New Orleans is known for its jazz music and second line dancing, but, if you're looking to explore something new, NOLA offers a vibrant Latin music and dance scene. Nightclubs like the Dragon's Den and the House of Blues host a weekly Latin night with the best of Latin music, ranging from salsa to reggaetón. New Orleans also has local Latin artists such as Alexey Marti, a Cuban musician and UNO alum who performed at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival 2017. And of course, we have festivals celebrating the city's Latin community (Carnival Latino, Que Pasa Fest, and Latino Fall Festival).
If you're looking to get out of the house and try something new, then take a salsa and bachata class at Bayou Movimiento from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. You don't need to bring a partner, but it is a fun activity for couples to experience together.
Bachata and salsa have been rising in popularity with a countless number of videos on YouTube and Instagram pages dedicated to these Latin dances. I am always intrigued by the sensual yet tasteful movements of bachata and the upbeat style of salsa, and I knew I needed to stop scrolling through social media and learn how to do it. My friends and I often go to Dragon's Den for Latin night on Fridays, but run outside onto the balcony when a salsa song comes on. We don't want to embarrass ourselves by staying there and dancing.
I quickly found Bayou Movimiento's webpage listing all the classes they offer. I decided to only try bachata for my first time there. The drop-in fee was $15, or $80 for the eight-week package. I arrived a little early, and thankfully, there's a waiting area with comfortable sofas. Once I went upstairs into the studio I was directed to, I was delighted to see that it was professional, clean, and large enough to accommodate all the students.
We started off with a warm-up by practicing the basic steps of bachata. I already knew the basics from going out dancing with my friends, but I had no idea that I was making a fatal hip mistake. And that's popping my hip up so hard that I could knock my dance partner across the room. The dance teacher, Sergio Zelaya, put the hip-happy bachata style on blast, and I shamefully admitted to it.
Sergio Zelaya, director and dance instructor at Bayou Movimiento LLC.
By the end of the night, I learned three ways to move my hips (not the fatal hip-pop) and two turns. But the night wasn't over yet. Sergio informed me that the class typically meets up for the Tuesday Latin night at Rock 'n' Bowl. I thought, "Perfect! While the lesson is still fresh in my mind, I can put my skills to the test."
Well, as soon as I walked into Rock 'n' Bowl (which requires a small, $5 cover charge), what do I hear blasting? Salsa! Yes, salsa. The dance I have been avoiding. I decided to take a seat where I thought no one could see me. I sat back and watched an experienced, curly-haired dancer take over the dancefloor. I thought I'd salsa vicariously through her, and, since we both share curly tresses, I could imagine it was I dominating the dancefloor. By the next song, one of the dancers, Oscar Armando Flores, approached me with his hand extended for a dance. Bravery swept over me, and I followed his lead.
On the left, Oscar Armando Flores
He got me acquainted with the basic steps of salsa, but the night would heat up (no, really, I was dripping with sweat) once my dance teacher arrived. Sergio arrived and took his hair out of his man-bun. Down came an impressive crown of hair that flowed like a thick, black lake of silk. He extended his hand, and I followed him for a dance, while warning him of my inexperience. His mastery made me appear proficient in the dance. So from now on, instead of running away from salsa, I will seek out a good lead (you know, so I can fake it 'til I make it as a real salsa queen).
I came in as a drop-in student, but I felt so welcomed and had such a great time that I am enrolling in the full eight-week session. Latin dance brings people together through the lively music and majestic movement. Not to mention, it's an excellent way to get a cardio workout in while having fun.
Bayou Movimiento, 1719 Toledano St., 504-650-1297, facebook.com/BayouMovimiento.