It is characterized by all sorts of nimble-footed maneuvers, spins and waltzes. Smiles, laughter, oohs and aaahs punctuate the action, creating an ambience synonymous with a pool-side cocktail party, writes Moses Opobo.
SALSA is sexy. It is cordial. It is urbane. It is sophisticated yet simple as well. When I step into Passadena Murugo bar and nightclub just after 9:00pm on Thursday night, it is all mood, ambience and atmosphere. The bouncy aura of the salsa beats rocking the speakers land on your ears in gentle cascades, much like snowflakes falling. The mood is relaxed and cozy. The atmosphere is gay.
One by one (or is it two by two?), dancing couples take to the floor, with fond expressions on their faces. The corners of their lips betray smiles rooted in passion and habit. All are headed to the circular, tiled dancing arena that has gently dazzling lights overhead to accentuate the cozy, seductive feeling so synonymous with salsa. About a dozen couples are on the dance floor when I arrive, a figure that is to go up five-fold within the next hour alone!
The dancers approach the floor with minimal fuss, usually with subdued smiles. The dance maneuvers actually begin no sooner has one picked up their partner from their seat. The ladies are mostly dressed in very flattering, figure-enhancing clothes, though not in a vulgar way. Leggings, tight skinny jeans and short floral dresses are the order of the day. The guys are casual and sporty, with a few odd exceptions straight from office, still in their office wear.
Majority make do with canvass and running shoes for foot wear. A few ladies kick off their shoes as they hit the dance floor, in a manner that seems to suggest that they won’t tolerate the slightest distraction to their fun.
I’m rather astonished to notice a few daring ladies wearing long-neck stilettos! While I can’t bring myself to imagine how they even walk in them, here they are, gyrating, waltzing and spinning away!
The dancing is characterized by all sorts of nimble-footed maneuvers, spins and waltzes. Smiles, laughter, oohs and aaahs punctuate the action, creating an ambience synonymous with a pool-side cocktail party.
The ambience is refreshingly different from that of the typical nightclub, where the decibel levels are usually such that one can barely hold a sane conversation with their partner. Here, the music just nudges at you.
Says Ronnie, an expatriate who I find getting busy on the dance floor: “There is more to salsa than simply moving about like a gorilla or monkey on the dance floor.”
A Spaniard who has been living in Kigali for the last two years, Ronnie actually learnt the salsa dance from here. Back in Spain, it had never piqued his interest. Ronnie is one of the more hardcore fans of salsa, who hardly misses salsa nights at Passadena Club every Thursday, and at Cadillac VIP every Wednesday. He explains why: “The atmosphere is good. You meet lots of fantastic people, lots of sexy ladies, too. You exercise, you move.”
He contends that what makes the salsa experience even the more fulfilling, is the fact that it takes lots of time, commitment and dedication to learn it. “Everybody is open-minded and eager to learn.”
Salsa dance moves are swift, complex and rhythmic, with back-and-forth movements akin to that of a docked ship on a gently ebbing tide.
Kalisi credits the dance for forging a sense of community between people of varied origins.
“We are one big family. If one of us has got a problem, we are the first to come to their rescue,” he says. He adds that for one to learn it, one simply has to like the dance, stressing that it is “not a white man’s activity like many think.”
Kath, another salsa fan says: “When I’m dancing to salsa, it’s like I’m taking a rest. It’s relaxing and fun. It is a form of sport.” Kath took lessons for two months before learning the art. “I was particularly impressed by the way two people from totally different backgrounds would coordinate so perfectly in such perfect union. When I saw them dancing, I knew this was my world.”
Abdou Makuta, the manager of Passadena Murugo says that salsa nights are the most popular at the bar. “Since we started 2002, our aim had always been to make all foreigners in Rwanda feel at home. There was no better way to do it, than with salsa,” he says. “Murugo actually means home,” he says of the club’s name.
Makuta turns into a busy bee on Thursdays, as he personally deals with queries from the huge army of salsa-goers.