HITTING the dancefloor isn’t unusual in a nightclub – after all, that’s what they are for. But Huddersfield club Livingstones has put a new twist on dancing the night away...by introducing a weekly salsa night each Monday at its Queensgate venue. KATIE CAMPLING and fellow Fresh team members went along to see if they could get to grips with the salsa style...
I’M not a natural dancer. I have very little rhythm and questionable moves. It usually takes a few glasses of wine before I will embarrass myself publicly on the dancefloor. So, I was not expecting to enjoy a salsa class all that much.
But I was determined to give it a go and took three colleagues along for moral support.
As it turned out, the Fuego Latino salsa class was so friendly that I needn’t have worried.
Fuego Latino only launched at Livingstones on April 14 but the beginners and improvers classes were both packed – testament to the popularity of salsa today.
Instructor Helena Gardner has been teaching salsa for 10 years and puts its popularity down to the fun nature of the dance style.
She said: “People like salsa because it’s upbeat and fun. My theory is that if the classes are fun, then people learn better and are more relaxed.”
Salsa is also the path to a better social life, according to Helena.
“You can do salsa every night of the week, there’s such a big scene that there’s always somewhere you can go.
“It is really wonderful for women because there’s very few places they can go out alone and feel safe and comfortable. People can come by themselves and we change partners around regularly, so you get to know everyone and form a group.”
There was a bigger contingent of men than I expected at the class – but there is, apparently, still a shortage.
Helena said: “We always encourage more men to come and try but dance essentially does seem to appeal more to women.”
Helena is originally from Liverpool but now lives in Leeds, which has one of the biggest salsa scenes in the north.
She began giving classes at the Cotton Factory in Huddersfield, but the venue decided to turn Monday night into a student event, leading her to move to Livingstones.
Phil Marshall, manager of Livingstones, was keen to bring a touch of Latin fun to his club. He said: “I feel nightclubs nowadays have to be a lot more flexible than they used to be. Livingstones is also used as a lecture theatre for the university two mornings a week and we also hold live band events.
“I believe that you have to give something extra to entice people into your venue these days, due to the extra competition that is out there from supermarkets as well as other bars and more stringent licensing laws. Oh and I have always wanted to salsa!”
A mix of ages and abilities are to be found at the salsa classes. Students are being encouraged to join – there’s an NUS discount and from September, there will be a late night Latin party from 10.30pm.
Helena said: “We want it to appeal to students but not exclusively so. There will be good Latin style music, something there isn’t much of already in Huddersfield.”
Helena teaches in Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle and is commissioned for classes all over the country. She says she gets a real kick out of seeing her dancers blossom.
“It’s a lovely thing to do, to see people gain confidence. This is people’s social life, they make friends, it’s a stress relief, they can come here and get away from things and just dance the night away to wonderful music.”
Despite my initial misgivings, I found Helena was right. We started our night in the beginners’ class, learning the basic, side step, mambo and cucarcha steps – then learning how to put them all together in a little routine, complete with a spin.
We only had an hour with tutor Paul Percival but, by the end, even us first-timers felt like we had achieved something.
After the classes finish, there is a ‘free dance’, where the true friendliness and social spirit of salsa classes comes into its own. The more advanced dancers very charitably coaxed us beginners onto the floor, leading them around and showing them new steps.
Even though I didn’t perform said steps very well, there was something liberating and fun about being whirled around a dance floor by a relative stranger.
I can easily see how after a few lessons, dancers can quickly collect a group of new friends – and a new skill to boot.
So why not give it a go?
Salsa In The City by Fuego Latino happens at Livingstones every Monday.
There are two beginners classes, starting at 7pm and 8pm and two improvers classes, starting at the same times. From 9pm, there is free dancing. One class costs £5, or two classes cost £8. NUS discount with ID. For more information, contact Helena on 07798600928 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.