Ashish and Neelohita from India and Sandy from Wisconsin discovered the joy of Latin Dancing.
Your favorite celebrities have performed it on ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ children chant ‘cha-cha-cha’ during birthday songs, yet the roots of the social dance style, salsa, are often misunderstood. Originating in New York during the 1970s, this quick, upbeat dance includes strong influences from Latin American dance styles, drawing inspiration from the mambo, swing, the hustle, guaguanco and pachanga. Its eclectic foundations, energetic movements and irresistible music make it the sweat-worthy, slightly sultry, workout of choice for a people of all ages and backgrounds at Salsa in the Suburbs.
Thanks to a friend’s persuasion, Ashish Lokhande, born in India and now a resident of Upper Darby, PA, took a trial salsa class and was amazed. “The people were very nice and friendly, and the instructor took great care in ensuring that everyone understands the intricacies of various salsa/bachata steps.”
And that’s no easy task. Salsa movements focus on constantly shifting weight through the hips and legs, while using the upper body to lead or follow with a partner.
Admittedly, Lokhande attributes his initial intrigue to the sensational sounds of salsa; “Moving to the sounds of that music kept me wanting to learn more. There was a mere sense of joy, it’s very rhythmic.” But once he was hooked, he was determined to participate in performances. “Seeing great dancers around the studio encouraged me to learn more and perform one day.”
Partner dancing inherently cultivates friendships and bonds within the class, something Lokhande appreciated. “We get to know people from all walks of life. My life before coming to the Philadelphia area was spent developing my career. Salsa exposed me to another culture of fun and happiness. There’s so much we can learn about the Latin American culture just through some good dancing.”
Classmate Neelohita Kalisetti, also born in India, but now a resident of Media, PA, empathizes with Lokhande’s pre-salsa lifestyle. “Life was getting monotonous, I needed a new hobby. I love to dance and I found this salsa class. I got hooked instantly.” Despite her passion for dance, Kalisetti admits it was a little tough in the beginning. “Initially, it was hard, but the beginner classes are so well designed that anybody could pick up the dance.”
Like Lokhande, Kalisetti’s dedication and participation in performance classes changed from “just a class” to a place “where you make friends, good friends, close enough to start going out dancing with.” On the day of her first performance, Kalisetti recalls a ‘salsa high’; “I remember having a rush of blood to my head, which I’ve only felt when I was sky diving. That day, I decided I needed to do a second performance!”
Similarly to Lokhande, Sandy Stamn, born and raised in Wisconsin, and currently a resident of Media, PA, initially began her salsa training due to social media. A Groupon deal brought Stamn to the doors of her first Beginner I class where she achieved her primary goal: “I’ve always wanted to learn how to properly salsa.”
Since then, Stamn has enjoyed the inviting culture that Lokhande and Kalisetti mentioned; “Everyone is there to have fun. It’s friendly and supportive, we all want to have a good time.”
Outside of regular classes, practice sessions, and even salsa bootcamps, members meet up to perfect their technique and revel in the salsa spirit. “Many of the students meet up at different clubs to have a good time and just dance. The fun factor keeps us coming back,” mentions Stamn.
Since Lokhande, Kalisetti and Stamn have joined the Salsa in the Suburbs community, all three, with varying professions and backgrounds, have introduced their newest passion to friends and family alike. Salsa’s melting-pot influences, dance style and sounds draw onlookers in like a moth to a light.
Stamn surmises, “My husband saw me dancing with a friend, and because I was having so much fun, he started to take lessons as well.”
If you’re looking to have fun, meet people and learn a dance style you can show off at your next wedding reception or night on the town, think salsa!