Thunder Mountain Big Band will perform at Hot Salsa Cool Ballroom, along with Salsa Borealis.
Antonio Diaz (front center) dancing in Lima, Peru. "Antonio has become known as the man who brought Lima's salsa scene together," says his wife, Heather Haugland. The duo also taught salsa in Juneau and around Southeast for six years and will be returning from Peru to teach again just in time for Hot Salsa Cool Ballroom on Jan. 31.
Story last updated at 1/28/2009 - 1:49 pm
JUNEAU - Salsa is a blend of strains of Cuban music with strains of jazz. Its twitchy horn arrangements suggest nightclubs and glamour. To Juneau, it brings light and energy in January.
In a park this summer in Lima, the capital city of Peru, Juneau'sAntonio Diaz lead a salsa project he calls muni-rueda. Below a bigsound system, several hundred spectators and a bunch of dance novices gathered to learn how to move their feet and sway their hips to the drum-driven beat.
Rueda (ROO-EH-DAH) is a dance form that started out on the streets of Cuba, where dance partners formed a circle and developed different moves and patterns. Each move has a Spanish name and one of the dancers, designated as the caller, cries out the name of the move and the dancers adopt it. The word "rueda" is Spanish for "wheel." In Cuba the dance is known as "Casino" or "Casino Rueda." But in most of the rest of world, it is simply known as Rueda and it's typically danced to a Cuban style of salsa music.
Diaz and wife Heather Haugland left Juneau for Peru almost a year ago to re-connect with old friends and family in Latin America. They also wanted to sample Lima's salsa dance scene. It turns out, they helped unite it.
"Antonio has become known as the man who brought Lima's salsa scene together," Haugland says.
When they first arrived in Lima, dancers from different salsa schools never dance with each other. They would stay on opposite sides of the dance floor. "It was like the Jets and the Sharks," says Haugland, referring to opposing street gangs in the classic musical "West Side Story."
Diaz started bringing dancers together by inviting them all to his weekly salsa nights and rueda-in-the-park events, then dancing with everyone and introducing them to each other. "He's also started showing people rhythms other than salsa. A bunch got hooked on "bachata," a musical form that's believed to originate in the Dominican Republic, and cha-cha, an offshoot of the Mamba, which like salsa, can be traced to Cuba.
Before Diaz and Haugland left for Peru, they taught salsa in Juneau and around Southeast for six years. Diaz also taught and performed in Seattle Haugland learned to Latin dance in Cuba.
To the delight of Juneau dance fans, they're coming back to the capital city in January and plan to teach new steps at the Canvas community arts center.
Their return also coincides with Juneau's mid winter dance fest: Hot Salsa Cool Ballroom.
The Juneau Montessori School has held this dance extravaganza for the past seven years, and each year the party gets bigger and more fun.
This year the night will begin at 7 pm with dance performances by Heather and Antonio and others. They'll perform rueda, salsa, merengue, tango and swing. Then a short lesson will be offered for novices with new techniques for connoisseurs.
Music at the event will be performed by Juneau's best-known salsa band - Salsa Borealis. The seven-piece band has been heating up the dance floors in Juneau for about a decade with traditional and contemporary styles from Cuba, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Puerto Rico and even West Africa. The result is a rhythmically infectious sound ranging from the cool, jazzy Bossa Novas of Brazil, classic 1950's Big-Band Mambos from Cuba, to the sizzling Salsas of today's popular Latin dance scene.
The dance party will also feature music by the Thunder Mountain Big Band, a 17-piece ensemble whose sound mixes trumpets, trombones, saxophones and vocals to create a sound that inspires swing and ballroom dancing.
The bands play until midnight. There will also be plenty of salsa (the condiment), chips and drinks; a dessert auction and other great items to win. Childcare services will be available on site for children who are toilet-trained. Tickets are available at Hearthside books or from the Juneau Montessori School at 364-3535.
Kristin Cox is an avid fan of the Juneau salsa scene.