PUBLISHED: 3:28 PM on Wednesday, January 3, 2007
Salsa dance craze - Juneau style
The Latin-American music now known as salsa encompasses a variety of styles including Mambo, Merengue and Rumba. There is no strict definition of salsa music because it encompasses a variety of styles. Like a dancer moving across the floor, it's hard to pin down.

The word "salsa," which means "sauce" or "dressing" in Spanish, is used to describe a variety of African- and jazz-influenced musical styles. Some musicologists trace the form to the 1940s and 1950s in Havana nightclubs, and salsa has spread beyond its Latin American cradle to worldwide popularity. Fans gather to dance to the drum-driven sound on every continent. The most committed belong to the World Salsa Federation, which hosts salsa congresses in major cities and the annual World Salsa Championships. This year's championship is set for Las Vegas.

Juneauites have been turning out for salsa for at least a decade, and the dance form has surged in popularity in the Capital City. This is Juneau Montessori School's Sixth Annual Hot Salsa Cool Ballroom gala.

Music at the Feb. 3, event will be performed by Juneau's best-known salsa band - Salsa Borealis. There also will be music by The Thunder Mountain Big Band. A short dance class will be held before the bands begin.

Auction items volunteers are now being sought, and tickets are being sold. For more information, call 364-3535.

In preparation for the mid-winter gala, free classes are being offered to get toes tapping for the event. It doesn't matter if you're a beginner or a professional because you never stop learning new moves.

The next class is scheduled from 4-5 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6, at the Nugget Mall during the celebration of the 100 years of Montessori Education.

Dressing for a salsa dance on the Last Frontier

This is my first Salsa dance, what should I wear?

Salsa dancing is fairly athletic and some dancers even break a sweat so it's a good idea to wear loose clothes that breathe. And dress festively. When you salsa, you party. In general, for men, slacks and a nice shirt is appropriate. For women dressing up is fun but not required.

What about shoes?

Dance shoes help. Generally, you'll feel better on the dance floor if you have leather-soled shoes, but many find their Dansko shoes quite comfortable; in general rubber soles squeak and stick. For women, high heels are fine, as long as you can move easily and comfortably in them.

Is it normal to feel intimidated by good salsa dancers on the floor?

Yes, but don't be. We were all there once and are interested in growing Juneau's Salsa community. Ask the good dancers to dance, they will, and will teach you something.

How can I practice before the dance?

Get a hold of a Salsa music mix. There are many choices available. And crank it up!