practice and embrace it.”

Lavaux also commented on the welcoming atmosphere.

“You don’t have to be afraid of making mistakes,” Lavaux said. “No one really cares, they just enjoy dancing.”

“It’s not as scary as it looks,” Hehn said. “Once you get the rhythm of it, then it’s tons of fun.”

Lavaux lists many reasons why people should come and experience the event for themselves.

“It’s just total joy,” Lavaux said. “It’s freedom. You can relax. It’s great for you mind. It’s just fun.”

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