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Salsa: Taking Kampala By Storm

Salsa in Kampala

Forget what you have been told: Salsa dancing is the IN thing. This social dance originated in Latin America but has spread to all parts of the world, including Uganda. The crowd that gathers in the huts behind the National Theatre each Sunday evening is testament to that. These salsa fans come in a variety of sizes, ages and nationalities. Bringing a group like this together was one of the reasons Anna Erlandsdotter, of AnnaE’s studio, and Samuel Ibanda, of Latin Flavor, started the Sunday Salsa dancing classes in October 2010.

“At the time there was nowhere to go and just socialise and dance salsa,” Anna says.

What started as a group of eight to ten people at Centenary Park has now swelled to about 45-60 people a week, says Anna. And the people sitting and watching are just as happy as those on the dance floor. Muwonge Juma, seated at the side, has come for the second time. When asked why he is attending he responds with a note of surprise, as if the answer should be obvious, ‘the dance is interesting. It is romantic don’t you think?’

The reasons people dance salsa are nearly as many as the dancers. Timothy Mugerwa, an instructor at In Motion Dance Studio in Kansanga, which offers a number of dance classes, says 90 percent of their clients opt to learn salsa. He believes that some choose salsa because they have seen it on TV and are curious, others want to keep fit or to lose weight and others want to surprise their partners with a new skill.

Albert Mubiru, a dance instructor who teaches at Hotel International in Muyenga, says there is a ‘salsa wave’ going on in Kampala. An eager dance student can find a class most days of the week in Kampala.

Erlandsdotter suspects that Ugandan’s are embracing salsa because they can recognise its African heritage. “I think Ugandans recognize the rhythms and that attracts them but also Latin music is very attractive. It makes most hearts happy. Latin dancing is growing all over the world and Uganda is no exception,” she says.

The restaurant, Lotus Mexicana in Nakasero also offers free Salsa classes on Thursday and Saturday at 6PM. The proprietor, Yamit Wood wanted to open Salsa dancing to a wider audience, and so offered the space for free. Peter Genza, a Salsa enthusiast shares that they decided to start a committee to continue spreading Salsa dancing after the passing of Christopher Kato, a pioneer of ballroom dance in Uganda. They wanted to help keep his legacy alive and share his love of the dance.

Big Mikes, formerly the Latino club, has been known as a hub for Latin dancing. Classes are on Monday and Wednesday from 7.30pm to 8.30pm and cost 15,000 UGX. Reykab the instructor also teaches an intermediate and advanced class. The intermediate class is on Friday at 6.30pm with the advanced class being on Sunday and on special arrangement. In the latter class, emphasis is put on technique, music interpretation and routines. Reykab also teaches another class at Kabira country club on Saturday at 5pm. It is 10,000 for members and 15,000 UGX for non-members.

According to Reykab, there are basically four variations of salsa: Colombian, LA, NY and Cuban. Albert Mubiru summarises the differences saying that Colombian is characterised by fast steps, ‘as though the dancers are stepping on fire’. Cuban is the most relaxed variation something inherited from its Cuban home where people are relaxed. In Cuban, a dancer uses the whole body, like a wave from the shoulders to the bottom, he adds. LA, on the other hand, is defined by sharp movements and this is what is commonly taught in dance studios. The New York variation incorporates a number of dances and has modern steps in it.

In some circles in the city, salsa is quite a serious venture. Reykab has been dancing for about six years and been teaching in Uganda since 2004. He has travelled to several countries to showcase dance and spearheaded a ‘Salsa Party’ in April where attendees enjoyed workshops, performances, free classes and cocktails. Thesecond Salsa Party is slated for 15 September 2012 with the aim to have the Salsa wave touch all Ugandans. Visit the facebook group for more details: http://www.facebook.com/groups/256734411033754/.

To know more about salsa classes and events visit: http://www.facebook.com/salsa.uganda?sk=info.

National Theatre: classes are Sunday evenings from 5-6pm for 10,000 UGX. Social dancing is free from 7-10pm.

Lotus Mexicana: Classes are offered for free on Thursday and Saturday at 6PM.

In Motion: Located on the 1st floor of Forest mall Lugogo. Details about the classes and schedules can be found on their website http://www.inmotion.comeze.com.

Hotel International: Located in Muyenga, salsa classes are held on Sunday, Monday and Wednesday from 5.30pm to 7pm. Classes are 20,000 UGX.

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