By Kim Lyle
The origin of the word salsa most likely comes from the sauce of the same name—a combination of different ingredients that taste better together than apart. Sharing a similar recipe, the dance combines movements influenced by Latin America alongside instruments derived from Africa.
Since first appearing in the 1970s, salsa dancing has spread across the nation, capturing the hearts and feet of countless dance enthusiasts. Here in the Capitol city, one dance ensures the art form lives on in the South.
Salsa Ardiente has played a fundamental role in helping shape Baton Rouge’s new and growing Latin dance scene. The company’s founder, Sarita Rayna, has a dynamic professional history with intentions that reach beyond the dance floor.
“Having a background as a personal trainer and Zumba instructor, our heart is to reach and mentor this community to stay healthy by getting up and dancing,” said Rayna.
Originally founded in Eastern Tennessee in 2007, Salsa Ardiente was received with open arms by a community that embraced the dance form.
“After five years of successfully pioneering what is today a thriving Latin dance community [in Tennessee], a new opportunity arose to replicate the movement’s success in Baton Rouge,” explained Rayna.
Since there are many variations of salsa depending on a person’s location, it’s common for classes to choose one style to focus on. At Salsa Ardiente they teach the LA Style known as “On 1.” The opportunity to learn another popular Latin dance form, Bachata, is also offered.
“The Bachata dance comes from the Dominican Republic and has morphed since its arrival, also having various influences and styles,” explained Rayna. “Compared to the traditional close framework of the Dominican style, we teach what is called ‘Modern or Urban Bachata’ – which is more focused on footwork.”
Latin dance can be intimidating. Especially for those with of us with robotic hips and and a sense of rhythm mirroring that of a newborn calf. But Rayna has made it her mission to make all skill levels comfortable when they set foot on the dance floor.
“If you can walk, you can salsa,” encouraged Rayna. “Our program’s syllabus is designed in a progressive series from beginner to advanced.”
Even so, it helps to know a few tips on the skills it takes to be a good dance partner.
“The most important skill is physical communication,” said Rayna. “In order to execute anything other than the basic step, the lead must have the proper connection to signal and guide the partner. Through our program dancers learn not only to lead choreographed combinations, but to formulate their own combinations, and to perform them with creative flare.”
Whether you are an experienced veteran or an eager first-timer, everybody reaps the same rewards.
“I tell my students the dance benefits them all the time,” said Rayna. “ They will be happier, stay healthy, meet new people, improve posture, reduce stress, and gain confidence. We use dance as a platform to get people moving and enjoying life!”
Rayna also take steps to give back to the greater community. Salsa Ardiente supports HPServe, a non-profit in Baton Rouge that is dedicated to empowering individuals, families, and communities in disadvantaged areas.
To join in on the Latin dance fun, visit salsaardiente.com for detailed information on their class schedules. All dance courses take place at Decoe’s School of Dance, located at 1983 W. Muriel Drive. Also, be sure to mark your calendars for their next Salsa Candela Social, taking place July 25 on the second floor of the Arts Council Building.