Dig Baton Rouge

Hips Don’t Lie

Josh is intimidated by salsa dancing

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved to dance. I think it’s because I was born the year “Dirty Dancing” debuted. Or, maybe it’s because I grew up in the 90s with everything from the “Newsies” to “House Party.” And it’s quite possible I watched “Save the Last Dance” every other weekend… However you cut it, I’ve been surrounded by dancing with the exception of one place—my school. We didn’t have school dances, only banquets, paired with fruit punch and sherbet, in the cafeteria after a homecoming game. So, you can imagine I’ve longed to have my own “Footloose” story.

Little did I know, that we have a really cool spot cha-cha-ing (made that up) in our city. Salsa Ardiente Dance Company is a latin dance studio run by Sarita Rayna, currently inside Elite Gymnastics’ building. Running five years strong, Sarita and her team teach bachata, mambo, and obvi their pièce de résistance, salsa. They instruct salsa at four levels, so why don’t you guess which one we jumped in? Yep, we went straight to the level 3/4 class.

While I have been blessed with rhythm (shoutout to the Lord and my roots), to say I felt like I stepped onto a reenactment of “Dirty Dancing 2: Havana Nights” would be an understatement. Each class starts with a review of basic steps, and then progresses with a review of patterns, rotating partner work and then it’s all put together.

To be completely candid, I did more observing this session than I normally would. These amazing people had been advancing through Salsa Ardiente for 24-32 weeks, learning how to cross, lead and follow. They could’ve been faking it for my sake, but they appeared comfortable with each other and just went with the flow. It didn’t matter if they’ve tripped or could teach it themselves, each person was extremely supportive of one another.

Though I did eventually jump in and advance from ground zero to approaching basic, I genuinely loved watching the pure joy on everyone’s faces. I know it sounds incredibly cheesy, but they were all there to enjoy their community as they “high-five rotated” around the packed studio. The best part about the Latin dancing evening is that it was one of the most diverse settings I’ve ever encountered in Baton Rouge. There were Rougeans of all ages, body types and skin tones. It was truly a beautiful sight to behold as Sarah (my instructor) twirled me around.

This experience can all be yours for the small price of $100 for eight weeks. Not bad at all. Sarita and her dance company meet you where you’re at, and then take you to a rhythmic place you didn’t know your hips and feet could go.

Photos by Nick Martino

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