Wednesday, July 4, 2007

China – The Beijing salsa scene

Due to a huge workload and many late nights at the office the past few months I haven’t had much time, nor energy, to go salsa dancing. But every time I’m abroad, I try to find some time to test the local dance scene. It’s such a great way to relax, meet new people and get a good work-out! I simply had to try the salsa scene in Beijing and looked for some tips on the web.

On the day of my arrival – after having slept 9 or 10 hours at the hotel! – I called the owner of Latinos, supposedly the premier salsa club in Beijing. It was Saturday night so the club was open till 4am and I decided to take a cab there and try it out. Cab fares are cheap in Beijing. The 10-minute drive only cost me RMB 17 (roughly equivalent to the same amount in Swedish Kronor, i.e. approx 17 SEK). The club was located in a historical building on Dong Si Shi Tiao 22. They had a nice bar and a good, wooden dance floor. There was no cover charge and the drinks cost RMB 40, so it was rather cheap.

A 9-piece band from Venezuela plays every night except Mondays (when they have other theme nights like Swing, Tango) but since I arrived about 2am I came too late to catch them. The band plays from 9pm during weekdays and 10pm during weekends. The band alternates with local and international salsa DJs. But nobody spoke English – well, the bartender at least understood “Vodka Tonic” – so I had to get by with my limited Spanish, which wasn’t so much of a problem in a salsa club where most visitors are Latin anyhow. There were few people and I only danced with a few different guys: a Colombian that thought he was God’s gift to women although he couldn’t keep the beat, a couple of very nice guys from Venezuela called Jorge and Javier (see picture to the right) and some Cuban guy. Unfortunately I didn’t see any Chinese dancing that night.

I had more luck with the level and quality of the dancers on the following Wednesday night. Two of the most well-renowned dance companies in Beijing are Phoenix Dance Company and Sunbeam Latin Dance International, see below flyers. Representatives from both of these dance companies were present at Latinos this Wednesday night.

Every Wednesday there is an “After Work Salsa Party: Let's Dance Mambo @ LATINOS”, which is a special mambo night with Phoenix-Dance Company. As I arrived this particular Wednesday, there was already high intensity on the dance floor, so I took a moment to watch the dancers and figure out which ones were any good that I should ask to dance. ;-) I quickly saw one high-quality mambo dancer emerge from the rest and as soon as he became “available” I asked him to dance with me. It was a very good pick, since it was “Mambo Jack” himself. I didn’t recognize him, but when he heard I’m from Stockholm, he told me he had visited Hot Salsa Weekend (the annual Stockholm salsa congress) a couple of years ago to perform and instruct. Small world!

On Friday night, I decided to visit the other salsa club in Beijing that I had heard of. The Salsa Caribe Latin Club, located at 4 Gongti Bei Lu (across the street from the Loft on San Li Tun, only a few blocks from Beijing City Hotel where I was staying) in the Chaoyang District in Beijing, is open every day but is best on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s open at least until 2:30am but longer if enough people stay. Check out some cool bartender tricks from Salsa Caribe: The band Sabor Latino from Venezuela plays every night. The place was packed and the band in full swing as I walked in.

The club offers the largest hardwood dance floor in the city. It claims to also be the largest salsa club in China, and the place to be seen if you are a salsero. I was invited to join a table with a couple of Italian girls whom in their turn knew some other people so I ended up having a fun evening. I was very surprised when one of the Chinese guys, Richard, all of a sudden started speaking Swedish to me. It turned out that he had lived in Gothenburg in Sweden and studied at Chalmers University of Technology ten years ago so I was quite impressed that he remembered the language so well. I also got to know DJ Diack a little and when the club started emptying he invited me to dance Zouk (a music style originating from the Caribbean islands Martinique and Guadeloupe) with him since I seemed to be the only person at the club who had actually been to Paris and enjoyed this type of dance.

Some photos from my night at Salsa Caribe are pictured below.

Making new friends at Salsa Caribe

Two Italian girls (Elisa and Sara), a Cuban and Richard Li

DJ Diack and I

No comments: