July 2018

WORDS Mary Frances Clark

PHOTOGRAPHY John Partipilo

Cuban musician Yosvany Cordero leads the dances at Rudy’s Jazz Room in Nashville

Inviting, exciting, captivating, spontaneous Salsa—cultures colliding and connecting. The essence of Salsa is shared art in motion. The essence of Salsa is shared art in motion. The African and European roots of Salsa: Son, Guaguancó, Rumba, Boogaloo, Pachanga, Guaracha, Plena, Bomba, and more fuse rhythms, instruments, and styles from all over Africa, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, New York, and other places. This has given birth to complexities that fit so well together that they seem simple—that is until you hear them live at Rudy’s on a Monday night or you see them practiced at the many dance studios around the city.

Perhaps it’s Salsa’s history of collaboration that makes it appeal to so many diverse individuals. It isn’t a dance that belongs to any one group. Anyone who dares to learn it in turn influences this living form of art. I couldn’t find a stereotype on Nashville’s Salsa floor. People from all walks and stages of life and all levels of dance move individually and collectively, expressing without words, feeling the common thread of the soul-filling joy that Salsa inspires.

“Letting go of the fear you hold in your chest, dropping that energy into your powerful, life-giving hips, and trusting that the world will hold you up.”

Peter Collins dips Jennifer Diaz at Rudy’s Jazz Room

Jasmine Cheri and Andy Chea sizzle on the dance floor at Plaza Mariachi

Often not noticed at first glance in Salsa is the trust involved. Stemming from a delicate balance of vulnerability and confidence, there is trust in yourself, your partners, the others on the dance floor, the music, and trust in the spirit of flexibility, forgiveness, laughter, and love of the present moment. As Executive Director of Music City Dance Alliance, Nicole La Ballerina explains that it’s about “letting go of the fear you hold in your chest, dropping that energy into your powerful, life-giving hips, and trusting that the world will hold you up.”

You’ll find as many variations of Salsa’s twists and turns in Nashville as in other cities, but what stands out is the Nashville touch, the small-town vibe that makes the Salsa scene in Nashville feel like family. With classes, music, and dances nightly around Nashville, it’s easy to connect—and to get swept away. If you ask someone where to dance Salsa in Nashville, you’ll hear a list of activities for each night of the week, followed by, “I hope you come join us.”

For information on events, check out the Facebook page Salsa Around Nashville.

Dancers take a break from the crowded dance floor at Plaza Mariachi

Iliana Armstrong and Vidal Galván in perfect harmony at Plaza Mariachi


Yanaisa Hernandez Malagón and Hector Norcisa dance on Salsa night on Thursdays at Plaza Mariachi

Clyde Harris dips Alicia Galván at Play which has Salsa nights on Wednesdays



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